5 Things for Spring

“Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist, but football is only two things: blocking and tackling.” ~ Vince Lombardi, Legendary Green Bay Packers football coach

Business leaders would do well to take a lesson from Lombardi as they plot their growth strategies. To win, or grow, you must focus day in and day out on the basics, on the blocking and tackling. This applies at every level of your business, from the front line to the CEO. Big plays are the result of people flawlessly executing the basics over and over again. Some of the tasks associated with blocking and tackling may seem repetitive and boring. But no matter how big a business grows, if the fundamentals become a side show, the business soon will be too.

This spring, do these five things to make sure your business is in a position to go the distance:

  1. Start by making sure you know what the basic activities are that are critical to your company’s success. Believe it or not, some companies never evaluate this and basically wing it. That’s like sending up a Hail Mary pass every day.
  2. Communicate (or remind) your team about these core activities and about performance expectations.
  3. Evaluate whether your team has the tools they need. You can’t expect flawless execution when you don’t offer the proper resources and training.
  4. Examine your processes, systems and procedures. Are they still serving the company well, or do they need to be re-evaluated to improve productivity, quality and profitability?
  5. Take a hard look at how well you are serving customers. Do you take your customers for granted and just assume that because sales are decent that everyone is happy? When was the last time you really made an effort to ensure those customer relationships are as solid as you think they are?

In football, blocking and tackling is about protecting players. When done well, it can create openings for big plays. Make sure your team can consistently block and tackle to put your business in a position to score big.

Posted in Entrepreneurial Insights & Observations | Leave a comment

3 Things I Learned Last Week 4.19.15

1. How to Fascinate
We hear a lot about how the marketing messages for our companies need to attract attention in order to stand out from the multitude of other information our prospects are inundated with every single day.

But have you ever thought about how YOU stand out? I recently interviewed Sally Hogshead, a Hall of Fame speaker, best-selling author of “How the World Sees You,” and the world’s leading expert on fascination.

Want to find out how YOU “fascinate”? Take the test yourself and discover your Fascination Advantage in just a few minutes. Simply visit http://HowToFascinate.com/YOU and use the access code thinkbigger. Find out what makes you intensely valuable to others, so the world will see you at your best.

2. Lessons from an Everest Climb
Looking for a good read on leadership? Get a copy of “On the Edge” by mountaineer Alison Levine. Last week I attended the annual Go Red for Women luncheon and Levine was the keynote speaker. In spite of her congenital heart defect, Levine has climbed seven of the world’s most imposing summits, including Mount Everest.

One of the things she talked about was the climb itself. Scaling Everest is not, as you might think, a straight and slow climb to the 26,000-foot summit. Instead, from base camp, over a series of many days, the climbers hike to the next camp, and then return to the original camp. Then they go back up to an even higher camp, and then come all the way back down again. They repeat this exercise of ups and downs, getting used to the altitude and environment until they reach the camp from which they will finally finish their journey to the summit. Sound like a business lesson in there somewhere? I, for one, can’t wait to read the entire book.

3. Women in STEM Through History
Women have been making important innovations in science, engineering and technology long before the recent emphasis on getting more women involved in these fields. The Central Exchange sent an announcement recently promoting an event on May 14 that celebrates and discusses women in STEM throughout history.

From the CX email, I learned that a woman invented the computer compiler. A woman developed the first effective childhood leukemia drug. A woman invented Kevlar, and a woman’s efforts led to the banning of DDT. And, a woman developed the algorithms used to evaluate electric utility transmission systems today.

We seem to have forgotten some of these important contributions, so kudos to the CX for hosting this program. You can get more details and register here.

Posted in 3 Things I Learned Last Week, Entrepreneurial Insights & Observations | Leave a comment

3 Things I Learned Last Week 4.12.15

1. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly
You’ve worked hard to earn your Google website ranking, right? Did you know that beginning April 21, Google is introducing a new algorithm that will penalize websites that aren’t optimized for mobile. With the growing number of searches now being performed on a mobile device, this change could have a major impact on your business if your site isn’t mobile-friendly.

Plug your URL into this link to see if your site is mobile friendly.

2. Tools & Tips
At last week’s Bootcamp for Small Businesses, sponsored by bizhive.com, Sprint and Thinking Bigger Business Media, attendees learned about several tools for reaching customers more effectively, increasing productivity, and marketing their businesses. You can access many of these tools and tips – everything from correcting a bad Yelp! review to apps for increasing productivity – at sprint.bizhive.com.

3. Getting to the Heart of Success
Many Kansas Citians have enjoyed the culinary creations of food celebrity Lidia Bostianich by dining at her award-winning restaurant in the Crossroads. You may also have seen her television show, tried a recipe in one of her best-selling cookbooks, or experienced a meal at one of her New York restaurants. But did you know that before she married and decided to join her husband in the restaurant business she was studying science?

Tune in for my full interview with Lidia, an Italian immigrant who was motivated by the American Dream of success from a very young age. She and her husband started with a 9-table restaurant in New York, with two children, and an extended family that provided support. As she points out in the interview, success is not a solitary journey!

Posted in 3 Things I Learned Last Week, Entrepreneurial Insights & Observations | Leave a comment

Thank You, Steve

The Kansas City community lost a dear friend recently. Steve Metzler was an accomplished businessman, generous philanthropist and friend to many.

Steve was the second-generation co-owner of Metzler Brothers Insurance until 2013, when he sold it to Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. He was also the co-founder of the Friends of Alvin Ailey, a supporter of the arts, and a contributor to many nonprofits, including several dedicated to helping women.

And that’s how I met Steve. For many years, he was a sponsor of the Kansas City chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, an organization I’ve been deeply involved with. Steve not only helped to support the chapter financially, but busy as he was, he found the time to attend most meetings, got to know our members and actively worked to connect them to the people and resources they needed to become better business owners.

Metzler Brothers Insurance was also a winner of the 25 Under 25® Award in 2006. Steve was an active alumnus and sponsored the awards gala in subsequent years.

Yes, Steve made numerous charitable contributions and gave liberally of his time. But what I will remember most about Steve was the way he would move around a room, seek each person out to say “hello” and ask how they were doing. It was yet another gift Steve gave . . . to make people feel welcome and important. It’s what I will remember most about him . . . and it’s what I will miss the most about him.

Posted in Commentary on Business News | Leave a comment

Gain Independence From Your Business By Putting Profit First

toilet-paper-entrepreneurFresh off the Fourth of July holiday and a celebration of our country’s independence, it’s a good time to ask whether your business is giving you the independence you hoped it would.

Too many of us start our businesses with the goal of achieving financial freedom, only to discover that many months (even years!) of hard work, long hours and an out-of-balance life later, the business “owns” us rather than the other way around. In addition to the mental and physical toll business ownership takes on us, it very often stresses us financially too.

ProfitFirst_BooksDeclaring independence on your business doesn’t require going to war with it though. In fact, best-selling author Mike Michalowicz offers a simple, practical solution for taking back control of your business. In his latest book Profit First, released today, Michalowicz asserts that any business can be transformed from a cash-eating monster to a money-making machine. Moreover, Michalowicz says you can start the process with your very next deposit.

Far from a “get rich quick” scheme, the system Michalowicz outlines in Profit First turns the commonly accepted accounting formula Sales – Expenses = Profits on its head. Rather than pay expenses first and see if any profit remains, he advises business owners to subtract profits first and set them aside; what’s left is the money available for expenses.

Subtracting profit first forces business owners to become ruthless about expenses, Michalowicz says. Most business owners, even those who think they are already operating lean and mean, can find more ways to be more frugal. In Profit First, Michalowicz leads business owners step-by-step through the basics of putting profits first, destroying debt, and more advanced techniques for actually living profit first and achieving the financial freedom you went into business to gain in the first place.

Anything but a “talking head” business expert, Michalowicz learned the hard way the necessity of putting profit first. He built and sold two multi-million dollar companies, won the  Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and was heralded for his business acumen. Behind the scenes, though, he was taking out loan after loan and racking up credit card debt to cover payroll. Eventually, he lost his fortunes.

When he regrouped to start yet another venture, Michalowicz thought long and hard about what he needed to do for his new company to prosper. That’s when he came up with the Profit First system. After riding the system to success and experiencing how it literally pays off, Michalowicz has become a Profit First consultant, working with business owners to share how to bring profitability to themselves, their families and their communities.

As Michalowicz challenges in the introduction to Profit First: “Today is the day we draw a line in the sand and never accept it again. Today is the day we make your business (and your life, in the process) financially strong. Permanently.”

Declare your independence. Check out the first few chapters of Profit First, download the audio version, and listen to my radio interview with Mike to learn how you can have not only a financially healthy business, but a seriously profitable one as well.

Posted in Business Book Authors, Entrepreneurial Insights & Observations, Ideas & Tips | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Telling Kansas City’s Entrepreneurial Story

Kansas City is abuzz with entrepreneurial activity. Historically, it always has been. The last few years, though, have seen a renewed entrepreneurial energy that’s catapulted Kansas City into the national spotlight.

At Thinking Bigger Business Media, we ask ourselves every day how to best capture Kansas City’s entrepreneurial story, and three things come up consistently.

First, there’s no one way to tell the story. There are so many players, programs, events, and entrepreneurs at various stages of growth for any one media outlet or platform to get its arms around. But the good news is that there are more coverage sources today than there were in 1991 when our magazine was the only one exclusively covering entrepreneurs and small businesses. Today, all of us must play a role in the story telling—from traditional and online media, to resource providers that produce monthly newsletters, to corporations that publicly acknowledge the successes of their small business vendors. And each of you who attend business events also play a role, and even have a responsibility, to post to social media and share the stories as they unfold in real time.

Second, it’s important to keep in mind that we can’t tell the story by focusing on one group in the ecosystem to the exclusion of others. Granted, some businesses may generate more interest, some owners may exude more charisma, and some may have more well-established PR machines. Still, our entrepreneurial ecosystem is a collection of all different kinds of entrepreneurial “species,” if you will—startups, traditional businesses, second-stage companies, corporations, resource providers and others—and no one of them is more important to the ecosystem than another.

Finally, in the telling of the story, we must aim for providing more than visibility. We must strive to connect the various segments of the ecosystem so they can work with and learn from each other. The challenges and failures that occur in business building are as much a powerful and important part of the story as the successes. Traditional businesses would do well to pay attention to what’s occurring in the startup community – those businesses may be their next customers. Additionally, a startup’s way of approaching challenges may be different than that of a traditional business, sparking the traditional business to try something that could revitalize their business. Likewise, startups can learn from the practical blocking and tackling experiences that the owner of a more established, traditional business could provide. But these dialogues can’t take place unless part of the storytelling includes introductions across the ecosystem. Only then will the true growth occur that will allow us to write the next chapter of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial story.

Posted in Commentary on Business News, Entrepreneurial Insights & Observations | 1 Comment

Brewing Up a Backlash . . .

When the founder of the 12th largest microbrewery in the United States announces its sale, it gets attention. John McDonald revealed Boulevard Brewery’s sale to Belgian-based Duvel Moortgat in late October, and media around the world picked up the story. Locally, the backlash was immediate.

Within minutes of the announcement social media erupted with comments from people saying they’d never drink another Boulevard beer, that McDonald had “sold out,” that the “foreign takeover was starting.”

I have to admit I wasn’t ready for that kind of rancor. It looked to me like McDonald had done his due diligence and found an exit strategy that benefited not only himself, but the business, his employees, his customers and Kansas City.

To a large extent, the vitriol is a byproduct of Boulevard’s wild success. When a brand builds a fan following as large and as intense as Boulevard’s, there’s bound to be a deeply personal connection to the brand, even a sense of ownership. And no one asked all those “brand owners” whether they wanted “their” brand to be sold.

The fact of the matter is that McDonald spent 25 years dedicating his life to building Boulevard. Sure, we savored the beer, bought the merchandise, took the tours. But he took all the risk. And now, at age 60, he appears to have found the perfect exit in another family-owned craft brewery known for its dedication to quality. He remains a minority partner, and has a seat on the board of directors. The deal opens up international distribution channels, and the brewery, already operating at capacity, benefits from a capital infusion that allows it to expand in Kansas City. Plus, he retains his hometown team of employees.

McDonald has spent a lifetime pleasing his customers, brewing quality products, and creating a memorable brand experience. There’s no reason to believe he’s going to stop now.

Posted in Commentary on Business News, Entrepreneurial Insights & Observations | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment