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It’s Not About You Stupid!

July 14, 2017 Leave a comment

031A6785My July column for the Kitsap Business Journal (Kitsap Sun)

While cleaning out the spare room to make space for my wife’s new home office, I found a box full of old books and work from college. Why it’s still with me 34 years later is beyond me, but I’m glad it is.

I pulled out a notebook I was asked to journal in for a writing class in fall quarter of my freshman year at Skagit Valley College. I took a break and started reading through it. Of course my girlfriend I wrote of often was now my wife, who attended Skagit Valley with me. This made the discovery more personal. That evening, my daughter and son-in-law came over to celebrate Father’s Day weekend, so I showed her the journal. The rest of the evening was spent with laughter over my writing style, the contents, and a peek into my worldview as an 18-year-old!

Upon reflection, I realized that my writing indicated something that I’m sure is common with most American 18-year-old boys…a pretty healthy self-absorption. The focus of my writing was on me. While this might not sound overly insightful, I realized that my commentary on my professors, my school work, my friends, and even my soon to be wife was all about me. If I could go back on time and be given the chance to give myself advice, I’d probably begin with a slap on the back of the head with the exhortation, “It’s not about you, stupid!”

I think my maturation started with becoming a father and grew from there. The three-plus decades since September 1983 have provided experiences, challenges, and moments that shape perspective and wisdom. This tough love I’d give myself was likely attempted by my own father, but undoubtedly not listened to well! It’s amazing what life lessons teach us and how we eventually learn that we didn’t know it all.

CEOs, business owners, and business leaders, take notice… “It’s not about you, stupid!” You also don’t know it all.

Before you storm the castle with pitchforks and torches, hear me out. My experience is that business owners have a great passion for their work and great pride in their business. Over the course of years, it’s easy to become both provincial and myopic in the management and operations of the business. To be blunt, it’s easy to become self-absorbed.

Business owners that become overly concerned about their legacy, their community standing, and their personal profit start down the slippery slope often trod by teenage boys. It becomes easier to blame others for problems (e.g. the government, the employees, the customers). It becomes easier to think about profits before people. It becomes easier to isolate oneself, rather than “walking the shop floor” and engaging with people.

Fortune 500 companies CEOs are notorious for being unavailable and unaware of the company culture. Uber’s CEO just recently took a leave of absence (or rather was forced to by the board of directors) for his dreadful behavior. While Uber will likely rebound with some better decisions, small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) cannot afford that luxury of time. If you are in charge of your organization – or have direct reports and influence – then you need to slap yourself upside your head on occasion to remind yourself that the business is not about you, even if it is your name on the shingle. The business is always about the people.

Let’s define “people.” For this column, I define people as your employees and your customers and clients.

Your employees: Without them, your business wouldn’t operate. Never consider that just because you’re providing a paycheck that any additional effort to support and encourage them isn’t needed. The biggest mistake SMB owners make is putting an emphasis on profit over people. The reality is that if you put the effort on people, your profit will exponentially improve as a result. It’s not the other way around. The genuine care about the well being of your human “assets” goes a long way to building a strong culture where they care as much as you do about the business’s success.

Your customers and clients: Your business serves some higher good. You’re offering value and the improvement of the condition of someone else. If you weren’t, you’d not still be in business! I sometimes hear or read about business owners complain about customer demands and administrative burden. It’s often easy to get seduced by the sexiness of bringing in new clients and forget hat you have “at home.” Those customers and clients are potential evangelists that will shout your name to the rooftop and refer you business. They will only do this if they feel like you still care. Do you?

There’s a difference between self-absorption and self-confidence. Self-absorption left unchecked becomes isolation with consequences like poor employee morale and loss of clients. Self-confidence breeds positivity in brand and service leading to collaboration and engagement. If you occasionally find yourself slipping into an 18 year brain, slap yourself upside the head and remind yourself, “It’s not about you, stupid!” You and your company will be better of for it!

© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved

A Little Privacy Please…

May 17, 2017 Leave a comment

He is ready to fight for success

A Little Privacy, Please…
How to guard and protect yourself and your company from cyber crimes

As a first world society, I’m afraid we are becoming numb to calamity around us. Once upon a time, a global cyber security breach would have been the main news story for several weeks. The major attack that happened last week that impacted countless businesses around the world is now largely forgotten as we did into the FBI, the White House, and Russia.

We live in a growing less secretive world. The ability for a criminal with some technology skills to “break into” a small or medium-sized company and steal information is alarmingly easy. We all lock our doors at night to keep the bad guys out. The problem is that the bad guys don’t need to pick your lock; they just need to figure out your password and then they can steal information, money, and profits.

I will be brief today, but that doesn’t lessen the severity of this threat to your company and employees (including you and your family). Here are three steps you should take right now to help prevent and mitigate this risk:

  1. Create (or review and revise) a written cyber security plan for your company. I don’t care if you are a company of five or 500, you use the Internet and you need to protect yourself. Just like unprotected sex leads to bad consequences, unprotected systems could result in more serous viruses (see link to article below).
  2. Form a team. Being a lone wolf doesn’t work because you can’t possibly know everything. You need an IT expert, a risk specialist, and key employees in your company to build a strong fortification. It also supports accountability and implementation.
  3. Read this article in the Harvard Business Review written by Luke Bencie. A colleague of mine shared it on Facebook yesterday and it’s excellent. You and your employees are probably violating a lot of his suggestions. I know I am and that will start changing. Are you ready to change to match the new risk to your business?

Bottom line: This isn’t 1977 any longer. Your most valuable assets and information are no longer stored in a safe in your locked business. They live in a cloud that can be accessed by people with skills and bad intent. It’s time to re-awaken to what your most concerning risks are and do what you can to ferociously guard them.

I’m an expert in resilience, risk management, and crisis planning. I have a proprietary scorecard to assess where you are today when it comes to protecting your most important assets and your bottom line.

If these are important to you, then call and let’s talk. Call me at 360-271-1592 to schedule a meeting.

_________________________________________________________________________

WHAT’S NEW…my Private Brokerage Client program.

I’ve expanded my consulting practice to include the ability to place insurance coverage for clients. Through my affiliation and partnership with First Underwriters, I now can not only help you control your risk exposures, but finance them in a way that ferociously protects your profits.

My business model is different for two reasons. First, clients gain access to certain intellectual property and resources that before were only available to consulting clients. These resources will help clients save time, money, and frustration on their entire risk portfolio. Second, the program has a capacity limit. In order to offer this full-service, concierge style approach, I will limit the number of Private Brokerage Clients I will take on. Just since starting about 45 days ago, I’ve added five new clients.

If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you ferociously protect your profits and lifestyle, call me to see how this program might look for you.

WEBSITE

Lessons in Branding from Lady Gaga

March 8, 2017 4 comments

LadyGagaWas it just me, or were the Super Bowl commercials as a whole this year disappointing? Now let’s not mistake my personal point of view (POV); I’m a Super Bowl viewer for the football and the food. That being said, I’m always interested in watching the commercials because this is where the best of the best marketing campaigns are supposed to be launched, right? Apple, Doritos, Budweiser, e*Trade and others have made splashes with their highly expensive time slots on national television. My response to this year’s crop was a resounding….”meh.”

The vast majority of the commercials focused on something other than their brand. In some cases, you were left to wonder what the product or service was. Marketing execs seemed to go out of their way to make social statements rather than stating their own POV to their target audience.

If I were selling beer, I’d focus the viewers attention on people drinking beer and having fun. If I were selling cars, perhaps a wise strategy is focusing on creating a desire for said make and model of transportation. Bottom line, politics impacted thinking around branding this year. The problem is people watch the Super Bowl to be entertained both by the game and the commercials.

Alternatively, Lady Gaga left no doubt about her brand. Her performance for the halftime show was brilliant because it showed off her main talents – singing and entertaining. There were no overt statements made; the focus was on her music and style. She sang her most popular songs to expand the net of those who only occasionally here her music. I admit I don’t know all her work, however what she sang at halftime, I did.

She added surprise to her routine by starting the show on the roof and then repelled down to the stage. She concluded by jumping off the stage while catching a ball and disappearing to raucous applause. No one watching was left uncertain of her POV or brand.

So what’s this mean for you as a business owner?

It’s very easy to become confusing to your target market, if you’re not careful. If a beer manufacturer can lose it’s POV of what it does with a scattered marketing message, then the same can happen to you. Your marketing focus should be more Lady Gaga than Budweiser. Here’s how…

Be clear about your market. Ideally, who will purchase your products or services?  Are you B2B or B2C? This is important because B2Bs write a company check based on a budget; B2Cs must be influenced to part with a portion of their paycheck. You’ve got to start with this because your marketing will be focused on this buyer.

Be clear about your image. Lady Gaga’s wardrobe and stage was consistent with her brand. What’s your image say about you? Image is portrayed in style (old school vs. contemporary); language (bold vs. tempered); platform marketing (Social media vs. word of mouth); or any number of other characteristics based on your industry. The key question is – are you consistent?

Create curiosity and engagement. There was a lot of pre-halftime buzz about what Lady Gaga would do based on her penchant for being unpredictable (which is in itself consistent).  No matter what you’re marketing, there has to be some allure, some area of curiosity, and some engagement where your customer interacts with you. She had a live audience; what do you have?

Be you. Don’t try to copy others; be yourself. Be clear about your value and how you’re the company (or individual) best suited to improve the condition of your ideal customer.

Be bold. If Lady Gaga is one thing, she’s bold and a risk-taker. However, she has a plan. It’s all done for the benefit of her customer, the audience (whether in person or watching on TV).  If your marketing message is boring or white noise, it gets tossed in the virtual trash can, never to be retrieved. You might think you are bold, but how do you know your target customer thinks so? What kind of analytics do you run? What type of metrics do you use? Have you ever even asked?

Leave them wanting more. Lady Gaga left the stage with pizzazz and her followers can’t wait for the next performance. Does your marketing strategy motivate people to contact you or do they even care? You must be innovative around the idea of getting people to take action. That action is engaging in some way with you.

And she told two friends. And so on, and so on…. If you’re my age, you remember that shampoo commercial exhorting the power of name brand and referrals. The Lady Gaga brand is best spread through social media. Not only did she “trend” on social media platforms for days afterwards, it actually converted into big revenue. According to USA Today, her sales spiked by 1,000%!

Nielsen Music reports she sold 125,000 song downloads. That’s up roughly 960% compared to the day before the game. She sold over 23,000 albums on Sunday, representing a 2,000% increase.

Wouldn’t you take those kinds of returns? Bottom line is this – if you want to avoid having a Bad Romance with your business, increase your revenue, be wildly successful, and have more fun doing it, be more like Lady Gaga. Be clear on your value and messaging, and then pack the house!

Dan Weedin is a strategist, speaker, author and executive coach. He helps small business and middle market business leaders and entrepreneurs to grow more profitably and create a better life.  He was inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant™ Hall of Fame in 2012. You can reach Dan at 360-697-1058; e-mail at dan@danweedin.com or visit his web site at http://www.DanWeedin.com.

The Power of the “POP’

February 8, 2017 Leave a comment

punch

(My real home gym where the bag lives!)

It’s easy to get bored with a workout routine if you don’t change things up. I found myself in that predicament a few months ago. I started taking a class that included punching a heavy bag as one of the circuits. It scratched three itches – it was different, it was great exercise, and I got to hit something really hard without the peril of being hit back or sued! I became so enthralled with it that I asked for – and received – my own heavy and speed bag combo unit for my birthday.

When hitting a golf ball or baseball squarely, you hear this sound of perfection – POP. It’s the sound of the ball being hit perfectly off the club or bat. Likewise, when you hit the heavy bag squarely with your fist, you both feel it and hear the same POP. It’s an exhilarating feeling of adrenaline and keeps me going back to the golf course and heavy bag for more. I want to keep hearing and feeling that POP.

In this final segment of my 3-part series on profitably growing, developing, and protecting your business and people, we will examine a topic you should be very interested in – Growing the equity value of your business. The result of successfully doing this should give you the same adrenaline rush of squarely landing a punch on the heavy bag…. that POP should equate to the financial reward you’re receiving for the risk you took in starting a business.

I speak regularly at events where business owners are in attendance. I’m no longer surprised that many of them have never heard of EBITDA (if you say it fast three times, it reminds you of Porky Pig signing off!). EBITDA stands for Earnings Before Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization. Your CPA and financial advisors know what EBITDA is and so should you. In essence, it’s your real profit and one of the factors in what you can eventually sell your business for.

This column can’t adequately explain EBITDA, so I encourage you to discuss how yours is derived and what it actually is with your CPA. Here’s what you should know about it for today…

Most business owners will eventually sell their business in order to use the proceeds to fund the lifestyle they desire for their “golden years.” They may sell to children or other relatives; an employee (or a group of them); or to a competitor. Regardless, just like with your house, you want to get full value for your blood, sweat, and tears. You want to maximize the equity.

For every $100,000 of profit increase, your small business (and your wealth) will be more valuable by a range of $300,000 to $500,000 based on valuation multiples of three to five times EBITDA. If you’re a company in excess of $10,000,000 annual revenues, that multiplier is probably closer to five to seven times EBITDA. That’s real money. Do you see now why you as a business owner need to stay apprised of what your EBITDA is?

So why don’t so many business owners pay attention to this, when it’s as important as their 401K and/or stock investments? Because many small and mid-size business owners get caught up in a “success trap.” In other words, they get trapped in your business doing “stuff” that they think they should be doing because it’s their business. While this “stuff” may be important (and at one time you needed to do when they were starting out), much of it can now be delegated by training others or allowing them to do it. Ask yourself this question – Are you optimizing your personal value to the company or are you really an employee with a fancy office?

You can maximize your value by developing leaders and focusing on tasks that improve the value of your company. It’s better both for you and your employees. One of the areas you should focus on is your profitable growth and the valuation of your company because if you wait too long, you may not be happy with the results.

You may be thinking, “I’m not a financial expert.” That’s not a problem. That’s why you build a team of experts – your CPA, wealth advisor, business consultant, insurance broker, attorney, etc. If you invested a couple hours a month to stay current on the equity of your company, you’d be able to strategize how to move forward in regards to growth, scalability, profitability, employees, and clients.

The financial piece of your puzzle is undoubtedly the most complex, and that’s why you must be confident enough in yourself to ask for help from smart people. It’s worth your time and financial investment.

Final thoughts on increasing your business value: While EBITDA is important; it’s only one factor. The topics and concepts we discussed in the past two parts of this series are equally important. The valuation of your company when you’re ready to sell it will be based on three factors:

1.    How attractive you are to an ideal buyer.

2.    How scalable your business model is beyond your existing market.

3.    How many buyers are interested.

If you’re successful in the first two of these, you may not even need the third. Maybe you don’t sell it; maybe you put yourself in a position to sell and keep it or become an acquirer yourself. In the end, you want to create a legacy for your business and build the equity to make decisions on your terms, not someone else’s. And when you do that, you’ll hear the sound of perfection and feel the power of the POP over and over again!
This article appeared in the February edition of the Kitsap Sun/Kitsap Business Journal as part of my regular monthly column.

© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Protecting Your Profits

January 11, 2017 Leave a comment

20 Under 40 20_3This is my monthly column for the Kitsap Sun / Kitsap Business Journal. It’s Part 2 of a 3-part series but will stand alone in it’s value to you. Enjoy!

Last month’s column unveiled Part 1 of creating a strategic growth plan with eschewing the traditional business plan model and focusing on a strategic marketing plan. This month, we dive into a topic that most business owners and entrepreneurs should care a lot about – profits. A strategic growth plan better include profitable growth or you’re just messing around.

There are three components in my strategic growth plan — marketing, protection and financial. This column will cover protection, with the final one to follow next month.

Let’s face it; talking about growing profits is a sexier topic than protecting them, right? The problem is that there are so many monsters out there ready and willing to devour those profits that you need to build a fence around them.

I hate the phrase “risk management.” To me, it implies that “risk” is a bad thing. Without a healthy dose of risk, there are no rewards. Risk is simply a function of your tolerance for it. As an entrepreneur, you need a lot. That’s why I suggest you need to be resilient. My personal definition of resilience is this – the ability to take a punch; jump back up and throw two more of your own. Heck, as a business owner, this may be a daily discipline!

The “burden of reactive chaos” is a state where you’re constantly putting out the proverbial “fire” at the office. Instead of having a plan of attack to deal proactively with chaos, you’re seen constantly running around stamping out those flames with the same vigor and angst as kids hitting a Whack-a-Mole at a carnival. You are reacting to outside crisis and allowing that effort to exhaust your time, your energy, and your mindset. Left unchecked, you’ll find your profits dwindling because you and your employees are working less effectively, while also leaving gaps for those profit monsters to eat at your bottom line.

In order to avoid the “burden of reactive chaos,” you need to have a strategic resilience plan. Have no fear. I’m about to tell you how to get started with one!

How to Create a strategic resilience plan:

— Commit to investing time and money for the protection of your profits and sanity. This is the same concept as preparing your house for a disaster (which I’m certain you all have done). If you as the boss don’t commit to this investment, then who will? That’s right, nobody. Consider your ROI gobs of discretionary time, dramatically improved performance, and happier employees.

— Identify the monsters. What are the most probable obstacles to being wildly successful? The answers are bunched into four categories: physical (e.g. fire); human resources (e.g. employee issues); liability (e.g. negligence to someone else); and loss of income (e.g. brand/reputation). You can’t plan or prevent without identifying what can hurt you. This is the most important step.

— Assess the threats. Are these “monsters” lying in wait under the bed, or almost non-existent? Based on your industry, geography, and best practices, you can determine the likelihood of the chaos. You can also guess how bad it might be (e.g. lost days versus lost weeks). You can build a plan around certain calamities or create a “plug and play” model.

— Write it up. Once you’ve got a plan, write it down and share it with everyone. Create a committee or task force in charge of implementation. Make sure that everyone knows what to do in case of an emergence, especially how to evacuate. If it’s not written, it won’t be followed and your work will have gone to waste.
Practice. When I coached basketball, we would drill daily on end of game situations so we would be prepared when it happened. You need to do the same thing. Ask yourself how many employees can actually use one of the many fire extinguishers in your building. If there is no confidence in carrying out a plan, then reactive chaos flourishes and eats away at your profits like a hungry dog on a bone.

— Build a team. There are plenty of experts out there that can help you. Insurance brokers, consultants, technology specialists and more should be part of your team. Once a year, bring everyone together and brainstorm. Your resilience program needs to be nimble. Things change all the time, and your plan needs to be ready for that.
Patience. This isn’t the most fun thing you will do in your business, but it may be the most important. The main reason smart people let this slide is because they get impatient and allow it to not be a priority. In this case, patience isn’t only a virtue; it might save your business.

There are three key factors that keep otherwise savvy entrepreneurs from getting out of the “burden of reactive chaos.”  They are apathy, complacency, and arrogance. They think it will never happen to them, they’ve done all they can, or (worst) they will figure it out when it happens. Don’t be that guy or gal. Too many people need you to be profitable and open for business – your employees and their families, your clients and customers, your key vendors and partners, and your community. Invest your time in slaying those profit monsters, escape the burden of reactive chaos, and stay constantly in the pink (or in this case, the black!).

Next month: Strategic Growth Plan #3: Financial Fitness

Dan Weedin is a strategist, speaker, author and executive coach. He helps small business and middle market business leaders and entrepreneurs to grow more profitably and create a better life. He was inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant™ Hall of Fame in 2012. Contact Dan at 360-697-1058, dan@danweedin.com or visit his web site at http://www.DanWeedin.com.

© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The Enemy Within Your Walls

December 16, 2016 Leave a comment

He is ready to fight for success

This past week, Wake Forest University had to deal with a very unsettling matter. It was revealed that a former assistant football coach turned team radio analyst for the Demon Deacons football program was found to have passed on game plan information from his team (provided to him as part of his job in preparing for games) to opposing teams prior to games.

Let’s make it clear. This guy (for ease of the example) was an assistant coach for the Wake Forest football team. When a coaching change was made, he was not retained as the new head coach brought his own team of assistants with him. This guy was a Wake Forest supporter through and through, seemingly accepted his fate, and then immediately was brought on to the team as the color commentator for the games. Unbeknownst to many, this is akin to be a member of the team. He has access to practices, gets private information on game plans, and is trusted with this material.

After a game against Louisville, it was discovered that game plans had been distributed to Louisville prior to the game. Further investigation found it wasn’t an isolated incident. Long story, short, This guy was implicated and fired. We still don’t know the reasons for this betrayal, but let’s just guess.

Here’s This guy that was terminated. He was allowed to stay in the program because he was deemed “loyal.” Turns out he harbors a grudge and gets on the inside to sell team secrets to opponents. Who knows how long this would have continued if This guy hadn’t been caught.

I know this isn’t national security stuff, but let’s not minimize that these are organizations that employ people. These people keep their positions based on wins and losses. Families are impacted; students are impacted; and the university is impacted. I’ve worked with many small and mid-size businesses that have had similar issues. In fact one small painting business – about 15 employees – had their bookkeeper (acting with CFO functions) steal $25,000 over a 3 year period and used that money to fund her wedding! My client said, “I would have never imagined she would do this.” No kidding! If he had, she wouldn’t have been working there. Problem was, she had done this to a previous employer and my client had not checked references prior. (Yes. She listed the company she stole from. You can’t make this up.)

My question to you is this – could this happen to you?!

The answer is YES. It can and may be to some of you reading this now. While you can’t prevent this in totality, you can greatly minimize the risk to it. Here are three things to consider:

  1. If you terminate someone – or they leave on their own accord, like retirement – the escort them out the door nicely. Do not let them leave with anything that is yours. Cancel their log-in information.
  2. Take care of your client list and proprietary information. That means check their phones for addresses and other important information. If you don’t know how this works, call me and we can discuss.
  3. Be aware of anything that can harm you, including social media.

Bottom line – terminated and disgruntled employees can cause great harm to your company. It happens all the time, yet we rarely hear of it when it happens to small businesses. Protect yourself with a resilience plan that includes this very important issue.

You just may then be able to assure that your “game plan” is safe and secure from This Guy in your own house.

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Podcast Interview on Business Growth

November 2, 2016 Leave a comment

podcast-page-option-3-1I was thrilled to be recently interviewed by Shawn Casemore for his “The Growth Inspired” podcast.

LINK to listen

Our topic was how to build a strong team that supports growth and create a strategy around resilience management.

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • Learn more about Dan, his background and his work
  • Dan’s ‘secret sauce’ to business growth – there are 3 areas
  • Why is resiliency so important to a business?
  • Why you need to grow profitably
  • Dan’s tips you should look into to grow your business

Enjoy and be unleashed!

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved