Why AMEND? Because Excellence Isn’t An Accident

My answer is fast and simple when people ask me why I chose to work at AMEND, “because excellence isn’t an accident.”

 

What Drives Excellence? Skills? Planning? Strategy? YES!

Scoring a buzzer beater in the final seconds of a playoff game? Lucky shot.

Getting straight A’s throughout school? My teachers must have liked me, I guess.

I believed success was achieved by chance, until recently.

It took me a while – up until this year, actually – to realize that excellence is not an accident.

The formula for achieving success is clear to me now, thanks to the work I’ve been doing here at AMEND:

Hard Work + Focused Effort + Consistency = Excellence.

The AMEND team has helped me see what it takes to achieve excellence and just how much goes in to delivering excellence at all times. They’ve also helped me to see how the results of this hard work and commitment is invaluable to our clients.

 

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”

– Aristotle

 

AMEND Pushes Me The Same Way They Push Their Clients

AMEND was out of my comfort zone.

I was used to working in a large corporate office every day. Crunching numbers on Excel from eight to five and staying in my cubicle for the majority of the day.

At AMEND, I was immediately immersed in a completely different culture, one filled with a tight-knit but powerful team of A-players, 5 am mornings, steel-toed boots on the ground of fab shops, and tough yet rewarding discussions with all types of clients, from the front line to the C-level Executives.

Joining the AMEND team took me FAR out of my comfort zone, but, in any given moment, we have two options: shrink back into safety, or step forward into growth.

I chose the latter, and because I did, I’ve grown.

 

Excellence Is A Choice

Every day I have to be committed to achieving excellence for myself and our clients.

Driving results does not come by accident; rather, it comes from intensity and deliberate decisions to work diligently, strategically, and fervently towards achieving excellence.

So that winning buzzer beater during a playoff game? It was the culmination of countless hours of practices, mental preparation, and bearing under pressure.

The good grades earned throughout school? Those were the consistent affirmations of late nights of studying, revising essays, and time management throughout my four years of education.

I am thrilled to be at a part of a team that inspires me to drive results every day.

AMEND values the challenging yet rewarding journey towards excellence, one that takes time, effort, and a commitment to stepping outside your comfort zone.

But The Wise Listen To Others…

“Fools think their own way is right but the wise listen to others.”
– Proverbs 12:15 NLT

I love how the best lessons and reminders are simple. You just get ’em.

They become a part of you almost instantly, and they stick with you forever.

This lesson wasn’t a slap in the face…more of a gentle nudge. A reminder that asking for help and reaching out to others isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength and wisdom.

Do you struggle with asking for help? I do sometimes.

Is it hard for you to reach out to others? To admit that someone else has a better idea or approach than you? It happens. We’re human.

Here are a few things I do to keep on the path towards wisdom. Maybe they can help you too.

1) Surround Myself With Great People
I’m constantly working to put myself in the middle of the smartest people in the room. I also hire people with different backgrounds and experiences than me, and I learn from the many different leaders I help coach and develop. This virtually guarantees I’ll get smarter and have plenty of opportunities for listening.

2) Force It
It’s easy to do whatever you want when you’re a leader – especially if you don’t have anyone to call you out on your actions and decisions.

We hold regular AMEND leadership team meetings and board meetings. I also participate in local CEO development programs like the Cincinnati Chamber’s CEO Roundtable program. These meetings force me to pull my thoughts together, share them, and then be vulnerable and open to feedback. I still don’t always listen, but I always walk away smarter.

3) Make It Fun!
Getting people to engage can be a challenge. Making it fun can help you get more effective feedback. Challenge your employees to first find all the flaws with your idea, then challenge them to create solutions. Best solution wins.

Think about the different types of people you know – the know-it-alls, the shy ones, the stuffy ones, the crazy ones… Work to get feedback from each type of person in a week or less.

Working on solving a tough problem? Host a problem party. Share the problem, share the solutions you’ve discovered so far, and then turn everyone loose. Give them 48 hours to create solutions, then have them present the solutions to you in a Shark-Tank-like setting.

No matter if you listen to the king of kings or the king of the electric strings, the lesson remains:

“Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens.”
– Jimi Hendrix

 

 

People or Process – What’s Really Causing Your Problems?

Our instincts almost instantly identify people as the source of all problems. We blame the person closest to the problem even when we know it’s not their fault.

Even when we can clearly see the cause of the problem, we still blame the person.

Even when we know facts like 95% of all problems are process problems, leaving just 5% as people problems, we still blame the person closest to the problem.

Why? Why are we trapped in this never-ending cycle of blaming people for the problem even when we logically know it’s not their fault? And, what can we do about it?

 

Defining the problem is the biggest challenge of all.

It’s quick and easy to simply blame the person closest to the problem for the problem. It takes the least amount of time and energy and there’s usually very few negative consequences. The person either accepts the blame or tries to defend or explain their actions. No matter their reaction, it all comes across as excuse making. Again, it remains easier to blame them – first for the problem, then for making excuses.

It takes much more time and energy to review the situation, analyze the details, and figure out the real source of the problem.

Plus, defining the real problem is a challenge for a lot of people. So many people struggle with defining their problems that problem-solving experts have created more than 50 processes to help people define their problems! Is this a problem?

 

Action is the next challenge.

Assuming you define the problem well…what to do next often becomes a challenge. Analysis usually leads to the best decisions and solutions. However, many people don’t have the skills or resources to properly analyze the situation. This gap often leaves the problem unsolved and the best solution undiscovered.

 

Commitment is the final step.

It’s more than committing to action… Action will have to take place to solve your problem – especially one that’s large enough to spend time on. What you’ll need to commit to here is awareness, mindfulness, and change.

You’ll need to commit to taking the time to fully review the situation instead of blaming the person closest to the problem. You’ll need to commit to ignoring your instinct to blame, and instead, commit to a deeper problem solving approach.

 

People can be the problem. Most of the time, they aren’t. If you begin with this belief – the belief that people want to do good work – you will instantly improve your problem solving ability and become a much better leader.

Keep Moving Forward

It’s that time of year…

Lights, decorations, and sweet treats abound. Hope, faith, and magic fill us with excitement and anticipation.

It’s a time of reflection and planning. A time to celebrate where you’ve been, and all you’ve learned on your journey. A time to say, “this is what I want to discover next!”

Don’t Miss This Opportunity!

It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the holiday cheer. The visiting, the gift-giving, the eating. It’s easy to get lost in the excitement and forget to take a few moments to define what YOU want.

Don’t miss this opportunity.

Leverage the magic and energy of this time of year to define what you want to accomplish, what you want to explore, what difference you want to make moving forward.

Soak It All In

We’re no fools. We know the holidays aren’t all rainbows and sunshine. They’re stressful, and tiresome, and loaded with surprises (both good and bad).

Soak it all in.

Take a few moments to feel it all, and then use these opportunities to grow. Challenge yourself to fully engage. Ask yourself, “what more can I do?” Then do it!

Issue A BOLO!

Be on the lookout.

Spending time with new people, or people you don’t get to see very often…enjoying new experiences…trying new things – all these new and interesting activities can stretch your thinking if you let them.

There are hundreds of learning opportunities all around, every day. And, you’ll catch more of them if you’re looking for them!

One lesson that caught us by surprise was a little gem tucked inside the Disney film, Meet the Robinsons. The story was about an orphaned boy who found an amazing home with a “less than normal” family. The story line’s not so surprising or even original.

Keep Moving Forward. (This was surprising!)

Wow! Simple, yet so powerful. The Robinson Family motto or mantra was Keep Moving Forward. (Turns out this was Walt Disney’s mantra, too.)

No matter what happened, good or bad, they reminded themselves to always keep moving forward. They knew this would bring more good than bad. They knew action was the only thing that would change anything.

Life is lived in one direction – forward. During this time, and throughout the year, it’s our hope that your days will be filled with laughter, wonder, and discovery…and that your hearts will be filled with hope, faith, and a little magic.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Employee Engagement – High or Low?

Employee engagement. It’s tossed around a lot, but can you tell the difference between an employee who is truly engaged and one who isn’t?

And, are they really worth the effort?

Highly engaged employees can make a measurable impact on your business. They can help accelerate your growth, attract and retain other top talent, increase your profitability, and more.

Most leaders agree, highly engaged employees are worth the investment. So…

What makes a highly engaged employee tick? What makes them frustrated? What do they really want?

Many highly engaged employees care about things like talking about their progress, having someone around that encourages their development, and having many learning opportunities.

They also want meaningful benefits like flexibility, competitive compensation, and health care.

“Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.”

– Zig Ziglar

How well do you stack up in these core areas?

Do you have interesting work for people to do? Even someone with a “do-the-same-thing-everyday” job can work on a special project that’s interesting and exciting.

Do you give feedback and recognition for work done well?

Do you consistently share things that are going on in the company? (Round tables, team huddles, and town hall meetings are all popular sharing forums these days.)

Research shows the cost of replacing one highly engaged employee can cost 20% or more of that person’s salary. That’s money lost.

Research also shows the reasons employees leave are the same today as they were almost a decade ago.

The good news is, this same research tells us most of the reasons employees leave can be influenced by managers and leadership.

The unfortunate things is, not much has changed in the last decade. People are still leaving for the same reasons, and leaders are still missing the same opportunities to keep their best people around.

Employee engagement can feel like an additional layer of work that has to be done to keep your best performers around.

Done right, however, employee engagement efforts shouldn’t feel like anything extra at all. Employee engagement efforts should simply feel like running your business.

 

Gratitude Generates Greatness & Growth

Drive to the finish. Make things happen. Let’s get to it. Push. Push. Push.

Business leaders toss out these commands year round as they work to rally their troops and deliver results.

These phrases, and more like them, are especially popular this time of year – as we all push to hit our targets and deliver our year-end results.

It’s easy to believe a go-go-go environment leads to high productivity levels. Recent research, however, shows this might not be true.

Having An Attitude of Gratitude Makes A REAL Difference

We know our leaders and their effectiveness can have a direct impact on our bottom line. (They can impact our profits up to 30%!)

Did you know GRATITUDE can have the same type of effect? It can, and its reach extends well beyond profits.

Double the health care costs, 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, 60% more errors and defects, 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time – this is the long list of benefits a high-pressure company environment delivers.

Positive cultures, or companies with gratitude attitudes experience the exact opposite. They achieve more, have better corporate citizens, experience less burn out, tend to pay it forward, have a more positive feedback loop, have much higher employee engagement and commitment, are more resilient, and have happier, healthier employees.

The Bottom Line: Gratitude Generates Greatness & Growth

Ready to bring more gratitude into your company? Now’s the perfect time! Here are some easy ways to get started today.

6 Ways To Practice Growth-Generating Gratitude

1) Encourage positive connections. Research by Sarah Pressman at the University of California, Irvine, found that the probability of dying early is 70% higher for people with poor social relationships. Since most people spend a majority of their time working, or dealing with the people they work with, it’s more important than ever for these relationships to be positive.

2) Actually say thank you.

“Researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania randomly divided university fund-raisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations in the same way they always had. The second group — assigned to work on a different day — received a pep talk from the director of annual giving, who told the fund-raisers she was grateful for their efforts. During the following week, the university employees who heard her message of gratitude made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who did not.”

Harvard Business Review

Dana Earhart Litif, a business coach and strategist, encourages her clients to ‘bookend their thanks.

“This is a wonderful habit to get in to.  Start and end each conversation, meeting, event by showing your gratitude.  Thank the person or group for their time, expertise, purchase (whatever the case may be) and end with another round of thanks.”

3) Listen. Make eye contact. Eliminate distractions. Set down your mobile phone or tablet, and move back away from the computer. Make the other person feel important, like their thoughts and perspectives are important to you. The more you can make people around you feel valued and appreciated, the more gratitude you’ll generate.

4) Help. Whenever possible, offer help. When it’s not possible, encourage your employees to help each other. When everyone has everyone else’s back, trust replaces competitiveness. Gratitude replaces bitterness. Growth replaces decline.

5) Extend empathy. Many moons ago, it was much easier to walk a mile in other people’s shoes. Today, with more and more people have specialized skills, this becomes much harder. Empathy is critical to building trust, driving effective communication, and ultimately, great leadership. A relationship can only exist when two people decided to relate to each other.

6) Avoid blame and forgive mistakes. This is probably the toughest action item on the list. Many people are so good at being the victim, not blaming is virtually impossible. And forgiving mistakes – forget about it. Mistakes are held over people’s heads, documented on performance reviews, and posted on boards in break rooms. This promotes shame, guilt, and fear…all negatives. Turn these into positives, and watch your productivity and engagement grow.

It’s that time of year – reflection, celebration, and gratitude abound. Now’s the perfect time to strengthen your gratitude attitude.


 

We are grateful for the many clients who trust us to build in to their people, optimize their processes, and transform their organizations. We are even more grateful for the people who build in to us. Thank you! (If you’re struggling with people or process problems, we can help. Contact us for a free review meeting.)

 

Growth Doesn’t Have To Cost Gagillions

Growth doesn’t have to cost gagillions, but it will take time…

And TIME is the one element almost all business leaders underestimate.

It’s easy to believe things happen faster than they actually do. It feels like this is true. Everything is moving so fast, it must be true.

The truth is business growth comes in two speeds: slow and slower.
The expectation of instant business growth results is dangerous. Expecting instant business growth results makes you walk away from good ideas, miss promising opportunities, or waste resources.

You may put off business growth initiatives – you know, the “hard stuff” that requires real change to make a difference – thinking they will roll out faster and have an impact sooner than is realistic.

You may think you have a high failure rate, terrible follow through, or the complete inability to launch new initiatives because all your plans fall through…when the truth is your plans were unrealistic from the start.

You may overspend on an initiative thinking that throwing more money at the effort will speed your results and increase your returns, when the only thing that will actually make any difference is TIME.

So how long does business growth actually take?

The straight answer is, it depends. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and how effective you are at getting stuff done. We can’t give you an exact answer on how long business growth actually takes. We can, however, share some averages with you. Using these growth time averages will make your growth plans stronger while keeping your expectations in check.

 

There are four basic ways to grow your business and all of them require 13 months or more to implement.

Growth Option 1: Sell More Of Your Current Products/Services To Your Existing Customers
Timing: 13 months or less

Selling more of your current stuff to your existing customers seems like the easiest and most obvious move. It is, and it’s one you should absolutely make. It’s also the move with the shortest lifespan and the smallest returns.

Most options in this category require you to make small tweaks and changes to your current offerings. A slight customization here, another there. Any small changes of 20% or less versus what you’re currently doing would fit in this category.

Many times these are customer driven. A current customer calls with a request for a slight change or modification. It seems easy enough, so you do it. Now you have a slightly different offering that may appeal to other customers, so you extend the offering, and so on.

Another business growth option in this category is increasing your throughput/optimizing your operations. This is a great option when sales is not your problem. If you have more orders than you can handle, making changes to your delivery process can can be a great source of growth.

We once helped a client increase their throughput by 30% without adding people or equipment. This change allowed them to win a job with an existing customer that nearly doubled their business. They would not have even bid on this business prior to working with us because they had ZERO capacity for additional work and a huge backlog.

 

Option 2: Sell More Of Your Current Products/Services To New Customers
Timing: 13-20 months

Beware of this one… Many business leaders will see this as an easy option. A no-brainer.

The truth is this one is easy to underestimate.

It’s easy to think, “there’s lots of customers out there who want what we sell.” The reality is, every buying group is different, so while you won’t have to make a lot of changes to WHAT you’re selling, you will have to make a lot of changes to HOW you’re selling it.

Success here will require you to change anywhere from 20-40% of your sales and operations versus what you’re doing today. You will have to learn about a whole new set of buyers… What are their problems? What solutions currently exist? How do you compare versus those current solutions? What do they value most? You will need answers and a plan for overcoming a whole new set of questions and objections.

You will also have to make some changes to your product to adapt to these new conditions. And, you won’t know what those changes are until you start selling.

Net: if you decide to head down this path, do so with your eyes wide open and your expectations in check. This is not an easy, no-brainer. It’s a challenge that requires dedicated resources and – you guessed it – time.

 

Option 3: Sell New Products To Existing Customers
Timing: 20-34 months

Option 3 is interesting, indeed. Many believe this to be an easy and profitable path, however, this path must be walked carefully if you want to gather up all your rewards.

Challenge #1 – your existing customers know you and love you for who you are and what you already do. They like you, and they want you to keep doing it. New is risky, and risky can cause challenges. Why change if everything is “just fine.”

Challenge #2 – your existing customers know you and love you for who you are and what you already do! (Yes, this was intentionally repeated. It’s this thinking that usually makes existing customers your least profitable customers.) They want to be rewarded for their loyalty and their support of you over the past XX years. They expect to be treated as special. They expect to get the best deals at the lowest prices, always.

This mentality makes it hard to sell them new products at higher price points. This becomes even more challenging if you’re doing a good job and they are already satisfied.

 

Option 4: Sell New Products To New Customers
Timing: 34 months or more

The most disruptive, the most risky, and the most profitable option is also the one that takes the longest to execute. Solutions here will take you way out of your comfort zone, and challenge your skills in new and exciting ways.

Not much of your current activity will apply to these options – you’re looking at a 60-100% change versus what you’re doing today. Every department will be effected. New people and equipment will be required. New customers will be defined.

This kind of growth is a struggle for everyone. Small, medium, large and mega-jumbo companies all struggle to make this happen. A lot of companies throw a lot of resources (people, time, money) against this, yet achieve zero new growth.

This. Is. Hard. This is more than innovation, it’s invention. It’s not enough for these ideas to be new to you, or new to your area. These ideas have to be new to the world. They have to be big enough that risking everything makes sense.

This…this challenge is why mergers and acquisitions are so powerful when it comes to driving disruptive growth. Mergers and acquisitions allow you to shake things up without all of the disruption coming from the inside. They also allow you to see the idea is viable before diving in.

 

How Can You Tell If You’re On A Growth Path?
David Thomson provides one option in his book Blueprint To A Billion™. Thomson studied 387 companies – America’s highest growth companies – for three years. He wanted to know how these top performers turned an idea into a billion dollar business. (Now THAT’S growth! It’s also a pretty good success standard – exponential growth. Revenues of a billion dollars plus would equal success by most any measure.)

Thomson, through his research, actually quantifies the growth patterns of America’s highest growth companies. One of the most fascinating elements – time. Every one of the 387 companies studied followed one of three growth paths when it came to their revenue take-off points –  3, 6, and 12 years*.

So give yourself time. Plan for it. Big growth is a marathon, not a sprint.

 

Time, Time, Time, Is On Your Side…Yes It Is…
Well, it is if you manage it properly. Knowing how long initiatives actually take (on average) is a big step in the right direction. It can help you make stronger, more proactive growth plans. It can help help you better manage and lead your growth expectations. Time can be a competitive advantage, or it can be your toughest competitor. Use it well.

 

Of course there will be disappointments and the way will not always be as I expected it.
But if it seemed easy, then that would be the time to worry that I am on the wrong path.

Anne Perry

 

 

AMEND Consulting specializes in helping passionate business leaders achieve growth. We love “unsolvables” – those “I-just-can’t-make-these-go-away problems” all businesses seem to have, no matter how smart the leadership team… If you’re growing too fast, growing too slow, unable to grow, worried about growth, or paralyzed by the thought of growth, we can help. Let’s connect.


Timing Data Source: Abbie Griffin, The Journal of Product Innovation Management

*3, 6, and 12 years – this is how long it took for the companies to reach their inflection point…that place where all the sudden, all their hard work began doubling, and tripling, and so on. The short-term successes were mostly technology companies…those operating in booming markets, that could move quickly, with little to no capital investment. The 6-year and 12-year curves were the makers and builders…those who needed physical infrastructure, capital equipment, etc. to achieve their success.