Posts Tagged ‘competitive advantage’

Dust Covered Strategic Plans Reveal Failed Leadership

The thick dust on most strategic plans is quite common.  Even though strategic plans are a valuable tool for SMB owners, executives and even salespeople, they continue to be filed on shelves collecting dust. Then executive leadership appears to be suddenly confused because results are not being achieved.

Now many SMBs don’t have these forward thinking documents and retreat to some isolated bogus marketing plan which usually ends up creating more misguided decisions resulting in more misdirection. Their excuse is usually “I don’t have time” or “I don’t need one.”

What these leaders fail to realize is the wisdom in the words of President Eisenhower “Plans are worthless, planning is everything.”  The act of planning through intensive thinking provides a competitive advantage because the majority of the competition has also refused to engage in this important act of strategic planning.

What also happens is executive leadership looks for the quick fix to have some outside consulting firm do a survey or a “town hall” meeting. Having this input is part strategic planning process, but should not be the first step.

The first step in creating strategic plans is looking at the goals or results achieved.  Then internal assessments are undertaken. After the values and the vision statements are constructed, the mission statement is created along with the critical success factors or critical goal categories.  Unfortunately some in leadership roles jump to critical success factors that only create more misaligned actions and become an abdication excuse for leadership when results do not materialize.

Dust covered strategic plans reflect a lack of commitment to make real change, to reach higher and achieve what is necessary to stay a viable and thriving businesses. As one of my coaches David Herdlinger said:

“If you don’t have the time to do it right,

when will you have the time to do it over?”

Schedule a time to speak with Leanne about how strategic planning can help your SMB achieve its desired results by CLICKING HERE.



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When It Comes to SMB Competition Do Not Confuse Awareness with Obsession

Yesterday in speaking with two executives (Jim Fowler and Luke Christiano) from, I suddenly realize that many in sales confuse awareness with obsession when it comes to SMB competition.

SMB-CompetitionBeing aware of your SMB competition is necessary.  In many more time intensive strategic planning processes, there is time devoted to identifying the competition, looking at them from a comparative competitive advantage such as what does the SMB competition offer than the other SMB does not  offer?

Now being obsessed with your competition is foolhardy. As one of my colleagues, Rick Gosser of Gosser Corporate Sales has said “I am me, no one else is like me.”  Each of us brings a unique perspective and expertise to our interactions as well as solutions.

In listening to many conversations with local SMB owners and sales professionals, there is a great tendency to be overly concerned about their competitors.  Their obsession reminds me of something I learned years ago about life.

SMB competitionWe can control only a very small part of our lives.  We can influence a little more.  However most of what we experience is truly out of our control.  Yet, human beings invest far more time about what they cannot control than what they can control.  The end result is a lot of wasted time, energy, money and emotions.  I always encourage executive coaching clients to direct their attention to what they can control and influence.

Even if you and your SMB competition offer the exactly same solutions, there is still a difference.  People buy from people they know and trust.  Someone may believe he or she knows you better than your competition and conversely another person may believe he or she knows your competition better than you.  Obsessing about your competition is just plain illogical.

If you want to increase sales, be aware of what is happening in your marketplace.  However obsessing over your SMB competition will not increase sales.  Learn how to build upon your knowledge, your expertise and your relationships.  By taking this proactive and abundance approach will increase sales.

P.S. I know this to be true because I belong to a community of 50 sales trainers, sales coaches and sales consultants. Since I have connected with these individuals, my business has grown and I have had the opportunity to establish mutually beneficial relationships.

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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 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Business Growth Is More Than the Number of Pickles

How many pickles does a Whopper have?  According to a presentation I heard this week, the answer is exactly four.   However Burger King did not significant experience business growth because each Whopper had exactly four pickles.

business-growthBurger King grew because of its brand “have it you way.” This brand was a promise to its customers they could have the Whopper and any other hamburger, the way the customers wanted it.

So often when mid-size to small businesses look for business growth, they tend to focus on the minutiae and fail to realize why their customers buy from them. Customers buy because of your brand.  In many instances, that brand is probably not the brand envisioned by the small business owners.

Brand is simple yet illusive.  As Gus Olympidis CEO and Founder of Family Express recently shared, “brand is not your logo, … not something tangible.” 

“No, your brand is your promise.”

Olympidis should know as his Midwest convenience stores focus on finding people to demonstrate its brand every time a customer enters a store. On each door is this signage “Our Family Serving Yours.” For every person who applies for a position at Family Express, only one is hired.

For those mid-size to small businesses seeking business growth, consider rethinking what your brand really is.  As Burger King and Family Express realized, your brand is what you deliver to your customers.  This is why strategic plans begin with a base strategy to help solidify brand through a competitive advantage of:

  • Commodity Driven Focus
  • Technology Driven Focus
  • Quality Driven Focus
  • Service Driven Focus
  • Customer Driven Focus

Today your challenge the status quo and change it is to rethink what your brand really is.  Look beyond your probably expensive logo or positioning statement.  Think about what promises you make to your customers or clients.  Then think what promises you keep to your customers or clients.

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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 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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The Reality of Technology, Learning and Leadership

Technology has become a boon for many.  For years “leaders are learners” was the mantra of many. Yet today’s reality is technology has challenged this paradigm respective to learning and leadership.



Beyond the day to day activities, keeping up about technology is becoming increasingly difficult for leaders in small business.  Even with outsourced technology support for website problems; adding blogging content, etc., having to deal with technology upgrades to all the newest apps for the smart devices can be overwhelming.

Learning and leadership have taken on an entirely new meaning. Relinquishing this learning responsibility is the easy way out.

Possibly for me, the one thing that has allowed me even at my age to not be negative to all this change is my attitude. When I changed my own attitude several years ago from being “technology challenged” to “technology open,” I discovered many of those past technology changes were not so bad. Heck I even learned how to write some basic HTML programming code.

Sure, I still wish companies like LinkedIn would not constantly change their websites. For example,  for the longest time I could find my total contacts on the first page of my profile. Now I must go deeper into my profile to learn my total contacts. This change takes a few seconds longer and I have learned to adapt to this one change.

By the way, Google and You Tube are wonderful resources. Just type in “how to find” or “how to do” whatever you are looking to do and you can probably find an answer.  This saves me time and a lot of frustration.

Today no matter your age and your leadership role, technology is here to stay. Forward thinking leaders are indeed learners and will take the responsibility to embrace technology.

Possibly this is the time to identify learning and leadership as a critical success factor and write some goals about what you must learn respective to technology. By embracing technology and accepting that change is inevitable especially with technology, then you as a leader will have a competitive advantage over others.

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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 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn

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Content Marketing and Increasing Information Overload

Attracting attention is getting harder and harder especially if you are one of the 97.7% of US small businesses with under 20 employees.

content-marketingInformation overload is becoming an ever increasing threat and is potentially drowning your own content marketing messages.

Your target market or ideal customer profile is being bombarded with an overload of information via content marketing. This graphic from shows how much information is happening every minute of every day.

Much is written about having quality content, relevant content from blogs to You Tube videos.

Your content marketing goal has evolved beyond just attracting attention to gently or not so gently pushing the envelope where your target has that Ah-Ha moment and begins to think about your small business differently.

One competitive advantage is to use compelling graphics because the eyes are the gateway to attracting attention and making decisions about you, your firm and your solutions.

Another advantage is consistency of your message across all inbound and outbound marketing channels.

A third competitive advantage is enlarging your community by aligning with others and agreeing to share your content marketing efforts. This may included writing for industry online publications or writing a guest blog for another small business.

Of course those who entered the flow of content marketing years ago may still have somewhat of a competitive advantage. However, unless they have been diligent in staying ahead of the flow, their marketing messages may also be drowning in the sea of information overload.


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The Often Overlooked Competitive Advantage

Many small businesses work very hard to stay competitive. They bring in the best technology hardware and software to ensuring their solutions are top of the line specific to quality.  However, far too many appear to overlook this one critical competitive advantage:  7-Rs of Talent Management

competitive-advantageDoes your small business have the right people in the right seats using the right talents for the right decisions for the right results in the right time frame and within the right environment?

The reason I bring this often overlooked competitive advantage up is because of  several conversations I have had this week. One of the consistent themes within all these conversations was about employee performance or lack there of.

Many small businesses fail to invest the time to hire correctly.  They do not have a consistent process to ensure they are employing the 7-Rs of Talent Management. Some tell tale signs include:

  • No screening process or limited screening process outside of a background check (right people)
  • Poor job descriptions or no job descriptions (right seats)
  • Absence of any talent assessment process that including decision making styles (right talents, right decisions)
  • No strategic plan or one that is not regularly reviewed (right results)
  • Poor communication about priorities of workflow (right time frame)
  • Inconsistent adherence to a values statement (right environment)

When organizations especially those with under 20 employees invest the time to ensure the 7-Rs of Talent Management are in place, they will reduce:

  • Wasted time
  • Negative workplace culture
  • External and internal customer turnover
  • Stress by everyone especially the small business owners and managers
  • Costly mistakes

Additionally, the 7-Rs of Talent Management increase:

  • Workplace productivity
  • Revenues
  • Profits

People make or break any organization. For without people, a business would come to a grinding halt.

Small business owners must hire right and have the supporting structure to ensure happy and productive people. The 7-Rs of Talent Management are a framework to align strategy, structure, processes, rewards and people. (5 Star Model) So if your business is sputtering along or you believe your results are not where they should be, then the chances are pretty good you may be ignoring the most significant competitive advantage you have right under your nose.

If you truly want to sustainable business growth, then scheduled a no risk 20 minute Talent Management Session with Leanne Hoagland-Smith at 219.759.5601219.759.5601 CST where you will receive:

#1 – Quick assessment of your talent management process

#2 – One business growth strategy to increase results by 20% in 60 days

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How the Next Generation of Talent Management Is Your Strategic Competitive Advantage

next-generation-is-your-strategic-competitive-advantageSo experts discuss how innovation will be the business growth differentiator or how this or that process will explode sales and leave the competitors quaking in their boots. Yet if we want to be brutally honest, the next generation of talent management is your strategic competitive advantage.

Now is the time to:

  1. Rethink your current talent management initiatives
  2. Bring in a model that unites and leverage the various generations within your organization
  3. Establish a business model that begins with people and not with revenue because people drive revenue

The next generation of talent management is so much more than just hiring younger people. This is a time of collaborating and uniting different perspectives and providing opportunities for all of those different talents to catapult your business forward.

With the depth of experiences to the ability to embrace technology changes, people of all generations are what separate the successful organizations from the not so successful ones.

Yes this fairly simple concept of  “the next generation of talent management is your strategic competitive advantage” appears not to be embraced from the executive C Suite down when we look at the research on trust, employment disengagement and overall business growth.

How sad and yet what an opportunity for forward thinking leaders!

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The Less Important “I” in Your LinkedIn Summary

Read a LinkedIn summary and just for snicks count all the “I”s. For many LinkedIn members, there are a whole lot of “I”s.

linkedin-summaryIf this LinkedIn summary is the rest of the story to your compelling LinkedIn headline, then how many stories start with the word “I?”

Is this word “I” emotionally compelling turn on or turn off?

When we place the word “I” as the first word in our LinkedIn summary, this shouts:

  • Read about me!
  • Look at me!
  • Me, me, me!

So many small business professionals, sales people and C Suite executives fail to understand this incredibly powerful social media site is a marketing platform. Marketing is about attracting positive attention with your potential ideal customers and beginning to build a relationship.  This suggests the focus should be on them, those potential ideal customers or sales leads, rather than on you.

How can you start your story (LinkedIn summary) with an emotional hook?

  • “Once upon a time might work…” (The Pixar Story approach)
  • Asking a question is another way
  • Setting the stage with a time frame such as “During my professional career…”

Yes the word “I” does need to be included. However with a little more thoughtful reflection, many of those “I”s can be reworked to focusing on your sales leads, what they are interested in knowing.

Try it and see what happens especially if your LinkedIn summary is not generating the sales leads you are seeking.

Maybe the words of President Theodore Roosevelt may inspire you:

“No one cares how much you know; until they know how much you care.”

If you want to secure a competitive advantage using LinkedIn Contacts, this webinar, LinkedIn Contacts Your Competitive Advantage is being offered on three different days and times to work with all the different schedules and time zones.

August 1, 2013 – 10-11am CDT

August 6, 2013 – 7-8pm CDT

August 7, 2013 – 4-5pm CDT


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Use Your Linkedin Summary to Share Your Story

Most children love stories and your business connections were once children. This is why you, as the business professional,  have a tremendous opportunity to create and share your story using your LinkedIn Summary.


Now many in 225 million strong  social media community waste valuable marketing real estate by using the LinkedIn Summary as a place to regurgitate their resumes.

Big mistake!

Let me repeat BIG MISTAKE!!

This action makes you look and sound like all those other gray suits within this powerful and FREE marketing real estate.

Your LinkedIn Summary is where you can outshine all those other gray suits. Here you can become personal and allow people to get to know you beyond what is in your resume.

One way to tell your story is to use what Dan Pink describes in his book, To Sell Is Human, is the Pixar Story. Sales Training Coaching Tip: Pink’s most recent book is a must read and now occupies place in my top 10 sales books.

The Pixar Story is a series of six sequential sentences that state the situation, the specifics of what is happening (think problems or pain points); your solution; the results of your solution and finally the desired, final end result.  Your story is told by understanding:

  • What do you want your ideal potential customers to know?
  • What do you want your ideal potential customers to feel?
  • What do you want your ideal potential customers to do?

Sales Training Coaching Tip:  This strategy is aligned to how people make decisions through their heads, hearts and hands as defined by Dr. Hartman through the science of Axiology.

Here is one of mine as an example:

Once upon a time small business owners faced costly compliances and had only 25% of their employees giving 8 hours of work for 8 hours of pay creating costly delays from taking orders to producing products. Every day, thousands of dollars in profits were lost. One day we developed a map for small businesses that began with their people first. Because of that, more employees became involved in how the small business made and kept money. Because of that more employees became actively engaged and became the drivers of innovation. Until finally, all employees took personal ownership of the small business and the business profits dramatically increased not too mention customer loyalty.

Another way to share your story through your LinkedIn Summary is to discuss a recent situation and how that is representative of who you are. Here are the first two paragraphs of one I developed for an executive sales coaching client:

Once again I heard these words on a recent sales call “You are not the typical salesperson who comes in here and drops their PowerPoint presentation, a few brochures and asks the same questions I hear time and time again.”

No I am not the typical, Power Pointing, buy my stuff, what’s in it for me, salesperson. My focus has always been on being a collaborative partner who can connect my clients and potential clients with resources, other people and if eventually warranted, my solutions.

When you review either LinkedIn Summary, are you thinking, feeling and possibly wanting to take action to connect with these individuals? If so, then the marketing purpose of attracting attention and beginning to build a relationship has been achieved. In some cases, the two fold goal to make a friend and to be contacted may also have been achieved.

The LinkedIn Summary provides a lengthy space (3,000 characters including spaces) to share your story. Remember the criteria of think, feel and do because a good story does that and so much more.

If you want to begin to use LinkedIn as your competitive advantage, then this webinar on LinkedIn Contacts may be a great first step.

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Read the Local Daily Newspaper To Increase Sales

In meeting with a long term colleague, she mentioned how it is like pulling hen’s teeth to get her sales team to read the local daily newspaper. By keeping abreast locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, salespeople can use this knowledge to their advantage.

increase-salesRecently here in Northwest Indiana we had some severe storms as reported by the local daily newspaper for each community.  Our local utility company had crews out 24/7 to restore power.  Managers from customer service to the inventory warehouse were probably up to their elbows in alligators as the old expression goes.  Calls pitching buy this or that only annoyed these already stressed out decision makers. However calls that said “what can I do to help you?” had the potential to be more well received.

For many local daily newspapers even those with an online editions, they receive numerous press releases about this achievement or that promotion by local business professionals or companies.  Here is another opportunity to connect; to offer sincere congratulations and eventually to increase sales.

In speaking with another colleague, she was surprised as to the lack of political awareness by one of her colleagues. Some say talking politics is not good for small businesses. And that may be true. What I do know is being uniformed about local politics can be potentially devastating to small businesses and may be a serious obstacle to your small business goal to increase sales. Much of this information can be gathered from reading the local daily newspaper.

If you find some difficulty in achieving your goal to increase sales, then invest 5-10 minutes a day to read the local newspaper. Given that so many others fail to take this action, may be all the competitive advantage you need to outshine your competitors.



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