Thursday, March 29, 2012

InsideOut Enneagram—A New Look at an Ancient System

I’m very excited to tell you about a new book on the market:
InsideOut Enneagram: A Game-Changing guide for leaders by Wendy Appel presents a fresh perspective on the the centuries-old Enneagram System.

As Wendy states in the introduction to her book:
“Is there an antidote for the 21st century world’s ills?” We are faced with a groundswell of discontent and global unrest. People are dissatisfied with today’s leaders and no longer trust that they have the best interests of their constituents in their hearts and minds. There is a call for more thoughtful, empathic, sophisticated, and wise leadership—leaders who are willing to think and act differently.”

Wendy Appel, a seasoned leader herself, has travelled a diverse, complementary career path, working as a facilitator, a coach for teams and their leaders, a thought partner, a change management consultant, a public speaker, and a workshop leader. InsideOut is a culmination of twenty years of study and work with the Enneagram.

In her new book, she guides you--the leaders and members of society--to change the way you see and think. The Enneagram helps shine light on your natural strengths, your challenges, and the mostly unconscious habits of mind and desires that drive you and others. This book provides tools and shows you how to be the leader that others trust and someone they are inspired to follow.

The Enneagram is a dynamic system that reveals a lot about human nature. According to Wendy, exploring that system can be a life-changing experience.
“If you are ready, the Enneagram enables a journey through your inner landscape for powerful self-transformation. This does require a certain amount of courage. The result is enhanced emotional health, as well as the ability to respond to all circumstances with agility, balance and freedom,” she says.

Inner change leads to outer change—when your inner world transforms, the possibility opens for extraordinary shifts to occur in your organization, community and society.

InsideOut Enneagram is more than just a book about the Enneagram. It turns theory into practice with relevant case studies, exercises and reflections. I encourage you to read it for yourself, and to learn to create the life you desire by looking inside before you look out.

InsideOut Enneagram: The Game Changing Guide for Leaders by Wendy Appel launches March 29, 2012 and is available on Amazon.

The Top Five Ways to Get High-Quality Incoming Leads

Recently the marketing company The Shattuck Group, which works with professional service firms and experts, conducted some research to find the most effective marketing tools for these businesses.

Specifically, they were asking this question:
"How do you build a simple and effective lead generation plan that just works – a plan that impacts revenue and profits while still being manageable and affordable?"
Good question, huh?

After surveying more than 350 business leaders, they got these top five responses:

This is extremely valuable research for us as infopreneurs and thought leaders, because it tells you what's working in practice, not just in theory. So let's look at them in a bit more detail - and I'll give you my take on each.

E-Mail Marketing (78%)

The Shattuck research includes all forms of e-mail marketing in this, including your own e-mail newsletter, buying advertising in other e-mail newsletters, and so on.

For me, this reinforces the message that e-mail should still be in important part of your marketing efforts. Some people think an e-mail newsletter is "so twentieth-century", but it's still the easiest way to reach your network with solid material that positions you as an expert.

Thought Leadership (72%)

The Shattuck research includes both on-line and off-line marketing in this category - including things like white papers and special reports, writing articles and publishing books. In the on-line world, you can add things like blogging, podcasting and educational videos.

You can choose the medium that's right for you - for example, I love writing and audio, but find video time-consuming. But make sure you are getting your thought leadership out there.

Seth Godin is the poster child for this - using his books and his blogs to create worldwide name recognition in his field (marketing). In fact, Google Trends shows there are more people searching for him by name than searching for the term "marketing consultant"!

Public Speaking (66%)

The Shattuck research is talking about doing no-fee presentations for positioning yourself as an expert.

This is a tricky one for some infopreneurs and thought leaders, because "public speaking" is what we do for money. So you might have an allergic reaction to giving away your expertise for nothing.

But there's a right and a wrong way to do this, and you have to use your judgement. Not every presentation you give has to be for the fee alone. If you get the right positioning opportunity, you might be happy to waive your fee.

At the very least, if you're not willing to give away face-to-face presentations, you can appear as a guest webinar presenter, or be interviewed on a podcast.

Search Engine Marketing (66%)

According to the Shattuck research, this includes all forms of search engine marketing, not just search engine optimisation (SEO). This is an important point, because many business owners want to focus on SEO alone, and ignore other things like Google AdWords, pay-for-placement, sponsorship, and so on.

I won't go into more detail here about this. If you're interested, and you're an eGurus member, check out the excellent webinar Ed Keay-Smith did in June, "Search Engine Marketing Secrets", available in the eGurus Vault.

Webinars (58%)

There's no doubt webinars are becoming more popular as a way of marketing your expertise (that's why I wrote the book Webinar Smarts), and the Shattuck research confirms this.

WARNING: I see many speakers neglecting webinars, and they shouldn't! They get caught up in how to charge money for them, how to be "perfect" when delivering them, whether they will cannibalise their existing business, and all sorts of other excuses. Ironically, it's mainly the non-speakers, who don't have any of this baggage, who are taking advantage of webinar technology to accelerate their business growth.

(It's the same with on-line video, by the way. When did you last see a really popular YouTube video from a professional speaker?)

So what will YOU do?

The Shattuck research white paper concludes with this summary:
"We believe it is wise to put the majority of your lead generation resources into tactics with a demonstrated history of success. It's fine to experiment with other tactics too. But don't bet your growth on these. Focus on what works."
I couldn't agree more! All of the five things above are solid, well-established marketing tools (even though webinars are new-ish), and not trendy BSOs (Bright Shiny Objects - things that distract you from your main goal) like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare.

So get going with your e-mail newsletter, blog and webinars!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A key to failure is trying to please everyone

This weeks sparkenation.

I am very much enjoying my first working visit to Dubai. Yesterday and today I am meeting with some possible clients before beginning three days of work with a client on Tuesday.

I have been reminded again I am a fit for some and cannot possibly please everyone. Indeed trying to please everyone is a futile exercise. I agree with Bill Cosby who said:

 "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone."

Who are you trying to please?

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

I work with leaders to conceive and implement highly successful change programs.

20 sparkenations here to help you ensure 2012 is your best year yet!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Interconnectedness, Bridge-building, Values living and growing your business

I am currently enjoying reading former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s book, Beyond the Crash - overcoming the first crisis of globalisation.

One could debate whether or not the GFC is the first crisis of globalisation, nevertheless it’s far reaching, as yet unresolved effects, should concern us all, particularly the solutions.

Brown says:
“I believe the most stunning revelation of the crisis was this: despite financial markets infusing every aspect of everyday life, the ethical values that matter in everyday life had never infused the financial market.”

Look for ways where your products/services build bridges between divides and disconnects. There is differentiation in doing so.

Brown says:
“While the manifestation of bank failure may have been under capitalisation, the true cause was much simpler: recklessness and irresponsibility all too often created by greed.”

Look for ways where your products/services remove recklessness and increase responsibility and accountability. There is differentiation in doing so.

Brown says:
“The virtues we admire most and the virtues that make society flourish - hard work, taking responsibility, being honest, being enterprising, being fair - are not the values that spring from the market, but the values we bring to the market.”

Are your values virtues? i.e. Are what you stand for and believe in, mirrored in your actions? And are you bringing these things to your markets? There is differentiation in doing so.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

I work with leaders to conceive and implement highly successful change programs.

20 sparkenations here to help you ensure 2012 is your best year yet!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Who is putting your lines in the water?

Many years ago (many!) I sometimes went fishing with my Grandfather. Rising before him one morning I put my line in the water. When Grandpa rose he said: "Did you put my line in too?" I hadn’t and gave him a sheepish look. “The more lines we have in, the more fish we are likely to catch.” he said. I got his point.
It was the beginning for me of thinking about others and not just myself!

There is an old saying that says “the preferred lead is the referred lead.”

Who is referring you? More importantly who are you referring?
We get what we give!

Even more valuable than a referral is taking people whose products/services we value to meet in person with people we know who may value their products/services too.

Who are you doing this for? And who is doing this service for you?

In a social media dominated world where the concepts of friendship, connections and fans etc etc are loosely bandied about, true differentiation comes from what we do in person that others aren’t doing or we are doing what others do, just better, differently or more uniquely.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

I work with leaders to conceive and implement highly successful change programs.

20 sparkenations here to help you ensure 2012 is your best year yet!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Life Lessons From Doctor Martin Luther King

The video of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a Dream" speech marked a turning point for the civil rights movement in the USA. It is very difficult for many of us to comprehend the debilitating effects of racism on the scale that it was being practised in many places throughout the USA up until and including the 1960s. It is also very difficult for many of us to comprehend the risks that Martin Luther King Jr was taking in speaking up and speaking out about the inequality that existed at the time. Unfortunately he paid the ultimate sacrifice for his courage - he was assassinated at his hotel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4th 1968 (if you ever have the opportunity to visit Memphis, please take the time to visit the Civil Rights Museum which was created at the site of the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated - it is quite a moving experience) but his efforts did not go unrewarded.

While the USA still has a long way to go for "equality to truly reign free", the fact that the country has matured enough that a man of African parentage could become the President is a wonderful sign, something that I am confident Martin Luther King Jr would have celebrated if he were alive today.

The reality for many of us is that we are unlikely to have to lead or face such life threatening changes. We may, however, have to "stand up to be counted" sometimes with the spectre of personal risk hanging over our actions. One of Martin Luther King Jr's many quotes was, "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." Sometimes when we least expect it we may find ourselves thrust into a situation where if we are silent we will protect ourselves and our own patch, while if we were to speak up we may place our 'safety' at some risk.

As an example back in 2004 a young graduate employee of one of Australia's large financial institutions was going about his work. Suddenly he discovered some activities that at first appeared unethical, and then after a little more research appeared downright illegal. He didn't go to work that day looking to discover these breaches within the bank, he was just going about the usual aspects of his job. When he recalled the story to me he said,

"At first I was the only person who knew what I had found. A thought went through my mind that maybe I could just pretend that I hadn't uncovered the illegal behaviour. This was huge and even though I didn't have any legal training I was pretty sure that some people would be going to jail if I opened my mouth. I also suspected that my actions would lead to significant scrutiny of myself. For a brief period I seriously thought about letting it go. I thought that someone else would eventually find the same things that I had discovered and they could be the one to blow the whistle. Even though the person next to me in our open office was not working in the same area as myself, I broadly shared the story without giving away any specific details, just to see what he said. At first he didn't say anything, and as it was the end of the day, he turned off his computer, picked up his bag, grabbed his jacket and walked toward the door. Just before exiting he stopped, turned and said, 'Go home and look into the mirror, then you'll know what to do'. As soon as he had finished saying those words I knew that I had to speak up. I had to be true to myself and do the right thing for the organisation."

This young man eventually spent three days in the witness stand as several of the institutions employees had been charged with various (and serious) offences. The defence lawyers tried to discredit him over those three days and made a number of slanderous comments about him (all of which they withdrew - but nonetheless they were all said publicly). Each of the accused were found guilty and went to prison and the institution used the event as a catalyst to overhaul its culture. As a footnote to this story, the institution concerned has probably performed the best out of all of Australia's financial institutions throughout the global economic downturn and I suspect that their change in culture since 2004 has significantly contributed to their stability over recent times. I don't think that the young man who blew the whistle knew that there would eventually be such a positive ripple effect from his actions. Often this is the case when true courage is shown. The event and experience is initially very hard and painful, while the long term outcome is usually very positive and powerful.

This story highlights that each of us, one day, may have to 'stand up to be counted'. Maybe a fellow employee has been falsely accused of an error when it was our doing; maybe a senior manager is behaving badly within the workplace and their behaviour is not being addressed. You never know, it could be a whole range of issues. The challenge is, what do you think that you would do? Would you be more like the many who remain silent, or would you stand up to be counted? Have any of you 'stood up' before and if so, what happened?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sustainability and thriving on the challenges of change are intimately connected

This IBM study has been referred to in recent discussions on LinkedIn about why and how change programs fail and succeed.

The study, that involved 1,130 CEOs, conducted in-depth analysis to determine the characteristics of the Enterprise of the Future.

The study says “80% of CEOs view sustainability as impacting brand value”
and “While 83% of CEOs expect substantial change within their enterprises, only 61% feel confident in their ability to manage it”

These conclusions suggest to me a key about the successful future of business - Sustainability and thriving on the challenges of change are intimately connected.

The following diagram from the study suggests five core traits of the enterprise of the future. Each are very useful ways to think about our businesses and determine how well we are placed to thrive on the future. My reflections on each of the five are below.

I am keen to know your your thoughts about these five insights or others you may have about what the future might look like. Please comment or email me

Hungry for change

I meet many people in person each month. Conversations often centre around their hunger for change and yet anxiety about making desired change happen.

There is a deep frustration with the status quo in the world right now. Seth Godin captures it well when he says “ The status quo is no longer something we want at work or in politics or in any organisation we care about.”

There is also frustration with being sustainable and a concern about the costs of actually being sustainable. This frustration is particularly evident in the SME space where there is not generally the investment dollars available like there is in big corporations.

Hunger must be satisfied otherwise we all become ineffective.

Innovative beyond customer imagination

This kind of innovation is key to satisfying our hunger. A successful business today delivers value to all stakeholders, not just the customer. And such value is about what stakeholders demand (must have), desire (should have) and feel they deserve (nice to have).

And the wider community and our planet are increasingly seen, rightly, as key stakeholders of all businesses.

Sustainability is moving from a nice to have to a must have in the eyes of the ethical consumer. As I have referred to many times, value and values based businesses are on the rise.

Globally integrated

Our world is a very small place. Too small in fact, and with insufficient resources to accommodate us all in the life-style many of us have become accustomed too.

There is increasing awareness of the interconnectedness of all living beings. Unless your business products and services and how you do business reflect this interconnectedness you will not survive.

Further and increasingly, solutions to the challenges we all face must be global to actually be real solutions.

Disruptive by nature

I often reflect lately on a common phrase in my school reports: “Ian is a disruptive influence in class.” I was bored with the status quo even then! Disruptive by nature. Today I am much more constructive in how I disrupt! Nevertheless I believe we must be continually questioning the status quo and asking how can we do better? How can we be more valuable while at the same time being sustainable?

Genuine, not just generous

In the first Willability webinar the topic was No BS Relationships and our special guest Paul Dunn shared his insights from reading the book Spendshift on authenticity, transparency, clarity, trust, generosity, certainty. We all agreed that these are all keys to No BS relationships. The ensuing conversation was very much centred on how being genuine was a key to such relationships.

Paul shared a quote from the book “Today’s stakeholders can see through a glossy cover-up. They crave a true, authentic story.”

There is a lot of smoke and mirrors around sustainability and change and it doesn’t cut it with the most discerning of customers in history, which today I think are the majority of people.

What does the future of your enterprise look like? You can’t predict it. You can create it.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

PS The next Willability Webinar on March 29th is about collaboration, a key to sustainability and thriving on the challenges of change.

My very special guest is Susan Furness a pioneer in the art of conscious conversations. Susan is based in Dubai and is a person I collaborate with. In fact we will be working together in Dubai at the time of this webinar.

Details and registration here.

Please join us. Bring your uniqueness. Share. Change.

I work with leaders to conceive and implement highly successful change programs.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Success and Significance

I took particular interest in an email from Simple Truths this week regarding a book by Nido Qubein a legendary business man who I have had the great fortune to meet. The email was about a book by Nido - Seven choices for success and significance. You can read about Nido’s book here.

Nido says “successful people have:
something to do
somewhere to be
someone to love.”

How successful and significant are you?

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

I work with leaders to conceive and implement highly successful change programs.

20 sparkenations here to help you ensure 2012 is your best year yet!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Nothing is impossible

From a business perspective we know from Simon Sinek’s excellent Start With Why work that “people don’t buy what we do, they buy why we do it.”

A key to knowing and living our why and therefore attracting people to us, is our self-belief or self-esteem.

I love Nelson Mandela’s approach. He has said 'It always seems impossible until it's done'.

The word impossible is an interesting one. We can see many things in life as impossible or we can have the attitude ‘I’m possible!’

The more we take an ‘I’m possible’ intention into life the better our self-esteem, assuming of course we actually are in the habit of turning possibility into reality.

Next time you visit with or speak with a customer/client or a prospective one, Ask yourself, Am I communicating with all my being an 'I’m possible' intent?

Please let me know the difference having this attitude makes to your sales!

Wise words to consider:

"It’s always fun to do the impossible."
— Walt Disney

"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal: Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."
— Thomas Jefferson

"We tend to get what we expect."
— Norman Vincent Peale

"I am always doing things I can't do, that's how I get to do them."
— Pablo Picasso

"The difficult we do at once. The impossible takes a little longer."

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

I work with leaders to conceive and implement highly successful change programs.

20 sparkenations here to help you ensure 2012 is your best year yet!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ownership 2.0: How the Web Changes the Concept of Ownership

The Web has made it easier to facilitate sharing, swapping, renting, leasing, bartering, recycling and other kinds of ownership, for both electronic and physical goods.

In this podcast conversation between Gihan Perera and Chris Pudney, we discuss how this has changed the way we think about ownership.

Download the MP3 file here

This episode was inspired by Rachel Botsman's TED Talk: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption:

Other Web sites we mentioned:Subscribe to the podcast here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Our business success is directly related to how valuable we are perceived to be

This weeks sparkenation.

If there is an after-life one of the first people I want to meet is Albert Einstein!

Our business success is a direct result of how valuable our products/services are perceived by our buyers.

Are you delivering the value to your buyers that they demand (must have), desire (should have), and feel they deserve (nice to have)?

And do you provide value in advance for people likely to become your buyers?

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

I work with leaders to conceive and implement highly successful change programs.

No BS Mentoring It takes you further than you've ever imagined.

Presentations that solve your problems.

Resources that enable you to make your life simpler.

Change programs that fulfill their purpose and promise

Master-mind groups that ensure you succeed in the change you lead

20 sparkenations here to help you ensure 2012 is your best year yet!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Are you building bridges or walls?

Leadership for me is the art of inspiring people to bring everything we are (the one-of-a-kind each of us is) to everything we do.

Leadership falters without management.

Management for me is the practice of making it simple and possible for people to bring everything we are to everything we do.

Successful leaders and managers are bridge builders.
They build structures, systems and most importantly communities that inspire and make it simple and possible for people to connect, commune and collaborate.

The mantra of successful leaders and managers is “let’s find a way forward together.”

Unsuccessful leaders and managers build walls. Their structures, systems, and whole way of being restrain, stop, or try to control people.

This week in Australia, the Governments treasurer Wayne Swan attacked several people in the mining industry in a public forum. His language, and sadly I suspect, his intent, was to build walls rather than bridges.

The mantra of unsuccessful leaders and managers is “my way is the only way.”

Are you building bridges or walls?

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

No BS Mentoring It takes you further than you've ever imagined.

Presentations that solve your problems.

Resources that enable you to make your life simpler.

Change programs that fulfill their purpose and promise

Master-mind groups that ensure you succeed in the change you lead

20 sparkenations here to help you ensure 2012 is your best year yet!

Please register for my complimentary webinars on the 7 seven essential willabilities of real leadership here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Meeting the challenge of communicating our difference - part five

Our messages are what matters.
Meaning is what makes your business different.

We are searching for people to work with who resonate with our message and our meaning. As Simon Sinek says in an excellent book Start With Why, "people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it."

“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis.”
From Etienne Wenger’s book “Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity”

Who believes what you do?
How are you creating community with these people?

As a general rule my market and yours are people who believe what we believe or want to.

The philosophies central to my life are:

We get what we give.
Enlightened self-interest or doing well by doing good
We must give without attachment to getting back.
Change is personal first, relationships second and organisations third.
Every human being has the capacity to be remarkable. One of the great joys of life is to witness people turning this capacity into reality.
The only difference between consistent high performance and average is a willingness to do what most people don’t do. The tragedy is that what needs to be done is usually common sense.
My best advice to anyone who wants to significantly improve their performance is - change what’s normal.
To show genuine appreciation for another human being is one of the great gifts we can give to other people.
The best response to give when others give us appreciation is to say thank you and leave it at that.
To take responsibility for our own feelings, thoughts, and actions, and not attach them to what other people feel, think and do, is the first step to freedom.
Profit is not a reason for being in business; profit is a result of being good at business.
Statements about values on walls are useless unless the words live in our hearts and we demonstrate them by our actions.
Having a continuous attitude of gratitude is the first step to emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and universal well-being.
Leadership is the art of inspiring people to bring everything remarkable that they are to everything they do.
Leadership falters without management however.
Management is the practice of making it simple for people to bring everything remarkable that they are to everything they do.
Apart from fundamentalism, believing and behaving as if our way is the only way, the biggest problem in the world today is low self-esteem.
All human beings have aspirations. Most of us fail to achieve them because we do not feel we are worthy of our aspirations.
The keys to successful relationships are honesty and openness. As soon as we hold back or hide our true feelings and thoughts, we have opened the door to deceit. It is all down hill from there.
The best three phrases I know for living a good life are, please, thank you, and I love you.
Failure to be a hero in our own homes first means we are never likely to be truly followed by anyone else.
I am never amazed by the incredible capacity of the human spirit. I am always in awe.
Each person is a one-of-a-kind. Our obligation is to be the best we can be.
Creating shared value (CSV) is the best way I know to help other people achieve what is important to them and also achieve what is important to us.
It is not who you know - It is not who knows you - it is who knows you who is prepared to recommend you to who knows them. In other words the key is the second degree away from you, rather than the people directly connected to you.

If you resonate with my messages I am a likely fit to work with you.

What are your philosophies?
Who resonates with your messages?
Where are these people?

Find out and create communities of practice with people who believe what you believe, in their own way. This is the easiest way I know to meet the challenge of communicating your difference. And it is a wonderful paradox that we demonstrate our difference by communing with people who have the same philosophies!

The other 4 ways I have shared with you in recent articles (special thanks to Sean D’Souza, Colin Pearce and Mark Sutherland) become simpler when we match our market to our messages.

Part one
1) knowing who our buyers are
2) deeply understanding the pain our buyers want to rid themselves of
3) knowing how what we do and how we do it can take away our buyers pain

Part two - Strategic positioning

Part three - Storytelling by Colin Pearce

Part four - Doing 8 practical activities by Mark Sutherland

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

PS What other people are saying about you in unsolicited ways is a key to knowing if your messages are cutting through.

“Brands are built on what people are saying about you - not what you are saying about yourself” says best selling author Guy Kawasaki.

No BS Mentoring It takes you further than you've ever imagined.

Presentations that solve your problems.

Resources that enable you to make your life simpler.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What kind of friend are you?

This weeks sparkenation.

Are you this kind of friend to a few people?

This philosophy is a key to what's in me for you and is central to all my work.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

I share sparkenations in person, in print and online that guarantee you succeed in the change you lead.

No BS Mentoring It takes you further than you've ever imagined.

Presentations that solve your problems.

Resources that enable you to make your life simpler.

Change programs that fulfill their purpose and promise

Master-mind groups that ensure you succeed in the change you lead

20 sparkenations here to help you ensure 2012 is your best year yet!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Meeting the challenge of communicating our difference - part four - Guest post by Mark Sutherland

This is a special guest post by Mark Sutherland.
Mark lives in New Zealand, a small country in the South Pacific region with a population of less than five million.

It is therefore a remarkable achievement that he has coached 2 Olympic Champions and been the performance coach to 7 World Champions from six different sports.

I first "met" Mark on LinkedIn. He has since given me some invaluable feedback about how I portray my differentiation.

Please find out more about Mark here.

The 8 practical activities to make your business a success
©Mark Sutherland. 

Over the last 17 years as an executive and business coach I have observed the following eight activities to be the most commonly used among my clients who are successful. Since I have clumped these together for my clients who don’t feel successful, they quickly identify with them and elevate their performance. I have executive clients who make sure their managers and supervisors use these as a template for business development. I have self-employed clients who use them to stay on top of their game.

It has been said that the key to success is passion and purpose and I am very much of that belief. The ‘8’ are the practical activities that enable that passion and purpose to manifest. My own clients make significant gains in service offerings, cash flow, client happiness and personal and team satisfaction when these 8 activities are implemented and monitored.

Switch On

Know your people, your business, your market and your industry better than anyone else. Switching On means putting things front of mind. It means becoming a student of the game. The things you need to know about and what you need to know about them are always right in front of your face - you just don’t see them until you switch on. 

Here is an analogy for you. When you want to buy a new car and you know what you want, you start searching for information by reading car reviews, talking to people who own one, you view them on YouTube and tour the car sales yards to check them out. You are so switched on to this model of car that you actually start to see plenty of them the highway. They were always there but now you see them because you are switched on.

Value Yourself Up

You know more than you think you know. You need to value your knowledge, your management skills and your business experience. You need to leverage what you know to give you an advantage in the market place. What you know enhances your credibility. When you truly value yourself up with confidence and self-belief you increase your credibility power. It is your credibility power that will grow your business.

I have worked with many executive clients who have suffered from ‘fraud syndrome’. They tell me they don’t know how they got into such a senior position with high levels responsibility. They literally wonder if they really do know what they should know and tell me they feel like a fraud. I need to point out here that female executives suffer fraud syndrome more than male executives – at least that has been my observation. Once we do a success exercise they quickly acknowledge they are not frauds.

Stick to the basics

Business Excellence is doing the basics better than before all day every day in every way.

In your business there will be core activities that drive your business success. These activities will grow your business – activities such as prospecting, administration, following up leads, regular communication with customers, clients and suppliers, managing your database and providing high quality service and client experiences.

Each of these activities is made up of basic steps components and processes. Make sure these basic activities are not compromised. Always maintain a high standard with them: they are the core foundation of your business.

Know your numbers

Know your numbers. Know your cash flow situation. Know your productivity capabilities, sales figures and profit margins. Know your sales trends so you know how to prepare for busy times and down times. Be inquisitive – it is your business. It’s what you don’t know that can bring you down, so stay on top of your numbers all the time. Do not make decisions about technology, opportunities, diversification and business development unless you know your numbers. Numbers make a business go around. My most successful clients know there numbers.

I had one client who owned a plastics retail shop. He wanted to make more income from the shop but wasn’t sure how to do it. I asked him to tell me his numbers. He couldn’t. I told him my most successful clients know there numbers and I wanted him to get a full audit completed so he knew where he was at. He did this and found he was in a pretty good position but still wanted to generate more cash from his sales.

I gave him the following exercise. He was to review all his 2000 products and decide which items he could raise the price on by between 5c and $5 and still remain competitive. He had to do this exercise against his sales of those products over the previous financial year. It took him two weeks to come up with the numbers but what a surprise. He discovered that it would generate another $250,000. He was ecstatic. I then gave him another surprise and said “isn’t it great to have free money coming into your business”? He asked, “What do you mean”? I explained to him that he was already profitable and paying his bills so this was like a free scoop of ice cream on the cone, a pleasant surprise. I then suggested he put some money aside as a bonus for his very loyal staff and then figure out what to do with the rest. I had to shake the place up a little bit and give the staff a bit of a rev, but once they found out they were getting a bonus I became their best friend.

Drill, Drill, Drill

The biggest asset in your business can make you millions. Staff development and management training are essential. Never underestimate the value and motivation that staff training can provide. Set aside regular coaching and training sessions to up-skill your team and keep them motivated. Training staff is not a cost to your business – it is an investment that when done properly will get you a return. Great staff means happy customers and clients who will spend money and keep the shareholders happy.

I encourage my clients to have formal coaching and knowledge advancement sessions at last once per week. I also encourage them to allocate a staff member to prepare a small training session on something they know a lot about within the business and industry. They get a couple of hours off that week to prepare. For the most part they are not nervous about presenting because they know their team mates.

The outcome is a great level of commitment to provide a quality presentation. The presenter leads a discussion and answers questions. Their confidence is boosted, staff members learn something new and they value their positions and jobs because they are valued by their team-mates.

I had one client who owned a gym and applied this method. Over a year they created a significant knowledge library on all things health and fitness. The quality of service from the trainers elevated and was very high because they were switched on and valued themselves up with their knowledge.

Stay on task

Stick to your game plan – know where you are going and measure your progress against your plan. It is easy to get distracted away from your primary goal when you don’t have a plan. It takes discipline to stay on task and keep your eye on the ball. Every day ask yourself the question, “If I do this, will it grow my business?” Also ask “Is what I am doing a return on investment activity or a distraction”?

Executive Health and Fitness

Peak performers don’t have a choice when it comes to health and fitness. You must maintain a work/life balance, an executive level of fitness, and energise yourself with quality nutrition. This is self-explanatory: a healthy mind needs a healthy body. The research is as plain as the nose on your face. The more energised you are through good levels of health and fitness the more effective you are at your vocation and within your business and correspondingly the more successful you are.

Expect to succeed

If you don’t back yourself no-one else will. Great champions are never surprised by victory: they plan for it and expect it. Great business people are never surprised by success: they plan for it and expect it.

Mark Sutherland
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What will you do about Mark's 8 insights? I would love to hear about what you do.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Meeting the challenge of communicating our difference - part three Guest post by Colin Pearce

This a guest post from my friend Colin Pearce.

I have learned much about storytelling from observing and conversing with Colin, a master storyteller, over many years.

I also subscribe to Colin's Kick in the pants newsletter where this post comes from.

I recommend you sign-up too!

"I mentioned bricks and clicks last week and it struck home to many readers. You agreed that you and your customers are overwhelmed with buying options and we business people are all looking for the magic 'cut-through' that will get us our share of business.

It's storytelling.

Not signage, Facebook ads, snappier uniforms, cheaper prices, Google Adwords, glossier brochures, heavier email campaigns.

Just story.

We are genetically wired for story.

If you are still locked in the nursery and think that story telling is for toddlers and Play School presenters, you are so messed up I probably can't help you. If you think that facts, data and stats are the primary means of persuasion, you are on a hiding to nothing. Humans are story machines. From the first stories we tell in the high chair – 'Finished' – to the yarns we spin the boss when we fail to make our sales quota, we are story tellers.

In 2001 Professor Anthony Monaco and his team at Oxford isolated the gene FOXP2, a gene animals don't have in the same construction. It is thought to be the front runner on the collection of genes that enable humans to speak with coherence and precision – i.e. to tell stories. Neanderthals even had it!

A story is –
For me, a story is any account related with emotion that alters someone's state of being and compels them to respond.

Be the storyteller you are designed to be.

Story telling is part of your destiny. It's one of the factors that make you a human. Stories don't just work in the Box Office. They work in the customer's office. They can be visual or verbal. They can be short or long, but they must place the customer in centre stage and create an emotional scene showing him or her how life will be richer, happier or easier with the product or service you provide."

I highly recommend Colin's double CD set, Tell 'em a Story. You can get it here.
Telling stories well is a key to meeting the challenge of communicating our difference.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

Telling great stories is a great place to start.


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Thursday, March 1, 2012

What Your Search Engine Consultant Doesn't Want You To Know

Search engine marketing has changed, but many so-called experts are still trying to convince you to do things that no longer work. If you follow their advice, you will fail!

I'll explain ...

How did you go with picking the winner of last week's Melbourne Cup? My client, colleague and friend Max Hitchins has been predicting Cup winners for decades, and he got it right again (That makes it 13 right in the last 24 years!)

Every year, Max publishes his secrets in an e-book about how to pick the Melbourne Cup winner. When we first published the e-book in 2003, I did some search engine marketing stuff to get it to the first page on Google for the phrase "Melbourne Cup". I took a snapshot at the time, which you can see here (Click it for a bigger version):

At the time, it was much easier to get a first-page listing on Google. It wasn't easy, but if you knew what you were doing (and I did!), it wasn't too difficult. All it took was to adjust a few keywords, titles and headings, and that was enough to meet Google's criteria.

In fact, just as an experiment, I got my own Web site First Step Communications to the first page of Google for the search phrase "make more money" (Click the picture for a bigger version):

But that was 2003, and it's not so easy now!

The problem is that many people think that that's still all you have to do. So I hear Web site owners asking about what keywords to use on their Web site, what META tags to use, and how to get their page length exactly right.

What's worse, even some so-called search engine marketing "experts" will tell you the same thing. One of our Web site clients contacted me recently, appalled that "there were no keywords" on her site. In fact, there were plenty of keywords on her site (and other important things as well), but some ignorant Internet marketer had scared her by telling her something that was totally irrelevant.

These "experts" aren't scammers (well, not all of them!)

I think most of these "experts" simply haven't kept up with the latest marketing techniques. So they still focus on stuff that used to work, even if it doesn't work anymore. Oh, sure, these things might have some value, but it's minimal - and certainly not worth you paying them to do for you.

Of course, not all search engine marketing experts fall into this category. Some are extremely good (my mate Ed Keay-Smith, for example). But it's astonishing how many others are still peddling this obsolete stuff.

So what does Google want now?

In brief: Google wants what you want when you visit a Web site.

In a nutshell, that means three things:

  1. High-quality content,
  2. from a trusted authority,
  3. presented well.

Does that sound too simple? It's not! In fact, Google has always wanted that. It's just that the technology hasn't been powerful enough to assess that well - until now.

A few months ago, Google released a list of 23 guidelines for Web site owners, to help them build Google-friendly Web pages. They are probably the most specific guidelines Google has ever given to Web site owners, and they boil down to what I said: High-quality content, from a trusted authority, presented well.

This is great news for eGurus!

After all, aren't you a trusted authority with high-quality content that you present well? If so, this should be music to your ears!

Want to know more?

Today I ran a webinar on this topic. If you missed it, or you'd like to watch it again, here's the recording:

Register for future webinars in the series here (there's no cost).