The Success Formula: Success = BD+GM+F+C+P

5 Ways to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Success | EHS Today

Almost 9 years ago, I published this, my first Blog post on WINNING IDEAS. As I work with students, mentees, and other business colleagues of late, I find myself reverting to various “Fundamentals” in our conversations, this one perhaps being the most important of all.  Please enjoy and let me know what you think!

What does it take to be Successful? Everyone has an opinion on this for sure.

The Success Iceberg - Uncovering What Success Really Looks Like

Success is Winning, and everyone loves Winning.

Having been a student and analyst of the subject of Success for over 40 years, I think I have boiled down the formula of what creates Success:

SUCCESS = BURNING DESIRE + GOAL MANAGEMENT + FOCUS + COURAGE + PERSISTENCE

Each of the great thinkers and each successful person has their own personal take on what it takes to achieve success, but these are the 5 essential elements.

 

7 ways to position IT for success in 2020 | CIO

Of course, I left out a couple of other important elements like Serendipity, Luck, Sacrifice, Hard Work, and others, but I believe that these “sub elements” are a part of one of these 5 essential ingredients.  For example, if you have a Burning Desire (passion), then you will make the sacrifices and work hard.  Goal Setting includes goal review, and is the roadmap to the destination.

Courage in Business – Vividcomm

Courage is an interesting one and we don’t hear it mentioned often, but to me, Courage is all about taking action, and stepping up and going outside your comfort zone to make things happen.  Without Courage, thought cannot easily be transformed into Action.

And what about luck?  Well, the more persistent you are, the luckier you get.  By never giving up and hanging in there, opportunities will inevitably come your way.

Napoleon Hill Quote: “Failure cannot cope with persistence.” (12 ...

Persistence is my favorite, and I conclude this, my first ever Blog Post with my favorite quote:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”   – Winston Churchill

 

 

 

 

 

 

You don’t know how good you have it!

This is a Guest blog post from Todd Youngblood, These thoughts are more applicable today than when he first published this almost 2 years ago.

Never knew I had it so good ... - Imgflip

Is there anyone alive today who did not hear the words, “You don’t know how good you have it,” from one or both parents during childhood? I seriously doubt it. I heard it so often growing up that I swore I would never say it to my own kids. I failed. The fact of the matter is they didn’t know how good they had it. And to be honest, I didn’t either.

Is the world today awash in problems and injustice? Yes! Is the U.S. in particular, awash in problems and injustice? Yes! Are there more, bigger, more complex, thornier problems than even before in human history? Yes!

My contention is, that’s good news!

In fact, it’s downright bizarre to me that only 6% of the U.S. population thinks the world is getting better. Seriously? Think! Of course we have lots of problems today, but they are due to the unanticipated, unintended consequences of the amazingly dramatic advances in standards of living that have alleviated or eliminated the problems of the past.

Are the problems we’re dealing with now real? Yes! Are they tough, horrifying, heart-wrenching, unfair, unethical, immoral and just-plain-wrong? Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes. So what? Let’s look at a few facts about the relentless, positive progress in our world, courtesy of Our World In Data

First, world population:

  • 1800 – 0.9 Billion
  • 1900 – 1.7 Billion
  • 1960 – 3.0 Billion
  • 1980 – 4.4 Billion
  • 2015 – 7.4 Billion

That’s an increase by a factor of more than 7. Are 7 times more people alive because the overall average standard of living has been going down? I don’t think so. How about the % of world population living in extreme poverty?

That’s about as direct a measurement of improvement in living standards as you can get. From virtually all human beings living in extreme poverty to less than 10% in just 2 centuries. For perspective, humans have been around for something like 2,000 centuries. So that’s virtually everybody in extreme poverty for 1,998 centuries, and now only 10%.

How about the % of world population that is illiterate?

 

That’s from 88% illiterate to 88% literate. …along with the immense value of literacy.

How about global child mortality?

That’s 43% – almost half – of children dying before their 5th birthday to only 4%.

How about freedom – the % of global population living in democracy:

That’s less than 1% of people living in a free, democratic society to 53%. Amazing progress!

These statistics tell the story of a remarkable, inexorable and MASSIVE increase in quality of life. Let’s take a look at some numbers that put a totally different spin on this supposed problem of having so many problems. Is all the stuff we can buy to make our lives easier and better getting more or less expensive? Inflation and different currencies and exchange rates around the world can make answering this question quite difficult. So forget about how many dollars it takes to buy something. Look at cost in terms of how many hours you need to work to buy whatever it is you want.

Light, for example. Every time the sun goes down, we’re switching on the lights. What does that actually cost in terms of hours worked?  In 1994, Yale economist William Nordhaus answered the question. He calculated how much light could be purchased for 60 hours of work. Here’s what you could buy:

  • 88 minutes of light from your oil-burning lantern in 1750 BC
  • 10 hours from your tallow candle in 1800
  • 16 hours from your gas-burning streetlight in 1810
  • 72 hours from one of Edison’s early incandescent bulbs in 1880
  • 1,200 days – over 3 years – from a fluorescent bulb in 1950
  • 51 years from a modern compact fluorescent bulb

How about some other modern conveniences?

And these prices do not reflect the dramatic improvements in quality. In ‘59, the “big screen” TV was 21 inches. Are you old enough to remember complaining about too much “snow” in the picture? Today, not only is the fuzzy “snow” effect gone, you can see every pimple on an actor’s face as it marches across the 6 foot wide screen.

How about travel? To cross the U.S. by horse takes 70-80 days depending on the weather. Or you could hop on a jet and do so in less than 5 hours for less than $200. And for the record… I gripe and moan A LOT about my discomfort in those teeny-tiny airplane seats. It’s a bit embarrassing to contemplate the pain in my seat that would be caused by sitting on a jostling horse all day, every day for 2 1/2 months…

Forgive me for bringing some mathematics into the mix, but it’s a really good way to think about what happens when a problem gets solved. Think about a circle. A line through its center, the diameter, represents all the problems that have been solved by your society. The area inside the circle represents your standard of living. Around the circumference is where all of the unsolved problems facing your society are lurking, (Take a look at the show notes for this episode at IntentionallyVicarious.com to see an example of this and where I’m going with the idea…)

OK, here comes the math. Let’s say that the diameter of your circle is 10. Again that means your society has become aware of and solved 10 big problems. The area, your standard of living, is π r2, which works out to about 79. Around the circumference, which is π times that diameter, is roughly 30, meaning your society is aware of 30 big, ugly problems.

Now… Your society functions pretty well, so it goes about solving every one of them. The diameter of your circle is now 40 – the 10 problems that were already solved plus the 30 you just knocked down. Your standard of living, therefore, jumps up to 1,275! But uh-oh, you can now see 125 new problems around the circumference you didn’t know about before.

Your society attacks those, and solves every one. Your socienty has now successfully solved 165 big problems, which rockets your standard of living up to 21,382. But here’s another uh-oh… You are now aware of yet another 450 new problems.

I think you get where I’m going with this. It’s one of those glass half-empty or half-full things. Your society has solved 165 of the earth’s biggest problems, and all you see and hear on the news and social media is how you – you greedy, selfish SOB – have screwed the needy by “creating” 450 ugly problems and inequalities while only solving 165.

NO!!!!! Wrong perspective!

So what that you’re now aware of 450 new, ugly problems and inequalities? The vastly more important point is you did in fact solve 165 old, ugly problems and inequalities and ratched up your standard of living from 79 to over 12,000. That’s cause for celebration …and more work, more effort, more achievement. Dare I say more fun?

Run through the cycle again and your living standard will be nearly 300,000. Are you going to gripe and moan about how society is sooooo much worse because you now have 1,900 ugly issues instead of only the 450 you had before? Go ahead and whine if you want to, but stay out of my life.

The fact that I, you or anyone can identify an ever-growing number of examples of pain, suffering, injustice and horror is good news. It means that all of us have collectively solved a boat-load of old problems and made life on earth better – MUCH, MUCH BETTER – than it was before. The more problems we solve, the more – and uglier – problems we can identify. Get over it!

The instant any one of us as an individual, or all of us as a culture, a country, a species; stops identifying the huge and growing number of agonizing problems that cry to solved, is the instant we are doomed.

Recognizing – KNOWING – about the pain, suffering and inequality of outcome that exists; and about how much MORE needs to be done, means that we have the opportunity to get better – MUCH BETTER – all the time.

So again… As we solve more and more problems, the more we will increase the world’s standard of living, AND the more terrible and agonizing problems we will identify. Lets get over it! And let’s get busy – stay busy – and continue our 2,000 century long habit of improving everybody’s quality of life.

 

Todd Youngblood is Executive Producer and Host of Intentionally Vicarious, which is dedicated to help you have more fun than anybody else you know! He is also Managing Partner and CEO of The YPS Group, Inc., a management consultancy focused on sales and sales management. Check out Intentionally Vicarious at   
https://intentionallyvicarious.com. Todd can be reached at todd@ypsgroup.com.

 

 

The (Not So) New Game in Private Equity

This is a Guest blog post by Kerry Moynihan, Partner at Boyden.

Top Private Equity Firms Investing in Education Businesses ...

 

WHY LEADERSHIP MATTERS MORE THAN EVER

A Very Brief History of Private Equity

The origins of today’s private equity industry (which I would define as including both venture capital and leveraged buyouts) date to 1946 with the foundations of American Research & Development Corp. (ARDC) & J. H. Whitney.  Prior, risk capital had almost exclusively been the domain of wealthy families.  Venture capital pioneers Mayfield and Kleiner Perkins were founded in 1969 and 1972, respectively.  In the buyout realm, the origins of LBO pioneers KKR began at Bear Stearns with “bootstrap” investments in the early 1970s, forming the foundation of the firm as we know it today.  TH Lee; Forstmann Little; Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe; and GTCR were all in operation by 1980 and became major players.  The modern private equity business continued to emerge in the 1980s with the realization that there were major discrepancies between public company management interests, the age old “agency problem” and the values that could be unleashed were business units to be decoupled from large public companies.  The year 1980 saw some $2.5 billion raised dedicated to the emerging alternative asset class and in the decade that followed nearly $22 billion was raised by venture and buyout funds.

The wide availability of junk bond financing fueled a boom during the 1980s, followed by a crash as the stock market tanked in October 1987.  High yield financing, or “junk bonds,” dried up for a time, and Drexel Burnham, the leading purveyor of these instruments, later went down.  However, institutional investors had certainly picked up on the higher returns available to PE than in the public markets.

Key to these were the availability of debt financing, the disparity between management that were merely salaried and those that were incentivized by equity, and the discrepancy between public and private market information.  For much of the next two decades private equity vastly outperformed the public markets.  Clearly, the emergence of technological innovation in software, semiconductors, and telecom fueled the venture side, while widespread industry consolidation and globalization largely propelled the LBO market.

As ever more money flowed into pensions and other institutional investor funds, the demand for higher yields accelerated.  This put more capital into the financial markets seeking higher returns and the boom continued.  Of course  there were blips and shocks, including the Foreign Debt crisis of 1997/98, the bursting of the dotcom bubble around 2000, the cessation of normal market activity following the 9/11 attacks, and perhaps most seriously, the major Financial Crisis after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns in 2008.

However, markets rebounded, time and time again.  Institutional capital, which seems to have a short collective memory, always seeks ever higher levels of Alpha (relative return) and will accommodate Beta (risk), often in unison, seemingly without independent, objective decision-making.

Institutionalization & Growth of the PE Industry

Funds were usually (relatively) small and privately held, and made individualized, partner-driven investment decisions.  Yet as their size has increased, and in many cases the larger funds went out to the public markets, the industry has fundamentally changed.  Now publicly traded, firms like Apollo, Blackstone The Carlyle Group, and others are, as the co-founder of one confessed to me “No longer in the business of making extraordinary, outsized returns on unique investments.  We are now in the asset management business. If we can beat the S&P by 150 basis points and put huge sums to work from institutional investors, we are happy and the investors are happy.“  With the traditional model of a 2% management fee on assets under management (AUM) and 20% capture of the return on investment, the carried interest, who would not be?

Where a billion dollar fund was once considered a large player, there were over 350 by 2018 and even more today.  There has been a veritable explosion in investment in the sector, as uninvested cash, or “dry powder“ at PE firms exceeded $1.5 trillion by the end of 2019.  Blackstone alone, the Wall Street Journal reported, had $150 billion in cash to invest at the end of last year.  Institutional Investor reported in July 2019 that 4000 funds were seeking to raise an additional $980 billion, up from 1385 funds seeking to raise $417 billion just four years earlier.

Yet in the 2010s the number of publicly traded companies stayed roughly the same while global AUM for PE firms and the number of PE-backed companies doubled, according to McKinsey & Co.  It comes down to simple economics as more money is chasing fewer good assets, hence driving up prices, and reducing returns.  S&P reported in November 2019 that the average pro forma EBITDA multiple was 12.9, up over 30% from pre-Financial Crisis pricing.  The massive leverage, low prices, and eye-popping returns of the 1980s are but a memory.  What is a simple fund to do?

Operations Management Software from Integrify

Adding Operating Expertise

Importantly, funds have changed their own internal structures over the last several decades. Almost no funds had seriously tenured operating executives as part of their investment teams in the 1980s, being almost exclusively comprised of “recovering investment bankers.”  The 1990s saw a bit of a change, but now almost every major fund has hired people who have more than an investment banking/finance background and have been senior operating executives who have actually run P&Ls.  In many cases these are actual full partners in the funds, as the Silicon Valley venture capital community was quicker to adopt this model, typically by adding tech CEOs to their rosters, than the Wall Street LBO community.  Many are termed Operating Partners or Management Associates, but whatever the nomenclature, there has been a collective recognition that strictly financial engineering and financing skills are necessary, but not sufficient, to create outsized shareholder returns.

Most of my clients and many of my good friends are private equity professionals.  Without naming names, an informal survey confirms the general thesis that by training they are not prepared to run the businesses that they buy.  Increasingly they recognize these facts, despite being “the smartest person in the room“ on virtually any topic (sic), in the not so distant past.

Where Are We and Where Are We Going

Fast forward to today, the late 2010s and early 2020s. The game has changed significantly, to say the least.  Not surprisingly, many of the factors that led to the tremendous success of the industry in years past have changed dramatically.  There is a changing reality and investment firms have, with varying degrees of success, made adjustments.  For example:

Financial engineering is no longer adequate.

Given the low interest rate environment of recent years, and explosion of alternative lenders such as credit funds, beyond the traditional large banks, a giant fund enjoys little advantage over a smaller one on the availability of financing or borrowing terms.  And, let’s face it, even if KKR or TPG can borrow at 25 basis points lower and with slightly less restrictive covenants than XYZ Capital Partners can, that factor alone is unlikely to be the deciding factor between the success or failure of an investment.

Globalization of the industry

Where venture capital and leveraged buyouts were virtually exclusively a US phenomenon just a few decades ago, today according to various studies, only about 55% of global private equity activity is in North America today.  While Africa and Latin America are somewhat underrepresented, Europe and Asia are booming in this respect and the former may well catch up over time.  It has become, as in so many industries, a much more competitive, truly international playing field.

Ubiquity of information has changed the game

The asymmetry of information that led to smart buyers and uninformed sellers is simply no longer the case.  The incredible proliferation of information and ease of access on a global basis means that sellers, even of relatively small and unsophisticated businesses, have a much better handle on the overall market than in the past.  An investment banker friend and I have a running joke that Old Uncle Burt, selling his cornfield in Iowa, knows that he can command 7.8 to 9.3 times EBITDA these days and will have five buyers lined up!  In short, because of this the market is much more ruthlessly efficient, further evidenced by the dramatic expansion in the number of deals done and in the ever higher multiples paid for them.

The Model Still Works

The increased volatility of public markets, however, continues to make private equity attractive.  What was once termed an alternative investment is certainly now very much in the mainstream for most sophisticated investors.  However, the delta in returns between public markets and private markets have flagged in the last several years.  As Bain & Co. noted in its 2020 Private Equity Report, “10-year public market returns match PE returns for the first time.”

Yet the current crisis, at the same time akin to the ones we seem to have every five or 10 years, and on the other hand of unprecedented scope, has obviously put an enormous dent in the wealth accumulated in the stock market.  The ability to be patient and not have to respond to quarter-by-quarter earnings can allow private equity investors to take a more strategic, long-term view and ride out much of the fickle fluctuations of the financial markets.

This may seem a bit ironic, since most PE funds would love to be in and out of investments in a 3 to 5 year timeframe if possible.  But with the public markets bouncing as violently as they are, private equity will remain a very attractive industry, both for Limited Partners as institutional investors and General Partners, the PE funds, as the custodians and direct investors of those funds.

Stanford Senior Executive Leadership Program | Stanford Online

 

Executive Leadership Matters, Now More Than Ever

Over time, more and more funds have gone to a model of backing individual executives or executive teams in what I call the “Back-able, Bankable Leadership“ model, or BBL.  Both venture and buyout funds have increasingly backed executive leadership that has had prior success and will continue to do so.  The proverbial “Holy Grail“ for investment funds is to find management teams that are proven and have as close to a proprietary idea as possible.  By this I mean either a specific target company(ies) for acquisition or a well-developed investment thesis with demonstrable potential acquisition targets.

How much better to create a situation where you have an organic genesis of an investment, rather than competing in a broad auction scenario against many other funds.  In the latter case, the “winner” of an auction may be successful in acquiring a business, but a loser as an investor, having paid too high a price at the outset.

An old saw in investing circles is that “You are more likely to win by backing an ‘A’ management team with a ‘B’ plan over a ‘B’ management team with an ‘A’ quality plan.“  At no time has this been more true than today, as many firms actually have to reinvent their business models on the fly.  As we face unparalleled turbulence in the markets, especially given the latest crisis, never has leadership, true leadership, been at more of a premium.  Operational excellence, coupled with the genuine ability to inspire, will always be valued.  In short, today it is more critical than ever to actually run businesses better.

Effective executive leadership makes all the difference.  It certainly makes me quite sanguine about the prospects for the executive search industry in partnering with private equity clients to create value.  Successful investors invest in superior management and leadership, especially when competition is greater than ever and times are uncertain, to say the least!

 

Kerry Moynihan is a Partner at Boyden. He has had a distinguished career of more than 30 years in executive search, making a significant impact on client organizations through strategic talent acquisition and development. Working across a range of industries, he specializes in partnering with boards of directors as well as private equity firms and the C-suite executives of their portfolio companies to deliver for investors. He can be reached at kmoynihan@boyden.com.

5 Steps to Marketing Success Post COVID-19

This is a Guest blog post from Sandy Barger, Partner and CMO of Chief Outsiders.

5 Steps to Marketing Success Post COVID-19

 

You guessed it, digital marketing will reign supreme once retail business resumes.

A February Market Trends 2020 survey of chief marketing officers (CMOs) with experience across both Fortune 500 and emerging brands shows the strong continuing trend toward digital advertising, with 80% of CMOs expecting to increase digital spending this year. A few weeks later, COVID-19 hit and digital became even more of an influence. Social distancing and working from home forced people to accelerate their movement to digital across all walks of life—from personal to work to social. Zoom alone grew to 300 million daily participants versus only 10 million back in December. As marketers continue to increase their focus on digital marketing, the top priorities will be on tactics that provide additional information, including organic searches, email marketing, paid search, and content marketing.

Most businesses know digital marketing and providing customers with information is important. In fact, these are usually the first marketing actions companies take. However, “lack of information” is not a problem. Studies show customers are bombarded with information, receiving up to 10,000 brand messages a day, according to the American Marketing Association. Rich content doesn’t just deliver information but provides the right information. The Digital Age has made for a more sophisticated and informed type of customer. While slogans and taglines may still catch attention, customers are looking for details and, in this competitive landscape, brands must get their stories right.

To break through the clutter, creating the “right” story must include what people are looking for. At the core of failed marketing tactics is a lack of WIIFM, an acronym that looms large in the storytelling paradigm and stands for “What’s in it for me?” It’s an essential question the answer to which can make or break the connective tissue that bonds your marketing story to the customers. Luckily, there are steps you can take to create a compelling brand story with a successful WIIFM.

5 STEPS TO COMPELLING DIGITAL BRAND STORIES

1. Understand Your Target Audience

We see it all around us today, the many different and often polarized points of views. We see it in our political system, our news, and our tastes—onions or no onions. To create the right story, it is important to consider the unique needs and interests of your target audience. For that, sound research—both qualitative and quantitative—is needed. While data from an expert research company yields the best insights, it is not the only option. Lower investment options such as customer interviews or surveys through online tools such as Survey Monkey provide valuable insights.

2. Understand Pain Points or Motivations

While companies are currently providing lots of information, it is usually about the company and focuses primarily on the product or service features. In doing so, companies often require customers to make the leap to the “WIIFM” themselves. To effectively communicate “WIIFM” it is critical to understand your customers’ pain points or motivations. Addressing pain points such as likes, wants, needs, and fears makes for the most compelling content. That’s referred to as the Persuasion Code.

Here’s a case in point: A technology company recently developed a new innovative service solution. The launch of the service generated a significant amount of awareness, but it did not convert into sales. The reason is the messaging failed to identify current, compelling pain points. It ultimately was able to drive sales by retooling the messaging to focus on its attention-catching innovations and how they could address target customers’ existing pain points.

3. Develop Authentic Claims 

Customers are very vocal about their satisfaction with products, which is helpful for brands. In fact, word of mouth referrals and reviews are the most compelling source of information for customers. With the Digital Age, customers, both satisfied and dissatisfied, can amplify their points of view. A study in 1983 found that 85% of customers dissatisfied with a clothing item told an average of five people. (Richins 1983). Now a dissatisfied customer can tell thousands—instantly.

Over two-thirds of business customers rely on reviews and 67% of survey respondents said that the reviews they saw online made an impact on whether or not they purchased a product. Companies and businesses can lose as much as 22% of their customers with just a single bad review or article. (Moz.com study).

Reviews are not always fair. In fact, 39% of reviews are false (Best SEO Companies), but someone reading that review does not know that. So to get positive reviews and avoid negative ones, your marketing message needs to make use of authentic, clear, and truthful claims.  You then need to deliver on the expectations the messaging is setting.

4. Provide Competitive Points of Differences 

Now that the brand has developed the messaging that will create an action, the customers must understand that action should be with your brand. New technology and factors such as globalization have resulted in fewer barriers to entry and more competition across all industries. A compelling story needs to include the brand’s unique value proposition and/or how the product or service is different from the competition. Otherwise, the brand has created the demand for someone else to capture.

5. Provide Proof

Customers are skeptical of brand claims. In fact, 63% of customers say they trust what influencers say about brands much more than what brands say about themselves in their advertising (Edelman 2019). Given this lack of trust, it is important to provide proof. There are several ways of doing so from statistical data, case studies, demonstrations, and of course, social media influencers.

Today’s customers are digitally savvy and have endless access to information. To get them to move from awareness to action requires more than just information. It requires a consistent, compelling story…and that requires a step-by-step development of “WIIFM” messaging.

 

 chief-outsiders-sandy-barger-portrait

Sandy Barger is Partner and CMO with Chief Outsiders, an American fractional CMO group. She works with B2B and B2C companies on product development, go-to-market strategies, and lead generation. Find more info at http://www.chiefoutsiders.com

 

Is Your Company Ready to be Sold?

This is a Guest blog post by Steve Pimpo and Bill Rossello of Greenhouse Consulting.

Common challenges we see and how to overcome them

Most business owners will come to the point in their journey when they feel it’s time to sell the company. They have spent a lot of time successfully building and growing their business, but most times are unprepared for the scrutiny and questions that they will face when being evaluated by a prospective “buyer” and their advisors. Based on our own experience and input we solicited from investment bankers, only about 10% of companies with owners seeking to sell are actually ready.  Here are some of the reasons why:

Customer Diversity – A high percentage of company revenue comes from one client or contract. Unless a potential acquiring company is trying to “buy” into a market, buyers like to purchase companies that have a diverse client base or unique service or product offering.

Company Narrative – Some owners use the same sales pitch to pitch to prospective buyers as they do to customers. Communicating the value of a company to a potential buyer is different from selling services to a customer. You need to recognize what buyers want and articulate what is special about your company.

Financials – Sometimes there are accounting inaccuracies that can’t support “quality of earnings” or EBITDA adjustments. You need to ensure that financials are accurate and realistic and can stand up to the scrutiny of a potential buyer’s audit.

Quality of Contracts – Many prime government contracts are “set asides” or subcontracts and there is no clear path to transitioning them to a larger company. You should be prepared with a valid contract revenue waterfall, and a plan to transition set-aside contracts and relationships.

Management Commitment – Ownership hasn’t taken steps to ensure that the leadership and key players are “read in” and will remain with the company post-transaction. People are part of the “goodwill” and company “brand.” It is important to show buyers that there is a plan in place to retain these key employees through to the transaction and beyond.

New Business Pipeline  Buyers will hone right in on your pipeline looking for two things. Is the pipeline full of legitimate prospects and is your pipeline tracking system logical and consistent? If it does not consider reasonable estimates of gross and net revenue and probability of win, it’s not likely to pass a buyer’s sniff test. You need to be ready to justify the reasons you selected each big deal and why you think you have a good chance of winning.

Strategic Growth Plan – Many sellers lack the ability to articulate to potential buyers, a bona fide growth plan, one that paints a credible picture of where the company could go over the next 3-5 years with the power, resources and reach of a larger firm. You need to have that narrative ready to go when you put the company on the market.

Valuation Expectations – Often owners have an unrealistic expectation about the “multiple” of EBITDA or revenue a buyer will pay based on what their peers or friends have received in their transactions. Make sure you focus only on the value of your own business, what similar companies have sold for. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Will they really pay for a tool that does not generate repeatable revenue? Or take a huge risk of paying a high multiple for a company with some of the issues raised herein? Talk to transaction experts and, if you’re willing to pay for it, get a formal valuation prior to putting your company on the market.

Your Near-term Future – Some owners just want to retire or quit the business after the transaction. If you’re the person who manages the company’s client relationships, or you’re the chief technologist, or if there is a major upcoming re-compete, the buyer is likely to want you to stick around for a while after the deal is inked. And there may be an “earn-out” provision that ties some portion of your proceeds to achieving certain objectives over that timeframe. Before you put the company on the market, be sure to consider how you would answer a buyer if they ask you stay on.

Due Diligence Preparation – There needs to be sufficient organization and appetite toward due diligence. The process is inevitably painful, invasive and underestimated. Approach this as a client engagement or actual project and assign one individual to own/manage responsiveness and production.

Without question, selling your company will be the most important professional decision you will ever make. If you address these issues prior to formally starting the process, you will get more attention from investment bankers, dramatically increase the probability of a successful transaction, and likely increase your proceeds too. Most investment bankers don’t have the time or resources to help you address most of the things we have identified. Even worse, they might see you as an unsophisticated seller and probably turn down your business. So, commit the time, effort and resources to prepare 12-24 months before you call the bankers.

Steve Pimpo and Bill Rossello are Principals and co-founders of Greenhouse Consulting, a Washington, DC based business that provides management consulting services to help companies grow or prepare to sell. They can be reached at spimpo@greenhousefirm.com and brossello@greenhousefirm.com, respectively.

How Innovation Companies Find Liquidity in the COVID-19 Economy

This is a Guest blog post from Ling Zhang, Senior Manager at Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP. She covers a lot information which is extremely valuable for small businesses. 

CASH IS KING | Armstrong Economics

“Cash is King” for businesses, especially when they are drifting in the rough currents due to COVID-19. What can technology, services, and life science companies do to survive the challenges and thrive through oppotunities in the current economic conditions? Here are a few considerations for innovative companies to manage cash flow since the pandemic’s inception.

 

Small businesses start to see relief through Paycheck Protection ...

Utilizing the CARES Act and New Laws and Legislation

Businesses have been following new legislation closely and, when possible, taking advantage of cash flow assistance from the federal government to increase liquidity. The following is a list of programs created by the CARES Act that support small businesses:

Lender letter for PPP application documentation - SynergySynergy

1. Paycheck Protection Program

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress had appropriated $349 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), providing loans of up to $10 million to certain qualified small businesses, and also offering forgiveness for
all or a portion of the loan. As the first round of PPP funding has been utilized, a new funding package has been approved for the PPP for $480 billion, which appropriated an additional $320 billion for the PPP.

The new funding package, passed on April 24, 2020, also includes $60 billion for the Disaster Loans Program and Emergency EIDL Grants.

 
2. Small Business Debt Relief Program

This program will provide non-disaster Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, specifically 7(a), 504 and microloans not made under the PPP. Under this program, all payments on these SBA loans, including principal, interest and fees, are covered by SBA for six months.

 
3. Economic Injury Disaster Loans & Emergency Economic Injury Grants

The program provides loans up to $2 million and emergency advances up to $10,000 that are not required to be repaid.

The CARES Act also has the following tax provisions available:

1. Employee Retention Credit

A refundable payroll tax credit for up to 50 percent of wages paid to certain employees is available to eligible employers during the COVID-19 crisis through Dec. 31, 2020. This credit is not available to employers receiving

 

2. Delay Payment of Payroll Taxes

Taxpayers can defer paying the employer portion of certain payroll taxes during the period beginning on the Act’s date of enactment and ending on Dec. 31, 2020. Half of the deferred amount is due on Dec. 31, 2021, and the other half is due on Dec. 31, 2022. For PPP loan recipients, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) FAQs1 clarify that taxpayers may defer the employer portion of Social Security on wages paid between March 27, 2020, and the date which the lender issues a confirmation of loan forgiveness for the recipients’ PPP loan.

 

3. Other Tax Provisions to Accelerate Cash

Other tax provisions include correction of Qualified Improvement Property depreciation; use of excess business loss and Net Operating Losses; and use of Corporate AMT Credits. Consulting with a tax professional may help increase cash flows through maximizing tax refunds and tax planning for the business. Please reach out to your tax advisor to evaluate possible solutions as these may be complex decisions.

 

4. Main Street Lending Program to Provide Liquidity to Small and Mid-Size Businesses

These four-year term loans are for companies that have less than 15,000 employees and $5 billion in revenue and have a minimum loan size of $1 million. The loans are generally available even if you have received a PPP loan and there is currently no indication of “affiliation” rules that disallowed many private equity portfolio companies from eligibility for the PPP loans. The loan size is generally based on a multiple of 2019 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), which can be adjusted as permitted by lending institutions, and includes existing debt.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) also provides refundable tax credit as follows:

Eligible employers are entitled to refundable tax credits for qualified leave wages that are paid, during the period beginning April 1, 2020 and ending Dec. 31, 2020, for specified reasons related to COVID-19 under the FFCRA.

Federal and state governments are continuing to evaluate
additional assistance to businesses.

China's New Development Stage: Challenges and Opportunities ...

Turning Challenges into Opportunities

Many leaders of technology, life sciences and service companies, including technology giants and small businesses, have pivoted during the pandemic in different ways by identifying opportunities, and taking immediate action to generate cash to secure a future for their employees while contributing, in their own unique way, to find a vaccine.

Examples include life sciences and medical device companies developing and selling antibody or COVID-19 testing kits; tech manufacturers making ventilators; SaaS software companies offering free HR applications to help manage the health and safety of employees; cyber security information technology services companies developing tracing technologies and providing services to help mitigate cyber security and privacy risks of work-from-home arrangements; services firms providing assistance on the interpretation of new legislation; and more.

 

70% of SMEs try to manage Cash flow themselves | EFM
Managing Cash Flows

Tech and life sciences companies should also assess key performance indicators (KPI), monitor budget versus actual analyses more closely and frequently, and deploy a plan to manage cash flows through the pandemic and beyond. Companies can consider the following areas to manage internal cash flows in response to the current environment:

1. Accelerate accounts receivable collections through active collection efforts and/or evaluating new technologies to allow customers new payment methodologies;

2. Manage vendors by initiating dialogue and negotiations with extended or delayed payment terms;

3. Classify expenses by variable versus fixed, and consider plans to cut spending on variable expenses where possible. Seek concessions on fixed expenses such as rent abatements, delay in payments, or extended payment terms;

4. Evaluate plans to reduce salary expenses including furloughs, salary reductions, and/or a reduction in force;

5. Seek additional financing opportunities through loans or use of availability on lines of credit;

6. Revise and develop new cash flow forecasts from operations for various scenarios – three-to-six months or even longer if necessary.

 

As a Senior Manager in the DHG Technology practice, Ling Zhang works closely with client management and C-suite executives to provide audit, financial accounting advisory, and risk advisory services to multi-national publicly-traded corporations and private companies with revenues ranging from $10 million to $50 billion. She advises clients on SEC filings, complex debt and equity transactions, merger and acquisition, new accounting guidance implementation, internal control system design and implementation, and financial statements reporting and disclosures. She can be reached at ling.zhang@dhg.com.

5 years as an entrepreneur | Advice on how you can build your own business throughout this pandemic

This is a Guest blog post from Thomas Ma, an awesome up and coming entrepreneur whom I have had the pleasure of watching grow these past few years. He is the LA-based Co-Founder of Sapphire Apps Media.  This is great reading for any young person or aspiring entrepreneur.  Lots of lessons learned. Enjoy!!

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I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was heading home from my last final of the semester to wrap up my junior year in college.

I had no internships lined up, and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. All of my friends had internships and it seemed they had their professional career figured out.

Nope not me. No one called me back. Since it was the last day, I decided to take one final stop at the college career center to see if they could help me out.

This is when I bumped into one of my friend at the career center and we started talking. Suddenly I started to get all these ideas in my head.

From that moment, I went back to my apartment, and continued to carve out my idea. I didn’t stop. I put 100% into it from that day. Of course it started out slowly. I had a lot to learn.

One Fun Fact:

It took me from May 9, 2015 — April 2017 before I had my own company bank account. That’s nearly 2 years!

In light of this 5 year mark, I wanted to put time and share what I would do today especially in this pandemic. My hope is to get other people to progress with their own journey. This advice is good for any type of industry.

Chapters:

1. Marketing yourself on upwork.com

2. Building out your network

3. Be vulnerable and share your journey

4. Learning a New Skill

5. Tools that you should know about

6. Outsourcing Talent

7. Digital Marketing

8. Building your digital brand

1. Create an upwork.com account to market yourself

Study other people in your industry. If you are into consulting, you look up consulting on upwork.com

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Look at the following:

Hourly rate, $ they’ve earned, success rate, and country their from.

In this case, Kim has a great profile. He has a high success rate and over 6 figures earned.

Here’s his profile:

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Look at is his hourly rate, title and what he is putting in his summary. It’s clear that he’s getting reached a lot.

Below his profile is his work history. Study how much he has earned and how much people are paying him.

Do this for 5–10 of the top earners int his category. This is the benchmark.

Try your best to optimize your profile so that it matches up with some of the best on Upwork. When you apply, at least you will stand out.

As you build your account in the beginning, it’s going to be tough. You’re going to have to be relentless. This means applying to as many jobs as you can. It may even mean not making a lot of $ to build up your profile.

Review and job success rate is critical to standing out as an applicant.

2. Build out your network

When starting out, it’s critical that you have a network. In order to thrive in what you do, you have to surround yourself with like minded people. These are the people who you will hang out with the most and learn from. You will also progress with these people and it’s amazing to celebrate milestones together and also being there for one another when things don’t go as planned.

If you don’t have a business network, it’s okay 🙂 I will share some of the things that I would recommend.

Before you build your network:
Make sure to optimize your social media profile with what you do. That includes Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, etc…

This way people get a sense of what you do when you connect with you.

Here are a few places you can find events or meet people:

The strategy applies to all the platforms below: When you join the platform, go to the search bar and enter keywords that relate to your niche. If you were in fitness, you could try wellness, health, fitness, coaching etc.

Facebook Group:

Eventbrite (Tons of free online events)

Meetup:

Linkedin

Instagram DM (search out hashtags in your industry and engage with people)

If you join a new group, read what members are posting. Engage with their post if you like it, and add them as a friend.

If they accept you as a friend, shoot them a compliment and let them know you liked their post. If they respond, ask if they are interested in connecting with you via zoom.

While on zoom, spend time genuinely getting to know the person.

Things you can talk about:
How covid has impacted you

Your background on how you started

Sharing what you’re passionate about

Favorite books

Why you started

The purpose of this is to build your own network. If people genuinely get to know you, they’ll support you. You never know who they know.

After you connect, you continue to stay in touch with them and invite them to events that you hear about.

As you continue to evolve your network, you will have access to more events.

This strategy can even be applied to zoom hangouts. To engage on zoom, you can send them a private message and use the same strategy.

In the space of creating your own brand, showing up is half the battle. You have to show up and build your network every day. Make it a goal to fill up your entire calendar with zoom events and zoom meetings.

Things to avoid at networking events:

1. Don’t ask the “what do you do” question. That’s straight to the point of what they do and it shows you don’t even want to get to know them for who they are

2. To be efficient with your time, you can state that you have 30 minutes or whatever at the beginning.

3. Don’t talk too much about yourself unless people ask you questions. If you talk a lot, you’ll never be able to learn about the other person. You have to make the other person feel special that you are talking to.

A small recap on networking:

If you are starting out, you can do the following to ensure you progress every week.

  1. Start off by booking one event per day on your calendar
  2. Make a goal of how many zoom connect meetings you want to take. Maybe in the beginning, make a goal to meet 5 people per week and then scale up.
  3. If you meet someone and share common interest, offer to collaborate with them. You can collaborate by co hosting a happy hour with your joint network. This way you meet more people and so does your new friend.
  4. If you are able to host events, you become the go to person for that event. People will get to hear you. This way you expand your network at a faster pace.
  5. If you host great events, make sure to do it on a weekly bases. As you host more events, people will bring their own network.

3. Be vulnerable and share your journey

When I started, I used to take a selfie photo everyday of my Starbucks cup or wherever I was at in the world. I’d post most of the stories on Linkedin.

I wanted to show people what the journey was like. Overtime, I was able to build more followers because people liked hearing my story.

The reason for doing this is because it builds your digital brand. The more people know about you, the more they can potentially help you.

One networking tip here is to connect with people who like your post. Right away you have something in common.

4. Continue to learn

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One of my favorite podcast to listen to is NPR how I built this by Guy Raz. It has stories from some of the great entrepreneurs in the world.

It’s nice to hear how someone started and made traction.

Read articles on medium.com especially the entrepreneurship articles

Stay active in the reddit entrepreneur community. A lot of people post insightful advice on there, and it’s an easy way to connect with a small group

5.) Tools/Sites you should know about

http://www.hemingwayapp.com : Spell checker you can use before you post or email someone

https://unsplash.com: Website with great stock images you can find

https://clipchamp.com/en/video-compressor/ : Compress large files

https://www.squarespace.com : Easy website builder. When you make your website make sure it’s optimized for mobile

https://hunter.io : Tool that lets you find emails from brands you are trying to reach

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/inshot-video-editor/id997362197 : App that lets you edit videos. You can put around a white border and text over your content

6. Outsourcing Talent

What does this mean? It means you are hiring someone remotely to complete the work for you. They can be from anywhere in the world!

Talent you can hire for: video editing, graphic design, app development, website, basically anything you can think of is on there.

As you expand, you are going to need help. Upwork is the best place to find remote talent.

If you want to save cost, I would highlight recommend looking for talent in Philippines, India, and Ukraine.

When you have your job list up, you can filter for people in those countries and invite them to your job.

I highly recommend upwork.com

Here are some tips to hiring talent:

When you make your job listing, you want to have the following:

-Catchy Header (study other people)

  • Clear instructions on exactly what you want and keeping it short and brief
  • Follow up questions that the applicant should respond to

Here are some I recommend:
What is your hourly rate

What is your working hours
Have you read the instruction? If so, how much and how long would it take to complete

Do you have a portfolio?

All the questions above help filter out who is a good candidate and who isn’t.

If you like their answers, you can give them a small paid tester. If they pass it, you can give them a larger project.

Always let people know if they do good work that you will have more projects for them.

When you find someone you like, you can add them to your roster.

If you master the ability to outsource, you can scale a creative agency. This means you can find clients who need a service. An example is if you had a bunch of designers you liked, you can market yourself as a creative agency who does graphics.

Add your creators work to your portfolio. Show people your work. Find clients who are willing to pay.

Once you find clients who are willing to pay, you give the work to the person you liked.

Recap for Agency via Outsourcing

  1. Find talent
  2. Test talent. If their good, add them to your roster
  3. Show case their work
  4. Find clients who are in need
  5. If client is in need, then they will pay you for the services.
  6. Give the project to the remote person. Make sure they meet your deadlines

7. Digital Marketing:

Learn how to run paid media ads on Facebook.

Steps I would suggest:

  1. Start to do a deep dive on free courses that they offer online

Free Resources that I like:

Tristan’s Facebook Ads Course: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_Ic8HZSPfIW9TES3jPgpCg

Once you learn one platform, you can figure out other platforms such as Snapchat etc..

A few advice:

Start small when you run Facebook ads campaigns. Learn how to track your ROI (return on investment)

At the end of the day, your goal should be to make profit.

Study your competitors advertisement through the Facebook tool. You can look up every single company and what ads they run.

8. Building your digital brand

I never envisioned myself as a live fitness coach, but I found a new passion.

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What started out as an opportunity to learn turned into something that I look forward to every week.

I had no idea what it was like to coach. I wanted to change that. To build a great brand, I wanted to learn everything. The coaches are important. They are the ones leading the tribe for ~1 hour.

My first class had 4 people. My second class had 4 people.

Week 2: Started to get 10–15 people for my two class

Week 3: Averaged 30 people for my two classes. This time people are referring their friends and family to join.

I love this because it’s so fun to see people enjoying something that I teach and having them bring their friends.

Take a look at the Eventbrite photo. Eventbrite drove over 100 users to my listing.

Eventbrite drove over 100 email sign ups to my fitness class. Facebook drove ~30 and I spent about $150.

Here’s how you can build out your digital brand throughout this pandemic

List your events on the following platforms:

Meetup (Yes you have to pay $30 group fee, but you will gain users over time. Study other groups in your niche and optimize your group title)

List your events on all the builtin websites. They have cities in Austin, NYC, Chicago, etc. It’s FREE!

List your event on Facebook Events. Make a page. This is the group I made:

Facebook

Log into Facebook to start sharing and connecting with your friends, family, and people you know.

List your event on Linkedin Events. Invite all your network. Yes it’s tedious, but you have to hustle when you’re building something new.

DM people on Instagram. Find hashtags that relate to your target demo. In my case, it’d be #fitness #peloton #soulcycle #boxing

Find people commenting in fitness related post.

LIST ON EVENTBRITE. YES IT’S BOLDED FOR A REASON.

OPTIMIZE the keywords. They give you 10 for a reason. Think of words people would search if it was someone looking to attend your online class.

Leverage all the keywords in the main title

State the time, timezone, day, and date in the header

Find a clear stock photo that stands out. I use Unsplash.

Add questions they have to answer. In my eventbrite, I ask people where they come from. I also suggest they join my Facebook fitness community.

Facebook Groups are key! It reaches more people. If you post an event, you are able to invite every single member in the group.

Nurturing your audience:

Engage with people before class. Ask them where they are from

Throughout your class find a way to get users to engage. In my fitness class we do virtual high fives and fist bumps

Bring people together after the event. At my events, we take a group photo online

Reach out to people who attended your class and thank them. They’ll appreciate it

Remember people’s first name. Especially if they come back.

Livestream your events. This way more people have access.

Why you should build out a digital brand:

People can learn about you. If they like what you do, they will come back. If they continue to come back, they will bring friends to join them. Overtime, this is your fan base that supports you. It’s important that you are able to identify your super fans.

My hope is that this will give you the small push to get you started.

No matter what happens, be proud of what you do. Do things because you want to. Don’t do it because of someone else telling you what they want for you. It’s your journey. Make sure you can smile and have fun with your choice.

If you are looking for a good community to join, this is the one I created:

Sapphire Stories: A Community of Passionate Doers

Community of Doers who are pursuing their passion. Our goal is to connect and inspire you with your own journey. Follow…

If you’d like to stay connected with me, you can always reach out @boredwithtom on Instagram

 

 

How Technology Has Transformed Conversation From Dancing Into Boxing

This is a Guest blog post from Mark Haas.

We use various forms of communication to inform, entertain or influence. Depending on intent and circumstance, we may use various technologies to send and receive. Voice, gestures, hand signs, smoke signals, radio, email. The availability of technology offers new ways to communicate that are offered as improvements in speed, cost and convenience. However, while the purpose of communication remains, new transmission mechanisms often alter effectiveness and outcomes.

Specifically, the advent of email, text and video formats have disrupted communication from bi- or multilateral to a one-way broadcast. Expectation of a reply is no longer assumed, expected or, in many cases, even desired. I want to say what I have to say to not just a specific person, but to anyone who will listen — or at least receive my message.

Communication Protocols

Just as standards make processes and products more efficient, communication protocols make communication more effective. Protocols exist in almost every industry and profession. They evolve over time to improve transactions.

But protocols don’t just involve technical, mechanical matters. They have to be used by everyone in the system. This means people have to appreciate their usefulness and use them. Just as Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (http) exists to facilitate standardized and efficient Internet communication, so too do social protocols facilitate interpersonal communication. If someone tried to set up a new Internet protocol, it would take time and effort to get people to adopt it, if they ever did. Similarly, using varying social and communication protocols would hinder, in some cases cripple, communication.

Argumentation is defined as the search for the truth (although the term has been somewhat corrupted lately to mean being disagreeable). Effective argumentation includes what is known as the burden of evidence (support what you say with presumably unassailable facts) and the burden of rejoinder (elevate the discussion when presented with facts by another).

This is what is being violated regularly, unwittingly at first and now possibly intentionally. It seems that social media only warrants a statement, unsupported by evidence when challenged, of one’s opinion. When challenged, the response is to attack, deflect or ignore. While not all discussions follow this pattern, one could draw the conclusion that social media is not a place to explore the truth. Argumentation has just become argument.

This is not miscommunication, where people do partially or wholly miss the meaning or intent of the message. This is more fundamental. It is the lack of desire by the sender for the recipient to respond. It is the lack of intent to participate as much as it is to send. How many people have asked to see a picture of what you had for breakfast? Are you expecting to engage in a dialog about it or are you just “letting people know?”

Dancing

For purposes of this conversation, dancing refers to ballroom dancing. Two people are a team. Their activity requires cooperation and mutual intent.

They send messages through their eyes, voice and gentle pressure on hand, shoulder and back. Two well practiced partners (and they are called “partners” for a reason) move as one, each seeking to anticipate and respond to the other, in the interest of mutual understanding and enjoyment. Even a mishap can be accommodated easily by an attendant partner. The combination of two (or many) can be entertaining and inspiring.

Boxing

Boxing is a contest between two adversaries, opponents, a challenger and a champ. The expectation of all who participate in, and observe, the contest is that one will win and the other will lose. Each has developed a plan to overwhelm the other. They trade punches with the desire that each punch will end the fight. Once the “knockout” has been delivered, the contest is over.

With such ease do we send a text, post a video or send a Tweet. We don’t even have to know who will receive our message, when they will get it or even if they will respond. And we are OK with this.

Can We Teach Boxers to Dance?

It has become easy to send a message without expecting a reply because we expect to be removed from an immediate social response. Without facial cues or body language, or immediate verbal/written response, there is no feedback that could effectively elevate the conversation.

We issue opinion, compliments or vitriol, sometimes not even knowing how our words will be received. Because of this disconnect, we often forget that we may have started a conversation. A conversation that might as easily be received as an invitation to argumentation as a sucker punch.

There is a difference between talking to an individual and to a crowd. Part of our challenge is to know the difference requirements in how we talk to each.

Another part is recognizing that our responsibility in a conversation is to assure our message is received as we intended, and that the conversation is beneficial to all parties.

I’d much rather interact with Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers on the dance floor (if they’d have me) than Muhammad Ali in the boxing ring. I’d also rather have a deeper and insightful conversation than lobbing, or receiving, insults.

Let’s all learn to dance better.

Mark Haas helps boards and executives create powerful strategies to help them make decisions with greater confidence, impact and pride. He helps companies and nonprofits develop strategies, create and validate business models, and execute with discipline. Mark is also an international trainer, facilitator and speaker in ethics, strategy and performance management.
Mark Haas
CEO, Association for Enterprise Growth
(301) 442-5889

7 Things to Do to Be an Effective Sales Leader Now

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This is a Guest blog post from Chris Tully.
7 Things to Do to Be an Effective
Sales Leader Now

 

Learning to adjust your sales leadership practices to fit these unusual times may not be an easy correction. You probably have been honing your system for years; pivoting to these extraordinary circumstances is hard for even the most limber.

My advice is to focus your attention on the definition of “Leader” as supporting your sales team, and you’ll be heading in the right direction.

To get you started, here are 7 things you can do to be an effective sales leader right now.

1. Concentrate on client retention

Client retention trumps new business acquisition. I wrote about this extensively last month and it’s worth emphasizing again: Dramatically increase client communications to strengthen your personal and professional relationships.

Additionally, ask clients what assistance they need from you or what introductions you can make to help them retain their business.

2. Take care of your commissioned sales representatives

Close dates have been pushed back, and some opportunities have been cancelled entirely. Salespeople working on commission are worried right now – it would be remarkable if you weren’t hearing this from your team. So, consider what you can do to offer them some relief:

  • Consider reducing/suspending quotas for Q2 2020 and possibly Q3
  • Consider a commission floor, if it makes sense for your business
  • Reinforce their importance to your business, and give them the confidence that you’ll take care of them as best you can
Strengthening your sales team’s trust in you and your company will pay dividends in the long run.

 

3. Focus on internal communications and team dynamics

With communications 100% virtual, shift to deliberately communicating with team members.

  • Have a one-on-one with your direct reports every day or every other day.
  • Hold an all-team meeting every week
  • Get your CEO to give regular business updates, and make some of those “town hall” meetings where team members can ask questions
  • Enable “skip level” meetings to increase company transparency
  • Get these meetings on the calendar – on the same day each week, at the same time, with a set agenda and defined start/stop time.

If this seems like a lot, it’s really not. Calculate all the time you used to spend commuting to work and external meetings, and consider this “found” time well spent in building a stronger team.

4. Invest in collaborative tools

You’re encouraging your team to work together as well as with you, so invest in tools that make it easy for them. Slack and its competitors allow quick back-and-forth information exchange and easy real-time collaboration.

Use video conferencing as well as the presentation tools in your Zoom, GoToMeeting, or other account – it’s important to see your people, and it’s scientifically proven that face-to-face communication is the most effective.

Take advantage of the extra time you have to work on nagging process issues. Ask team members to help you identify cross-functional issues they’ve encountered pre- and post-distancing, and involve them in identifying, discussing, and solving those issues.

5. Plan for coming out of this current crisis

This is the time to make your plans and set (realistic) goals for Q3, Q4, and 2021 – even though we don’t exactly know what the new normal will look like. The more you can engage your team in planning for the future, the more invested in that future they’ll be.

6. Closely examine pipelines and sales opportunities

Sales pipelines and opportunities are not as robust as they were two months ago. If this crisis has taught us anything it’s this – while you can’t control the outcome you can absolutely control your mindset and your level of activity.

Dig into your sales pipeline. Pay extra attention to fully qualifying each deal. Are all the decision makers and influencers engaged? Are they bought into your value proposition? Is the economic ROI associated with investing in your solution crystal clear to them? Is the close date real?

Control what you can: increase your calls and emails to current and prospective clients, and negotiate more proactively.

7. Find ways to have fun together

There’s a lot to be said for leadership by example! So lead the pack in having fun from home, and organize a weekly activity that fits your work culture.

Examples of team activities are a virtual happy hour or karaoke night, trivia night, an online scavenger hunt, or other multi-player online game. My new favorite is Codewords, an online word-guessing game in the format of rival “spymaster” teams (similar to Codenames board game).
If event planning is really not your thing, then delegate different team members each week to choose the activity. But make sure you participate – sales teams that play together stay together!

 

 

 

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS

“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.
I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.
Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

Visit My Website

The Innovation Imperative – 5 “Must Ask” Questions

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The Innovation Imperative – 5 “Must Ask” Questions

Going into the Covid-19 pandemic, almost all organizations were facing myriad challenges in terms of fiercer competition, more discriminating customers, longer sales cycles, and difficulty in differentiating their offerings, mostly due to tremendous advances in technology and a demand for greater transparency.

The pandemic has accelerated what forces were already in play, in addition to changing the way we all live and work, and devastating certain industries and business models. Now more than ever, every organization should be aggressively looking to innovate…or go extinct.

Every organization is different, with its own set of unique markets, customers and business drivers. As we work with our portfolio companies in helping them innovate, we start with the following 5 questions:

  • How congruent is the way you innovate with your vision and appetite for innovation?
  • How effectively do you articulate your vision and appetite for innovation to your stakeholders?
  • Is innovation a crucial part of your team members’ job descriptions?
  • Do you have the right processes to create and bring innovation to market?
  • How do you measure ROI and your ability to meet customer expectations?

Tying vision to appetite for innovation – This is core to a company’s ability to succeed as it iterates and pivots. Is the innovation imperative part of your company’s DNA? Those who embrace creativity and boundaryless thinking are essentially building innovation into the way they operate.

Articulating your vision for innovation – It’s not enough to just think in a vacuum. It’s necessary to evangelize the need for different thinking and changing for the better. The most innovative organizations talk about their innovation goals and progress, and they actively share this with their teams, shareholders, customers, suppliers, etc. “Walking the talk” brings it all together for stakeholders and they can all participate to help companies innovate.

Team members as “innovators” – We have heard the mantra that “everyone is in sales.” Embracing this mentality has benefitted many companies and their employees. The companies who are most effective at innovating think that “everyone is an innovator,” and they actively engage all team members in formal and informal exercises and conversations for ideas on organizational self-improvement.

Processes for Innovation – This takes leadership from the top, and an assignment of resources to execute on the innovation imperative. The most innovative organizations create and implement innovation processes, measure results, and iterate off that feedback. This set of processes is a playbook for how companies can continue coming up with the best and most creative ideas.

Measuring ROI – The best kind of innovations have a direct and measurable ROI. Some will not be measurable, but will have benefits (examples could be improved employee morale, increased retention, customer lifetime, value, etc.) and should therefore be undertaken. The discipline of calculating ROI by itself is extremely useful, as it forces a closer examination of the various drivers of a business.

In summary, what we are looking for are the vision/desire for innovation, how this is communicated, engagement of team in this effort, execution structure, and tangible ROI. The answers to these five questions will form a good foundation from which any organization can start looking at things differently and innovating its way to greater success.