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In Plain Sight Behind Closed Doors

January 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Dan Weedin Unleashed-40On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Kansas City Chief in an exciting National Football League playoff game, sending them to the AFC Championship match up against the New England Patriots. After the game, Head Coach Mike Tomlin gave a rousing speech to his team; full of praise for their efforts and encouraging them to now move on and pull off the upset of the favored Patriots team the next week.

Coach Tomlin’s inspired words included a few expletives and exhortations that are normal in post-game locker rooms at any level of play. They are normally expressed behind closed doors and private. That’s what Coach Tomlin thought they were. Turns out that star player Antonio Brown was off to the side of the locker room recording everything on the moment on Facebook LIVE for the world to see.

Aside from the fact that it’s a violation of both team and NFL rules, there are huge issues here that pertain to your business.

  1. There was a well-communicated rule about the privacy of the locker room. What’s said within the walls (before the press is allowed in) was for those players and coaches. Brown blatantly and selfishly violated that rule using a live stream social media platform. What rules do you have about privacy in your company? What rules apply to the sharing of: employee compensation, bonuses, disciplinary actions, intellectual property, proprietary information, client and prospect lists, technology, and other “classified” materials? How do you know your “locker room” is safe?
  2. If you’ve seen the stream (now playing at your local Internet), you see Brown is around the corner from the coach and other players. He’s not listening or being part of the team. He’s more concerned about preening in front of the camera for 18 minutes (45 seconds of Tomlin’s speech included). While your employee meetings may not use the same format, how many of your employees are listening when you speak? Ever see any vacant eyes, distracted stares, peeking at text messages and email under the desk? 
  3. Antonio Brown is one of the star players. From all I’ve heard, he’s a hard worker and good teammate. He got caught up in the moment, thought of himself first, and then willingly broke rules. How many of your best and brightest employees are capable of bad behavior that could damage your company in some way? Don’t say “none.” I’ve had a situation where a client’s bookkeepers stole tens of thousands of dollars from under his nose over the course of several years before getting caught. Smart and successful business owner (just as Tomlin is a smart and successful coach) who placed trust in someone.

Here’s today’s takeaways:

  1. Don’t get caught being looking behind every rock for an employee behaving badly. The majority are doing the right things for you. However, being consistent in your message about what is expected and required is critical; even if you think you’ve got it under control.
  2. Your private company conversations, resources, information, etc. are all more at risk than ever. Cyber issues – whether it be crime or just social media – can put your company and your reputation at risk. You need to have a plan.
  3. Develop strong leaders to police yourselves. Give them autonomy to be your eyes and ears.

For most small and mid-size companies, these actions rarely get taken due to time and energy constraints. This is an investment of your time, energy, and money. In order to avoid both your “dirty and clean laundry” from being exposed to the world (and your clients), then you need to create a resiliency plan. Doing this will keep you from yelling expletives in the privacy of your office!

Need help creating a resiliency plan to prevent and mitigate crisis, and protect your reputation and profits? Contact me at (360) 271-1592 or dan@danweedin.com and let’s talk.

 

© 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

What’s My Lie?

August 18, 2016 Leave a comment

Dan Weedin Unleashed-40It looks like the story of the four U.S. swimmers being robbed is a fabrication. If that is clarified, it takes on the impact on the grand scale of former NBC news anchor Brian Williams and his expansion of the truth dealing with his involvement with enemy fire in the Middle East. Believe me, the new “enemy fire” will be aimed right at these four swimmers and will haunt them for years, if not their entire lives.

This morning’s NY Times story – read here – is shedding light on what really happened a few nights ago in Río de Janiero.Ryan Lochte is the most well known of the quartet of athletes and he served as the poster boy for the media. His tale is all about having a gun pointed to their heads and fearing that they wouldn’t make it out alive. Well, he made it back to the United States before his buddies, who were unceremoniously dragged off the plan by Brazilian authorities for more questioning.

You can read the entire story for yourself. Suffice it to say, there appears to be some monkey business going on. This “tall tale” looks like it’s been invented to cover up for some misdeeds committed after the swimming competition was over, and the Americans shone as one of the brightest stars.

How does this affect you?

As a business leader (owner, manager, executive), you deal with people all the time that have reason to be untruthful. Your biggest concern should be with your employees. While I believe you should begin any relationship like this as trusting, you need to be vigilant on what the truth is becasue it affects your company. While you may never get into fabrications as large as this one, small white lies can cost you money. They can range from untrue resumes, explaining why someone is consistently late to work, to thievery (I have one client that had $25,000 stolen over time from their bookkeeper).

You also have an obligation not to be untruthful with employees. There’s ample opportunity to withhold information or stretch the truth for your own purposes.

Look, the bottom line comes down to trust and transparency. This incident is going to have serious ramifications on the swimming program and the United States. Lying is most often used to cover up something that is awkward, unpleasant, or embarrassing. If we are honest, at some point in our lives we have all been guilty to some extent. However, creating a culture of playing for each other (as outlined in my book Unleashed Leadership), will prevent the really embarrassing and potentially damaging consequences for you and your business.

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 

Just Doing It

August 4, 2016 Leave a comment

TWoodsNike just announced that they are dumping their golf product line, which means no more manufacturing of golf balls, bags, or equipment. This has stunned the golf world, especially the tour players that are under contract for them. The three biggest names that featured the equipment and the swoosh are Michelle Wie, former World #1 Rory McIlroy, and of course, the once invincible Tiger Woods. Heck, Nike even named a building on the campus after Tiger.

The fallout has created confusion among the profile athletes in the golf world, and unfortunately has cost many Nike employees that were representative of Nike Golf, their jobs. As an avid golfer – and actually a guy that plays Nike golf balls, sports a Nike golf bag, and hits a Nike driver and hybrid – I have been more than intrigued and fascinated by this sudden and unexpected turn in events. In the process of learning more, I believe there is a lesson here for small and medium size enterprises and the CEOs and Presidents that run those companies.

The golf industry is highly competitive. Nike was much more significant when Tiger was prowling in his decade long run as arguably the greatest golfer ever. However, He now has nearly a 10-year drought in winning a major championship, hasn’t won any tournament in three years, and hasn’t played due to injury in one year. Rory McIlroy hasn’t won a major since 2014 and Michelle Wie has been under-performing for over a year. This doesn’t help the brand and even though it sounds like they make a lot of money from golf, Nike has been hitting out of hazards over the last several years.

Their decision and verbiage on the press release is telling. They state that, “We’re committed to being the undisputed leader in golf footwear and apparel…” Basically, the golf equipment game was a risk they were willing to take when they had the biggest name in golf. Without him, it began not making economic sense. So they decided to “just do” what they do best. According to Trevor Edwards, president of Nike Brand. “We will achieve this by investing in performance innovation for athletes and delivering sustainable profitable growth for Nike Golf.”

They will focus on what they do best…

I talk to my clients all the time about their value proposition. The value proposition defines what you do best and how you improve the condition of others. Be it product or service, what is the one thing that you excel in? What are you the undisputed leader in doing?

Many small and medium size businesses will take forays into new ideas, new products, and new services. Innovation is great and I endorse that type of thinking. However, it better still be around your value proposition. It should still feed into what you do best. If it doesn’t, you may find that you lose a lot of time and money.

If you want to profitably grow your business, determine what you do and do more of it in a myriad of ways. Dump products or services that no longer work or showcase your value. Nike realized that the run was over. It truly ended being artificial because it was fueled by one profoundly valuable asset in Woods. Without him, they are just another “name” in the game, and well down the list. In their eyes, their value is in clothing and footwear.

Take a few minutes and look at your business. Are all your efforts focused on your value proposition and being an undisputed leader in your field or industry? Or, are you still dabbling in things that distract, confuse, or lose money? It’s better that you stay in your own fairway by improving your strengths and building a profitable and fun business.

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Heavy Traffic

August 3, 2016 Leave a comment

As many of you know, my daughter Mindy was recently married. It turned out to be a gorgeous Seattle summer day. After the wedding, I piled in the car my other daughter Kelli and her friend Gina to head from the church to the reception at a downtown hotel. As we hit the overpass to take a left on to the freeway, we were greeted with bad news. The traffic.

Saturdays in Seattle during the summer months can often cause congestion on the freeways. Today was due to be a higher with a concert at Century Link Field. We didn’t expect a parking lot.

As I merged into the left-had turn lane, Kelli exclaimed that she knew a back way to get to the hotel faster. She had her mobile phone GPS poised in hand and was adamant that we could get to our destination twice as fast. I took her information and quickly went into decision mode. I had about 5 seconds…I asked her one last time, “Are you sure?” she confidently said “Yes!” I made the quick turn out of my lane and down the road I was on to execute Kelli’s plan.

We then hit traffic…again. My initial response was , “great (dripping with sarcasm).” Kelli said to relax; that this was the only bad spot and it would open up. She was right. In the end, her calculations were spot on and we got their in a 200% faster time.

Here’s the moral to the story…

You make “traffic decisions” in your business almost daily. Some are more critical than others, but the process doesn’t change.

  1. Quickly identify the problem. Sometimes this easy (like visually seeing bad traffic), and sometimes it’s not (cash flow problems). Assess “how bad is it?” Sometimes we make a mountain out of a mole hill and sometimes it’s significant. Make a quick call.
  2. Get input from your leadership team. Kelli volunteered hers – do you have leaders that will do the same in a tight spot or do they wait for you? Kelli’s idea was hatched by her knowledge of the area and virtual traffic report. Where do you get your information, is it credible, and is it fast?
  3. Rapidly consider your options. Emphasis on rapidly. I took about three seconds. You may have five minutes or an hour; regardless smart people make fast decisions. Don’t over think, over complicate, or call for committee meeting. Do your own quick cost-benefit in your head. Ask one last time for input if you must – like I did with Kelli – and then…
  4. Commit to a course of action. Time means everything in business today. Speed is king, so your decision-making must also be mercurial. I’m not saying to be reckless; just to trust your gut and your information and go.
  5. Be patient. I almost considered turning around when I hit traffic again. Kelli encouraged me to be patient and she was right. Your decision may not yield immediate results, but be patient becasue it more than likely will.
  6. Be nimble. You may need to make small revisions along the way. Commit, but be willing to be flexible.

While my decision in traffic may seem to trifle compared to other weighty business matters, it was very important to us at the time. That’s the thing about being resilient; your challenges are important to you and require decisions. Learn how to react quickly and decisively and double your own results by doing so.

At the light, take that next right and step on it!

Want to learn how to be more resilient professionally and personally to grow your business more profitably and create a better life for yourself? Check out my new lifetime membership program, Unleashed Universe. Early bird discounts through August.

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© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 

 

What Message Is Your Company Sending?

July 15, 2016 Leave a comment

20 Under 40 20_3Last month, I went on my annual weekend golf outing with my high school buddies. We go somewhere new every year and play four rounds of golf, eat too much food, and generally pretend we are still in high school. At our final course this year, I went to pay for my green fees with my American Express card and the employee behind the counter said, “Sorry, you’ll have to pay with Visa or MasterCard.”

I found it odd that a golf course the caliber of this one didn’t take every single credit card on the face of the earth! I shrugged and changed cards and went to the first tee. After our round, we had our final lunch together, and as is the case with all our meals, we draw two credit cards from a hat and those two “losers” get to pay the check for the group. Unfortunately for me, this time I was one of the “losers.” When I received my check, I noticed that imprinted on the leather-bound cover was the American Express logo as the desired method of payment. This made me chuckle. Either the employee at the golf shop didn’t get the memo or they had two sets of rules for the same place.

Regardless of the reason, one thing was certain. The golf course and restaurant were sending a mixed message. One side of the company accepted a form of payment, and the other side didn’t. Is your company inadvertently sending mixed messages both internally and externally?

It’s not uncommon for companies to send out mixed messages to employees. Notwithstanding a company’s size or industry, humans are susceptible to such errors. For example:

• Inconsistent treatment of employees when it comes to promotions, pay increases, and time off

• Inconsistency regarding discipline and reasons for termination

• Inconsistent hiring practices and training

• Lack of follow-through on new procedures and practices

• Failing to properly communicate changes

• Failure to set adequate contingencies, leading to confusion and frustration in time of crisis

• Saying one thing and doing another

Don’t tell me this only happens at other companies; that you’re immune to it. I have yet to observe a company that doesn’t have at least a few inconsistencies that lead to internal strife. To fix these issues, allow me to offer some internal best practices and suggestions:

1. Don’t worry about being perfect. I talk to business owners that aspire to have a perfect culture, perfect employees, and perfect harmony. There is perfection in imperfection as long as it’s part of the humanness of a company. Take perfect out of the equation and strive for exceptional. There’s a big difference.

2. Be consistent. Just like one organization should accept the same credit cards, you should be consistent with how you treat employees when it comes to benefits, pay increase opportunities, and advancement guidelines.

3. Become fluent in speaking their language. Make sure you’re clear in how you communicate your message, your priorities, changes in procedures, or anything else that requires education. It’s your message, yet you need to deliver it in way that is understood and implemented.

4. Get help. Subscribe and join associations and groups that provide information and education on human resources. Hire experts to help you navigate challenges and find solutions. Be vulnerable enough to admit that investing in help will ultimately make you a better company.

It’s also a reality that messages can get mixed up externally, just like my story depicts.

• Is your sales team making promises it can’t keep?

• Is your brand clear to your target market, or are you trying to be everything to everyone?

• Is your website current? The worst thing you can do in 21st-century marketing is becoming obsolete in a post-Yellow Pages world.

• Does your customer service team treat customers as you wish they would? How do you know?

• Are you accessible to people you most value as customers and clients?

To fix these issues, allow me to offer some external best practices and suggestions:

1. Invest time, money and resources into assuring your sales message and vision resonates with the entire operation. Sales must know what is practical for steady growth without becoming a burden to operations.

2. Create a plan to monitor your cyber presence. That includes your website and social media platforms. Respond to concerns and stay current.

3. Hire and train customer service people that like talking to people. I’m not kidding. Have you ever had a conversation with a customer service person that was surly, uninterested, or even just rude? You know what I mean then!

4. Engage your employees. Ask them for help and suggestions for improvement when it comes to your external message.

If you want to truly be significant and successful in business, you must communicate your message both internally and externally. Your employees must understand and exemplify your mission and vision. Your clients and customers need to know what you do and how you’ll help them.

It’s pretty basic, but important. Sort of like knowing which credit cards to accept, right? Make sure you keep your message clear and concise, so that your company can be Unleashed.

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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