How to Be One of the Few to Avoid Small Business Failure

Why do small businesses fail? The Small Business Administration (SBA) has researched small business failure extensively. Back in 2004, the SBA identified the launch of 580,900 new employer businesses and the closing of 576,200. This report suggests that every minute one business is closing while one is opening.

small-business-failure

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More current research suggests this small business failure rate is in decline. Yet with over 70% of all businesses here in the US being non-employed (meaning having no employees) and these small businesses included as both full and part time, determining the actual small businesses failure rate today is difficult.

Many business writers to business coaches attribute business failure to a lack of strategic planning, a lack of leadership, a lack of vision, a lack of processes, the list is endless. Dan Kennedy, a renowned marketing and sales expert said that there is no business success or failure, but rather people success and people failure. However, the problem with identifying one reason for small business failure is the problem.

Businesses are complex by their very nature even the SOHO. To believe that only one factor will either make or break a business is foolhardy and contributes to the silo solution mentality. This approach is simply stated like this: If I fix this one problem, then everything else is OK.

Successful businesses harness what I call the dynamic forces of performance – strategic planning, execution and measurement. These forces, much like the forces in nature, act upon each performance field such as profitability, customer service, growth and innovation just to name a few. When all 3 forces are in alignment, the field experiences tremendous energy and improved performance happens. The processes of People, Goal Achievement and Quality unite the forces and close any performance gaps between the forces.

All of these forces and processes operate within the eye of leadership. Effective leadership is necessary to manage each of the forces as well as the processes. If leadership is not present, then the forces fail to maximize their impact upon the field and business failure is the ultimate result.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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The Essential WHY Unasked Leadership Questions

Leadership is very much like the buying and selling process. To be bought as a leader, the leader requires understanding why he or she should be bought by each follower. If the leader is not bought, possibly he or she failed to answer these five (5) unasked leadership questions?

leadership#1 Why – Why You as the Leader?

Why should the follow buy you? For some this could be 30 years of leadership expertise, experience to even your ethics and values.

#2 Why – Why Me as the Follower?

Why should I as the follower make this decision to follow you? This question returns to What’s In it For Me? or WIIFM.

#3 Why – Why This Decision or Solution?

Why will your decision or solution work with the needs of the follower and will it intrinsically motivate him or her to accept (buy) that decision?  When this question is properly answered, the astute and forward thinking leader will have the ability to provide both a logical and emotionally intelligent response that implies or directly states a return on the follower’s investment.

#4 Why – Why Take Action Now?

Why should I the follower take action now? If you have properly identified your follower (think emerging leader) as being a decision maker, having a financial goal, having specific needs and wants and an urgency to follow, this question should already be answered. Again, as in sales, solid fact finding and excellent questioning will answer this question to those who may follow you.

#5 Why – Why this Investment?

Why should I pay this price of time, energy, money and emotions to become your follower? By answering the earlier Whys, you have already built value and this value should not be a significant Why. Unfortunately, when the leader has a scarcity mentality instead of an abundance one, then value probably has not been established. This Why question cannot be answered without the leader building value.

TAKE ACTION to begin to answer these questions or fine tune your existing responses. People challenge leadership because of one or more of these five Why questions remain unanswered.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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What Really is Leadership?

Read any business magazine, professional journal or popular business websites and you will discover numerous articles devoted to the topic of leadership. With thousands of articles and hundreds of books, leadership still appears to be illusive in its definition.

leadership

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So how does one define this illusive word? Peter Drucker has stated that “leadership is all about results.” In building a business, results are the bottom line. However, Drucker’s definition does not truly encompass the full breath of leadership especially if you wish to take your business to that next level.

Here in Northwest Indiana as with many other communities, we have some leaders who have achieved the results, but their methods have gained them notoriety as corrupt and unethical individuals. History has revealed countless leaders who achieved results but at the expense of others such as Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin not too mention current heads of state in North Korea and China along with the Middle East. Without solid, positive core values or what I call non-negotiable behaviors, businesses will ultimately fail and created economic havoc for their employees and their communities.

Beyond the core values, Drucker’s definition may suggest leadership begins from within each individual, but the definition must clearly start at the source. By using the word desired implies that some planning, strategy and critical thinking skills have taken place. Business results are not achieved “willy-nilly” or haphazardly, but with purpose and clarity.

President Dwight Eisenhower said “Plans are worthless; planning is everything.” For it is that planning, the application of critical thinking skills that separate truly effective leaders from less than effective ones.

By more clearly defining leadership as being individuals who consistently deliver the desired results while demonstrating positive core values, we begin to change our beliefs about leadership. No longer do we confuse leadership with management; that leadership is only for the business owner or the executive team; or that leadership is community service. Nor will we accept any results, but rather results than can be directly tied to specific strategies and tactics. Now, we can begin to look at the strengths of each individual and how those strengths can be further developed.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

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The Confusion For Realtors When It Comes to Marketing and Selling

Believe it or not most Realtors are marketers not salespeople.  They confuse marketing and selling.

marketing-and-sellingNow some real estate agents reading this may bristle at this statement regarding confusion between marketing and selling. Yet the reality is the market has changed and more of the control is in the hands of the sellers and buyers.

Websites devoted to residential and commercial real estate make it far easier for buyers to find homes. This is called marketing, attracting attention.  Sales leads now call the listed realtor or a friend who is a real estate agent to schedule an appointment to see the home.  FACT: There were no sales skills (selling) taking place.

Sellers are also more educated as they are learning what to do before even selling their homes.  With many homeowners being baby boomers without mortgages, they know what they want to walk away with at closing.  Sure in some instances, the expectations are unrealistic, but in many more those expectations are very realistic.

For years, realtors showed homes. They would walk potential buyers (sales leads) through and possibly highlight the features of the home.  Sometimes open houses would be scheduled.  Open houses were more for finding new listings (marketing) than actually selling the home.

Marketing is not selling be it homes, professional solutions or tangible products.  However selling is marketing.

When Realtors recognize there is a difference between marketing and selling, possibly they may change their sales behaviors including their real estate marketing messages. Who knows especially given people love insanity because it worked in the past.

P.S. Part of this confusion is because many Realtors lack a sales process. Here is one 7-Step-Sales-Process-ADVSYS that works for most salespeople. Yes it is free, no charge, my gift to you.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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What’s Fueling Your Leadership Engine?

Remember the story about the Little Engine?  Many of us are familiar with this childhood story. Would you believe this story can be directly applied to fueling your own leadership engine?

leadership-engineEach of us as leaders are our own little engine. We try and try and sometimes we succeed and other times we fail.  Leadership brings both success and failure to the table.

What fuels our leadership engine is our emotions, our experiences and our expectations.  This is all part of our own self determination.  Through the mastery of our environment, the autonomy of making choices and our purpose as it relates to others, we fuel ourselves each day as we chug up those molehills to mountains.

When we believe in ourselves because we have the necessary knowledge (expertise) we are more driven to move further down the path or up the mountain. Then, when we know we have the ability to make choices instead of being forced to behave one way or another, we only add more fuel to our leadership engine fire. Finally, when we know we are relating to others, we are not only improving our lives, but improving the lives of others, we continue to fan the flames of that fire.

Each of us has the innate capacity to be exceptional leaders, to go where others have not gone, to experience what others have not experienced. Possibly because we have had obstacles that prevent us from mastery, autonomy and purpose, we fail to see our own leadership potential.

The incredible aspect of being a forward thinking leader returns to our own autonomy.  We have the choice to fuel our leadership engine or not to.  So what is your choice?

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Time to Deep Six Your Leadership Development Model

Did you read the article and the study that revealed two third of millennials will be leaving their current employers because of the lack of leadership development by 2020?  Worse yet one quarter of those millennials are looking to leave by the end of 2016.

leadership-misalingmentIf you have millennials in your organization and are looking to them in your succession leadership plan, possibly is now the time to review your current leadership development model and potentially embrace a new one?

The majority, no the super majority of leadership development models are competency based.  And therein lies the problem. Competencies do not play to everyone’s natural or developed talents. This is a one size fits all cookie model and fails to leverage the incredible untapped potential within each of your employees.

In the book Fail-Safe Leadership, the authors bring forth this idea of results based leadership model instead of the tried and tired competency based leadership model.  In today’s knowledge economy, having a results driven model makes far more sense because it aligns to the strategic vision. Here are some of the differences as noted by the authors:

Competency Based Model

Results Based Model

Traditional approach Leading edge approach
Difficult to link to operating systems Links directly to operating systems
Difficult to identify emerging leaders Emerging leaders are easily identified based on ability to achieve results
Process of developing leaders is relatively slow and inefficient Process of developing leaders is relatively fast and efficient
Difficult to measure against results Easily measured against results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Drucker said “Leadership is about results.”  If your SMB is not achieving you desired results, then this suggests there is a problem within your leadership development process or training program. (Note:  I dislike using the phrase leadership training because we train dogs. I prefer leadership development because we develop leaders.)

With the staggering number of younger employees looking to leave because of little to no leadership development, now appears to be the best time to start changing how your SMB develops your future leaders before they go somewhere else for that leadership development.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

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Is Leadership Misalignment What Ails Your SMB?

For SMBs there is plenty written about marketing and sales alignment as well as to what happens when marketing and sales are misaligned.  However maybe it is time to recognize leadership misalignment is probably what is causing the marketing and sales misalignment problems.

leadership-misalignmentIn the book Fail-Safe Leadership: Straight Talk About Correcting the Leadership Challenges in Your Organization, the authors bring two ideas to the leadership table.  The first idea is a leadership audit that truly looks to identify the symptoms caused by leadership misalignment problems. Here is a brief sample of those issues.

  • Lack of personal accountability
  • Time management problems
  • Unacceptable results
  • Preponderance of consensus-driven decision making (i.e. cover your behind mentality)
  • Communication problems

These are all symptoms of leadership issues. Unfortunately many in executive coaching and consulting roles attempt to solve the symptoms while not recognizing the real problem because solving the real problem requires more expertise.

The second and even more important idea is a results driven leadership development model instead of the traditional competency based leadership model.  By identifying these two different leadership models and their impact on results, leaders can begin to change how they see things.  As it has been said by others, “when we change how we look at things, the things we look at will change.”

Both of these ideas help to better understand the impact of leadership misalignment within any SMB or even much larger organization.  The authors also describe the three types of alignment present in all businesses from the smallest to the largest.

Level One Alignment- Leadership writes strategic vision. Result: Research shows 60-70% of employees don’t know the vision and are clueless as how to align their behaviors to that vision.

Level Two Alignment – Leadership shares strategic vision. Result: Each department goes in separate directions to achieve that vision.

Level Three Alignment – Leadership creates a strategic vision based upon developing leaders in the organization and that development starts first with the executive leadership team. The graphic below reflects what Level Three Alignment looks like. Result: The results are achieved in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

leadership-misalingmentJust as when the wheels in a vehicle or the gears in machinery are misaligned, the performance (think results) suffer.l  If you want to correct the marketing and sales alignment, then make sure your forward thinking leadership team has created a workplace culture of alignment.  Otherwise, you will continue to have all departments rowing in different directions toward different results while thinking they are rowing in the correct direction.

Download this Leadership-Align-Audit-ADVSYS at no charge to you except maybe a sense of being uncomfortable.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Marketing Is as Endless as Learning

Marketing your SMB is endless. It never stops just like learning. Each day brings something new, usually another competitor, to the marketplace. Even if you have a full sales funnel, you know that you still must market your business.

marketing

Credit: www.picjumbo.com

How does your SMB stand apart from all those other gray suits is a never ending challenge.  With only 24 hours in a day, marketing sometimes seems like a one ton anchor that pulls you down into the depths of the ocean where you feel like you are drowning.

One of the questions I often receive is “Where do you find the content for this blog or your other writings such as LinkedIn Pulse, Worldwide Coaching, NBiz magazine, etc.?  My response is I read, I listen, I learn and I write.

Each day I read a variety of headlines in different topics including leadership, sales and marketing. Some of these articles I share with clients and colleagues.  Others I tuck away into folders to be used when I think I am out of content.

Right now I am reading several printed books including The Efficient Executive by Peter Drucker. I read this book years ago. However a new executive coaching client had me returning to it because it provided insight on how to establish a path to improve this leader’s abilities.

Some of my content has come from my Pastor’s Sunday homilies. Yesterday’s blog of “Your Call Is Important to Us” is the result of just reading and listening.

Often I hear SMB owners and sales professionals complain about not having enough time.  I too was one of those individuals. When I told one of my coaches I did not have enough time, he quickly replied “Get up earlier.”  So I did.

Since I started walking this path of education based marketing over 10 years ago, I can say I am so glad I did. During this time I have learned so much more and even better I have been able to connect with ideas I learned years ago such as The Theory of Self Determination.  I learned about this intrinsic motivational theory when earning my Masters of Science. Yet as with many of us, I filed it away.  About two years ago this nugget of learning returned to the forefront of my brain and I was able to infuse it into my executive coaching and workplace culture consulting practice.

When we as SMB owners understand marketing is endless and embrace it as we have with learning, we are working with our natural, innate motivational drivers of Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose. (The Theory of Self Determination) If you want to improve your marketing, then consider expanding your learning and accepting marketing is endless just like learning. By taking this action, you are definitely demonstrating forward thinking leadership.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

 

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The Obvious Leadership Lie of Your Call Is Important To Us

How many of us have been on hold and heard this statement “Your call is important to us?” This statement is probably the number one leadership lie in this country. If our call was really important, we would not have to be bounced from one automated message to another, wait 15 minutes or more and then told to call back because the call center is experiencing a heavy call volume.

leadership-lie

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I am not entirely sure why we have removed the human experience from the business world.  The obvious why is automated messages are a way for the organization to save money.  Possibly some have been led to believe this type of automated message is what their customers want?  Yet listen to most customers and the super majority complain about those automated messages.

What I do know is “your call is important to us” is probably the greatest and most obvious leadership lie being faced by businesses today.  If executive leadership really cared about its customers, it would not have made customer service interactions so much more difficult.

Let’s set the record straight, here and now.  Leadership does not care about its customers. No what leadership really cares about is the bottom line, its shareholders and probably their own paychecks.

Isn’t it refreshing when we call any business and immediately get a real human being on the phone who we can understand? Of course sometimes we receive the voice mail message about the person being unavailable and most in business understand those situations.  Then when we receive the returned call from the other person, we are inwardly happy we do not have to go through the cumbersome, customer service automated message routine.

The human connection is the foundation of any business because people buy from people not robots with automated messages.  Maybe it is time to bring back the human connection in business and end this obvious leadership lie of “your call is important to us?”

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

 

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Your Leadership Actions Always Trump Your Words

Actions always trump words.  No matter what leadership says, it is what the leaders do, their leadership actions that matter.

leadership-actions

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Sure there may be words on the wall sharing the organization’s vision, values and mission statements. There may be words in the employee handbook or on the corporate website.  Yet these words remain silent to the leadership actions seen by everyone.

The old and familiar quote “Actions speak louder than words.” is so true.

In the book, Fail-Safe Leadership, the authors provide a checklist to help to determine if any organization has some leadership actions issues.  This checklist is based upon the observations of those within the organization.  For example, are “can’t do attitudes” or “excessive or unproductive meetings” observable?

Some in leadership roles want to be a friend to everyone.  They believe agreement, everyone getting along is the way to lead.  Their behaviors are very malleable and may create confusion to even disrespect.

Then there are the opposite types of leader who live by “do what I say and not what I do.” Their leadership actions generate confusion, inconsistency and disengaged employees. In some cases, fear drives the culture.

Until we learn how to read minds, our actions will always trump our words, our spoken thoughts. As leaders, each of us must take time to reflect as to how our behaviors are being viewed by others. Noted business expert Peter Drucker shared this words:

“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes.” 

The results of your leadership are your actions.  If you want to be a better leader, look to the results your behaviors are generating.

Download this free Leadership-Align-Audit-ADVSYS to learn if your organization has leadership challenges.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

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