Posts Tagged ‘small business owners’

Are You The Captain Wing-It of Your Small Business?

Do you schedule time with yourself to work ON your small business instead of working IN your business?  In the book It’s Not the Big that Eat the Small, But It’s The Fast that Eat the Slow, the authors reveal that most business executives spend less than 15 minutes a day thinking or even planning for their businesses.

How many times do you tell yourself that you are just too busy to take the time to do whatever you need to do to work ON your business?  You begin to justify your last minute behavior also know as procrastination. Over the course of time, you convince yourself that you work well under pressure, that you can handle anything and this leads you down the path of expending your time on yesterday’s and today’s problems.

Scheduling time is all about having a planning attitude.  Given that attitudes according to Zig Ziglar are habits of thought, most people in business have not learned how to plan their work or work their plan.  The number of small business owners who lack strategic action plans confirms this ongoing attitude. These individuals are engaged in flying by the seat of their pants or what I call being the Captain Wing-Its of their businesses.

Imagine for a moment you are sitting on a plane and hear the following:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.  From the flight deck, this is Captain Wing-It.  Welcome aboard Fly High Airlines flight number 135 heading for sunny Bermuda…or are we flight number 351 en route to the Bahamas?  You know, we’ve been very busy around here the last few days and haven’t had a chance to file the flight plan just yet.  Oh well, I’m sure we can figure it out! Rumor has it that we’re in for a bumpy ride. We will eventually be departing from one of the available runways and flying in that direction for a while.  It’s unclear at this time which runway we’ll be using and in which direction we’ll be flying. So sit back, relax and enjoy the flight…and again, thank you for flying Fly High Airlines…your sometimes on-time, on-course, on-purpose airline.

Would you feel comfortable flying on this plane?  Are you thinking don’t close the door, let me out?  Why are you having these thoughts?

TAKE ACTION Think about your small business or business related activities.  Most people admit to wasting at least 12 minutes a day. Take those 12 minutes and reinvest them by working on your business unless you enjoy being Captain Wing-It!

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Can You Afford Not to Delegate?

Delegation is a way of thinking and doing.  For many in business leadership roles, the ability to delegate is not a talent widely embraced. The reasons for this lack of delegation are many including:



  • No time
  • No money
  • No knowledge about available resources
  • No confidence in employees – fear in hiring wrong people
  • No confidence in themselves – fear of making a mistake

A recent report released by Salesforce Research of 300 small business owners revealed most small business owners rely on outdated and manual processes such as email and spreadsheets to store customer information.  This reliance on outdated processes is further wasting their limited time.

When reading this research, it appears the talent to delegate is a significant limiting factor to embracing newer processes especially when those processes are technology driven.  Most of these business leaders are the decision makers and appear to have time constraints as their number one limiting factor.

Truly forward thinking business owners bite the bullet so to speak and invest the time to find those resources to propel their enterprise forward.  These individuals accept there is an immediate, short term hit to cash flow and profitability yet in the long term they recognize not to take action will leave them even further behind the flow.

What I know from SMB owners to sales professionals to even frontline customer service people, all waste at least 12 minutes a day.  This wasted time translates to one hour per week.  If a business owner would schedule 15 uninterrupted minutes each day with intentional actions to research and then delegate some of his or her activities to others, he or she would have more time and probably even more dollars.

Additionally by embracing a proven goal setting process along with a functional tool (goal worksheet), business leaders can track their delegation and stay even more organized in less time.  What must take place is to step over the fear and the other limiting factors because the failure to embrace delegation will only further constrict sustainable business growth.

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Living Your Personal and Corporate Values

Earlier this week I received a Christmas Letter from a local small business owner. What was interesting is this letter reflected both his personal values as well as the corporate values.



Today with so many fearing offending a potential customers (translation means losing a potential sale because you made an enemy), this small business owner had no such fear. He wrote the following:

“…cannot protect us from tragedies such as what happened at San Bernardino. May this be a reminder that as we celebrate Christmas, we turn to the one who Christmas is all about, who created us and upon whom we can find comfort and hope!

The letter was signed by all 14 employees.

Sharing such a sentiment does reflect the corporate values of this small business.  I know the small business owner is a practicing Christian and an active participant in the local community.

What this letter suggested to me is this business leader has courage.  He is not afraid of sharing his personal values and showing those values are also embedded into his workplace culture.

Possibly if more small business owners shared their personal values along with their corporate values then maybe some of the unethical behaviors and practices might be reduced.  The quote I shared yesterday again is appropriate:

“You have enemies? Good. That means you‘ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Sir Winston Churchill

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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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Delegate If You Wish to Increase Sales

With over 70% of all small businesses here in the U.S. having no employees (meaning single office/home office), these crazy busy leaders wear all the hats from administration to marketing to selling with the ever present goal to increase sales. Of course, immediately one hears the grown of “I can’t afford it” or “No one does it as well as I do.”


“I Can’t Afford It!”

This common often heard groan  is usually a knee jerk reaction and without any applied critical thinking skills. Consider looking at what you believe you are worth per hour.  If your goal is to earn $100,000, then your hourly rate is $50 per hour.

Can you find someone to do your bookkeeping, your social media posts even some cold calling for less than $50 an hour? Of course, this means you must determine how much time you spend on those other activities.

Also if you are so busy with wearing all those other hats, how can you increase sales?

“No One Does It as Well as I Do!”

Even though I have some artistic skills, I have learned to delegate all graphic work to those who do graphic work for a living.  I provide a solid idea of what I want and then allow those individuals to work their magic to “make it look good.”

increase-salesWhen I wrote Be the Red Jacket, I had a vision of what the artwork on the cover of the book should look like.  I sketched a pencil drawing  with color indications in under 10 minutes.  Then I worked with a marketing firm and within 15 minutes the book cover was created.  My sense is the clarity of my vision helped to expedite this creative process.

I do not have graphic programs and even if I did how much time would it take me to create the end result? My estimation was at least $800 (8 plus hours) even if I had the software programs.  The cost to create the book cover was $100.  For me, this was as they say “a no brainer.”

Ask yourself:

  • What do you do well?
  • What is the revenue you receive for doing well?
  • Does this revenue exceed what you do not do as well?

Then put together a plan to delegate those tasks that are time consuming, low cost and take away from what you do well.

My marketing is 100% education based and does require time to write quality content.  Over time I have honed this marketing skill and can quickly usually in under 20 minutes write a good blog post.  This small business task is something I do not delegate.  However I have on occasion opened my blog to colleagues who wish to share their quality content.

When working with corporate clients, I have hired trained facilitators if the engagement requires such actions. Thankfully, I have a network of colleagues with whom I can call if need be.

Forward thinking leaders must understand and accept no one can do some tasks as well as they can.  However if they have the right processes in place (quality control), they can efficiently and effectively delegate some of their work to others. Also if the right people have been hired or contracted, this delegation should maintain quality.

The key is to understand with clarity what one can delegate to achieve increase sales.

Letting go is difficult especially for SOHO entrepreneurs and those small business owners with under 20 employees. Once firms grow past the 20 employees mark, business leaders are forced into delegation.

Delegation is a forward thinking leadership talent.  Learning how and when to delegate to increase sales begins with this first step – Letting go of restrictive and negative thoughts that keep you from your goal.

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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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Are Salespeople Really Expensive?

First glance at this headline many mid-size to small business owners to even sales managers probably internally believe “heck yes, my salespeople are expensive.” Possibly some may even have a second thought about how to reduce that cost.

salespeopleCost is the word that determines if those in leadership roles have either a scarcity mentality or an abundance mentality.  Good salespeople should be expensive because they are an investment. If the salespeople are not performing, the cost is because of poor hiring decisions, poor leadership, poor sales management and a poor workplace culture.

In the past 48 hours I heard two unbelievable stories regarding the treatment of those in sales roles. After just publishing this post, What Sustainable B2B Model Believes Sales People Are Unnecessary?, I wondered if something is happening in the mid-size to small business world?

The first horror story was the firing of the sales manager because he was too expensive.  This individual consistently brought in the majority of high value accounts for a $50-100 million dollar businesses. The CEO fired him because he cost too much money and a cheaper salesperson could be found. Of course the cheaper sales team already in place accounted for only 20% of all orders.

Another story involved a top performing salesperson who consistently increased sales by 30% to 55% each year.  The small business owner started changing her job description to reduce her cost to his bottom line.  These changes eventually had her making 70% less dollars while doing the same amount of work.  She was no longer allowed to travel and meet face to face with the customers.  This particular individual finally quit because the stress was too much.

While I was in corporate, I also witnessed this “scarcity mentality” by the third generation of family leadership.  The outside salespeople were 100% commissioned and the “young college educated” new leadership looked at them as costs because those commission checks were”too expensive” and rightfully belonged to them.  Yes I know convoluted thinking.

Greed is a scarcity mentality.  Top performing salespeople are hard to find.  They should not be viewed as a liability, a cost to the profit and loss statement.  No, they are an asset, a gem to increase sales while strengthening existing customer loyalty through relationships.

If you want your mid-size to small business to go beyond just surviving to actually thriving, then lose the “expensive” and “cost” thoughts and start thinking investment about not only your salespeople, but all the other employees in your business.

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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 Small Business Owners Want and Cannot Seem to Find

The super majority of small business owners want more sales.  To achieve that goal requires hard work from one or more good salespeople.  Unfortunately, as the old expression goes about finding a good woman it appears this also holds true in finding a good salesperson.

small-business-ownersThere are many obstacles to finding good salespeople. The first obstacle is money. Small business owners who are hurting for sales do not have deep pockets to pay for a recruiter. Also, they cannot afford to pay for moving expenses or initially meet the high salary demands good salespeople are currently receiving. Finally even if they pay for finding a good salesperson there is no guarantee he or she will perform at the expected level.

Possibly the second obstacle is not having clarity as to what makes a salesperson good.  What talents, characteristic, sales skills or experience should a small business owner seek in this journey to find a person who can actually sell and not just take orders.

From my experience, small business owners in their desire to just find somebody, anybody, rush to hire the wrong person.  This decision is just as dangerous as not being able to increase sales.

If you are a small business owner, then consider these suggestions to work through this difficult and business growth limiting situation.

#1 – Review your sales job description 

Make sure your sales job description reflects the job of the salesperson in its totality. Also be clear if the salesperson must find his or her own sales leads. Additionally, this may require you to review your marketing materials because they may not be up to date. Small Business Coaching Tip:  Many small business sales roles are a combination of marketing and selling.

#2 – Talk to your colleagues and within your business to business network

There is probably someone in your business to business network who has heard of a salesperson looking to change positions.  Remember even a good salesperson can be restricted because of bad leadership to bad processes to bad culture.

Also ask others what makes a good salesperson.  You may gleam some better understanding by doing this personal research.

#3 – Employ social networks

Using LinkedIn and other social networks may help you find some additional candidates. Several of my clients have had success with Internet job sites such as

#4 – Establish a selection and hiring process

Here is where many small business owners make a miss step.  They do not invest the time and some dollars to establish a selection and hiring process. This process should include at least one if not several assessments to help to ensure the correct person is ultimately hired.

For example, the Values Index is an affordable assessment to determine the person’s motivation. Research suggests good to top sales performers have an economic driver in their top 50% of motivators.  Money does not have to be the primary driver but if it is at the bottom then this may present some critical insight.

#5 – Hire on a probationary period

Once the salesperson is hired, establish a probationary period with specific sales goals.  Agreement should be mutual on these goals to increase sales. Possibly you, as the small business owner,  may have to introduce your salesperson to some of your clients.

During this probationary period, there will be an extra demand on your time. To expect your new hire to just go out and sell without any internal support is a “shame on you” and setting that person up to fail.

Yes, finding a good salesperson is an ongoing want by the majority of small business owners I have encountered during the last 18 years.  Even when I was in corporate and hiring good salespeople, this challenge was very much present.

These five tips may help you improve your selection and hiring process along with better results.  Please feel free to share any tips you have found.

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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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Eating Workplace Culture One Bite at a Time – Part 03

The verb plan is one of the four letter dirty words within mid-size to small businesses. Big businesses know the value to plan their strategic direction; not so much for the smaller firms especially when it comes to workplace culture.

workplace-culturePresident Dwight Eisenhower said “Plans are worthless: planning is everything.” Yet far too many mid-size to small businesses still live in the role of Captain Wing-It where they continue to spray their actions all over the place and then pray something will stick.

Strategic planning is a process,  a truly time consuming process and is not the quick fix some like to believe.  A good strategic planning engagement takes usually around 20 hours of facilitation with the executive leadership team plus another 20-40 hours of independent work by the executive leadership and management team.

In speaking with small business owners to those in executive leadership roles who are having challenges in executing their strategic initiatives, there are two questions I always ask with reference to disengaged employees (workplace culture):

#1 – Can everyone in this organization quickly name the top three goals in precisely the same order?

The answer has been 99.9% of the time “No.”  My next question is as follows:

#2 – How many opportunities to how much wasted productivity to profits are you losing?

Workplace culture does not operate in a vacuum.  As the old adage of Parkinson’s Law goes:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

When the employees do not have a clear vision of what the organization will look like in the future or where it is going, the workplace culture will reflect chaos to disorganization creating unneeded stress to more disengaged employees to higher turnover .

Have you ever heard your employees muttering about how tough it is to get things done?

Possibly in exit interviews, some employees shared that those in senior management just wanted them to do their jobs and not ask any questions?

You may not include your employees in your strategic planning process such as organization’s plans, budgets and objectives (though you probably should). However not including them will be reflected within your workplace culture and may lead to further employee disengagement.

Additionally from the strategic planning process, there is greater clarity as to both market and customer focus. The next posting will delve into these areas with a little more depth.

Please feel free to check out this holistic cultural assessment tool that allows even the smallest firms to start identifying the barriers to effective execution of current business growth strategies.

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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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Forward Thinking Small Business Owners Make Time For…

“Got no time” is not a statement you will hear from any forward thinking small business owners.  No, these small business leaders will make time for:


  • Answering the phone
  • Returning phone calls
  • Continual education
  • Working on their strategic plan
  • Working ON the business
  • Listening to a friend or colleague
  • Enjoying the company of family
  • Helping their communities
  • Celebrating their religious faith or spirituality

Yes surprise, surprise, forward thinking leaders have the same amount of time as those who are not forward thinking. However because they understand that once time is spent, it can never be recovered, they look at time as an investment. They prioritize where and when to invest their time.

Even when their schedules are full to even overflowing, these small business leaders will do their best to make time for whatever comes across their desks.  Excuses are not their mantra.

Planning is why forward thinking small business owners can do everything they do.  They plan and prioritize travel time, meeting times, work time and family time.  Each day is viewed as an investment with the attitude of how much of a return can I receive for today’s efforts.

So when you hear someone in small business say “I’ve got no time,” you can probably ascertain this person is allowing time to control him or her instead of being in control of time.

We all have the same amount of time, 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds each day.  The difference is some invest time far better than the others who spend time.

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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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Being on Time Reinforces the First Sales Buying Rule

Being on time is truly not difficult.  Sure there are those exceptions of traffic accidents, emergencies to weather conditions. The failure to be on time only reinforces the first sales buying rule:



People buy from people they know and trust.

When I am asked to speak locally or to meet with a client, a center of influence,  a qualified sales lead or even a family member or friend, I am usually 5 to 10 minutes early.  I plug into my schedule an extra 10 to even 60 minutes for traveling to ensure I am on time. Also my schedule has all my writing commitments and again I allow an extra 24 hours to ensure the articles are submitted on time.

One of my professional colleagues, Rick Gosser, shared this article about 9 Habits of People Who Are on Time. He, too, is frustrated by people who fail to honor their commitment to being on time.

Rick and I share the same belief when it comes to doctor appointments.  If the doctor cannot see the patient within 20 minutes, then it is time for the patient to make another appointment.  Yes doctors are busy, but no more so than any small business owner or sales professional.

To earn any sale begins with the first sales buying rule.  Being on time reinforces trust and lets others begin to know you and specifically what is important to you.

Recently I attended a luncheon that allowed 30 minutes for registration and business to business networking.  The luncheon began at the top of the hour and several people came 15 to 20 minutes after the luncheon began.

Lateness appears to be a habit for some small business owners and salespeople. Watch local business to business networking events and the same people are consistently late.  This habit does not build trust, but rather the opposite.

Being on time is rather simple as the article shared.  I would add that being on time reflects your character, your positive core values and how you truly view other people.  If you are always late, then you truly do not care about others because you are only caring about yourself.

Yes if you wish to increase sales then embrace the behaviors embedded within the first sales buying rule. Being on time is truly a behavior that only you can change provided you really do care about your business and other people.

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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 Shortsightedness of Small Business Owners

Why do small business owners continue to as they say “cut off their noses to spite their faces?” This behavior is not just for small business owners, but extends into those in management or any leadership positions.

small-business-ownersWhat in many instances causes this shortsightedness is this one word, “money” or better yet “my money.” This behavior is reminds me of  Smeagol in the Lord of the Rings who  had to hold onto his (my) “precious.”

We also see this shortsighted, money driven behavior during the death of a family member and the reading of the will.  Grandma promised me this or that even though it was not in the will.

We have heard how money is the root of all evil.  With some small business owners this appears also to be true.

How many solid relationships built on trust have been weakened or destroy because of money?

How many lost new business opportunities have arisen because of money?

How many actions were never taken because the fear of losing money by spending money drove the mentality of small business owners?

How many small to large businesses have lost their way, their positive core values because the accumulation of money became the driving force?

Money is a necessity in a capitalistic economy.  Yet money should never trump trust, principles or values.

After working with small business owners for 18 years and being in both a large and small business corporate setting, I can attest money does creates shortsightedness.  This is why it is so critical to have positive core values and ensure everyone from the very top to the bottom adhere to those values on a daily basis.  In today’s competitive world it can become extremely easy to lose one’s way.

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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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