Boost Your Business With A One-Page Strategic Action Plan

Most strategic plans take forever to create, then sit, unused, in fancy binders.

They stay in these binders until shelf space is needed, or until your office gets moved…or until some outside change draws attention to them.

Most strategic plans are a huge waste of time, effort, energy, and money because they are beautifully crafted and then tucked away. Never to be seen, referenced, or used.

Compare this to a sports team’s play book. A play book is created, studied, optimized, memorized, and put to the test each and every game. Winning plays are kept, improved, and reused. Less effective plays are evaluated, learned from, reinvented, or removed.

If strategic plans were more like play books, they would be the best business investment you could make – one that drives massive change and growth. One with an enormous ROI.

How can  you tap in to the power of a one-page strategic action plan? It’s simple! Create a one-page strategic action plan.


Here’s how.

STEP ONE: Create your canvas.
You will need to define the four main areas of your one-page strategic plan. Mission/Vision, Objective(s), Goals, and Tactics.

Some people prefer to work with pen or pencil and paper. Some prefer digital canvases like a Word Document or Excel Spreadsheet. No matter your preference, you will need to define four main spaces for capturing each of these elements.


STEP TWO: Dive in.
This is the hardest, most time consuming step. Most business leaders can’t simply sit down and fill in these blanks because most of these elements have NEVER been defined for the business.

Sure, there are goals…action items…projects…activities that are supposed to be happening to move the business forward. It’s rare, however, for those activities to be linked to the overall business plan and objectives.

Here’s some tips to help you define each important piece of your one-page strategic action plan.

MISSION/VISION – the rallying cry of your business. What people sign up for when they join your team. This is not the elaborate mission statement most create. This is not intended to be carved into marble and hung above the front entry. This should not be filled with long, complicated phrases, or filled with fluffy and fancy words. This should be 7-10 words that capture your magic. Here are a few examples:

ZAPPOS – deliver happiness (Notice how this isn’t about selling shoes, fast delivery, or free returns…it has nothing to do with WHAT they do. It has everything to do with WHY they exist. This is what you’re working to capture.)

APPLE COMPUTER – hub of the home (Again, this isn’t about iMacs, iPhones, or Apple TVs…it’s about WHY they exist…it’s their true North.)

COCA-COLA – refreshing the world (Again, this isn’t about making the world’s most favorite cola, or any other product…it’s about defining the space they will play in and their playground. They will play in the refreshment space, worldwide.)

OBJECTIVE(S) – where you want the business to be 3-5 years from today. Use a five year timeline if your growth requires a lot of capital. Use a three year timeframe for all other businesses.

Objectives can be numbers like 500 clients, or $1.3MM in revenue, or increases of XX%. They can also be specific accomplishments – e.g. the preferred hearing-aide in North America, or the largest law firm in the city, or the brand on more sidelines…

No matter the format, your objective(s) MUST BE MEASURABLE. You need to be able to say “yes, we’ve achieved this” or “no, we’re still not there yet” one, two, and three years from today.

It also needs to stretch but not break you. It has to be big enough to force change, yet not so big it becomes unrealistic and overwhelming.

Your objective(s) must also be inline with your Mission/Vision.

GOALS – The bigger actions that must happen in the next 12 months to achieve your objectives.

Larger projects, department changes, equipment purchases/exchanges, reorganization – these are all examples of larger actions that need to happen in order for the objectives to be achieved.

Define 3-5 goals. (Tip: some teams find it helpful to define all the goals that must be achieved in order to deliver the objective(s), and then prioritize based on timing and resources. Some things must happen before others are even possible. Define and prioritize your goals in a way that’s best for you.)

Make it clear what must happen by when (e.g. new development team created, 8 months). And then, assign an owner. This person is responsible for delivering these results. They will own the goal from start to finish.

TACTICS – The smaller action items that must happen to deliver each goal.

Each larger project area will have multiple smaller actions or tactics under it. Define as many as make sense. You don’t need to list every single action, just the main actions that will deliver the goals. Each tactic should also have an owner.

(Note: this step is typically completed by the goal owner since delivery and completion is their responsibility. The leadership team can review and advise upon completion.)


STEP THREE: Get going.
Put your plan in motion. Start taking action. Don’t worry about making your plan perfect. It will never be perfect. You will come across things you don’t know…steps and actions you didn’t think of… That’s OK. Update your plan. Make changes. Adapt. And then, keep moving forward.


It’s planning time for most businesses making now the perfect time to create your one-page strategic action plan.

A one-page strategic action plan blends the best of a traditional strategic plan with the best of a playbook. It’s the best business-building tool around, yet very few businesses are using it.

If you need to move your business in a new direction, a one-page strategic action plan will help guide your ship.

If you need to empower and engage employees, a one-page strategic plan is the perfect way to connect the business’s needs with their individual needs.

If you need to drive results, a strong one-page strategic action plan driven by strong leaders is the best way to make action happen.


AMEND Consulting specializes in working with passionate leaders to drive positive, lasting change. We understand the power of a one-page strategic action plan, and what it takes to create one. If you’re ready to create a one-page strategic plan and don’t want to go it alone, we can help. Let’s connect.

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.

5 Growth Tips Mid-Market Companies Should Steal from Marriott’s Millennial Makeover

We spend a lot of time helping our clients solve their Millennial talent challenges. And rightly so – getting Millennials on-board and keeping them around is critical to the future success of all businesses.

75% or more of your employees will come from this enormous and powerful group by 2025.

Solving the War for Talent issues is critical. It’s also critical to look at the flip side and that’s why we’re exploring a different Millennial dimension today.

Millennials as Customers
Millennials’ purchasing power is on the rise and it will continue to grow as Millennials rise through the ranks.

How are their buying habits forcing businesses to change, and what can you learn from their impact?

The short answer – a lot.

Millennials Are #1
This year Millennials took over the #1 spot. There are now more Millennials working than Boomers or GenXers. They are staying single longer, which gives them more spending power. They are traveling, eating out, and exploring the world more. They have disposable income and they aren’t afraid to spend it.

They will be spending $1.4T (yes, that’s trillion with a T) per year by 2020.

It’s that spending power that connects us with Marriott, whose leaders realized Millennials could no longer be ignored or dismissed. They needed real solutions, or they risked losing their share* of this HUGE collection of customers. (*Note: it could be argued their delay in acting has cost them a large portion of “their share” of these customers. They’ve already missed with the millions of Millennials turning to new solutions like hostels, non-name boutique hotels,, or to find the travel experience that’s just right for them…but that’s a topic for another post.)

Marriott’s Challenge
Marriott was behind. They needed to quickly figure out how to gain some traction with Millennials. And, they’d have to change everything to create a win.

“Marriott is known for creating perfectly predictable experiences for its guests. Turns out, Millennials want the exact opposite of that.”

Marriott worked extremely hard to build systems that delivered a perfectly predictable experience for their guests anywhere in the world. “This worked like a charm with Baby Boomers who liked everything to follow a nice, neat formula.”

Now, with Millennials, they have a growing customer group that’s traveling twice as much as their existing customers, and they aren’t interested in ‘perfectly predictable’ at all. In fact, they weren’t interested in Marriott at all.

Our brains are amazing problem solving machines. They are at their best when tackling tough and complicated challenges.

Why aren’t more people solving more problems all the time? Because most people don’t take the time to define the problem. Most people see the symptoms of the problem, and then work to get rid of the symptoms – usually one at a time.

When you take the time to define the problem, your brain grabs hold of it and won’t let it go until it discovers at least one possible solution. Our brains like resolution. They like to make sense of things.

How can you tell if you’ve defined a symptom or a problem? Simple. Ask “why?” or “what?” And keep asking why or what until you can no longer answer the question. If you can answer the question, you’ve most likely found a symptom. Keep going. If you can’t, you’ve found the heart of the problem.

Q: Why is Fred always late? (A: His car is constantly breaking down.)
Fred’s constant lateness is a symptom of his car breaking down.

Q: What’s causing all these rejects? (A: The extruder machine keeps stopping mid-batch.)
Q: Why does the extruder machine keep stopping mid-batch? (A: The power coming in keeps dropping.)
The rejects and the extruder machine performance are both symptoms of the real problem, an unsteady power supply.

The key to WHY-WHAT success is to keep pushing. Keep asking why and what until you find the source of problem.

There’s a reason many quiz shows have lifelines like phone-a-friend, or options for hints and clues. You can be smart and highly skilled, and still not know everything. This is especially true when you need to move, or are moving, into a new space where you have little to no expertise. It’s also critically important when you have to move fast – when you don’t have the time to learn everything you need to be successful on your own.

Marriott built an organization of experts for selling and delivering the experience Boomers want. They did an expert job optimizing and managing.

Unfortunately, managers aren’t great when it comes to driving dramatic changes. Marriott leaders knew what had to happen, they knew where they needed to go. They struggled with knowing what to do and where to begin.

What’s the best move when you find yourself in this situation?

Reach out! Partner up! And that’s just what Marriott did. They weren’t afraid to say, “I don’t know.” And they found a perfect partner in Fahrenheit 212 – a high-end superconsultancy out of New York with all the Millennial expertise Marriott needed to create a win.

Confident and empowered employees deliver top quality solutions. Marriott had to create an environment that enabled the thinking and activity they needed. Instead of “trying to institute change from the top, they chose 14 locations around the world and allowed small teams to experiment with new concepts for their hotels.” Then they shared and leveraged the learning and success across the larger organization.

Start small to think BIG.

Pick a division to overhaul or an important problem/challenge to solve…create a task force, and then turn them loose. Check in to help clear roadblocks, not to control the outcome. Leverage test and learn approaches to reduce risk and accelerate success.

Marriott didn’t set out to create a better Marriott brand, a new brand, or a new business. They focused on delivering an outstanding experience that was exciting for Millennials. It was all about the customer and not about the company. “There wasn’t a Marriott logo anywhere. The whole project was inspired and executed by Ashley, the [local] manager.”

How do you win with customers? Do one thing great! SUV’s we not invented for soccer mom’s, they were invented for a much smaller, more industrial customer. Post-it® Notes weren’t created because people were walking around wishing to stick up notes in random places, they were created for people (pastor’s) who needed to mark pages that were delicate.

When you define a problem and then set out to create an amazing solution for that problem, you almost always end up attracting others as well.

Marriott waited too long and it cost them hundreds of millions. They waited until the problem got so bad it could no longer be ignored.

Putting things off makes everything “more” – more stressful, more risky, more expensive…you get the idea.

Leaders who anticipate the future find solutions that are up to 10x more profitable than leaders who simply react.

It’s time to get good at being curious, reading the tea leaves, and listening to your head, heart, and gut. Read the trend reports, keep an eye on behavior changes, watch the tech sector. Constantly be thinking “what’s coming next?” and how can we leverage it or take advantage of it? This is beyond thinking about where you want to be five years from today. It’s about making calculated bets on where the world is moving so you can be there when it happens.

You Can Win With Millennials
Marriott desperately needed to find a way to win with Millennials. They didn’t set out to change their entire company, or to shake up the hotel industry. They set out to find a solution to a very specific problem. Turns out they will achieve much more than winning with Millennials. They will discover and implement changes that “penetrate the very core of the Marriott brand and begin to transform every aspect of the hotel experience.”

You can learn from Marriott’s Millennial journey. You can benefit from the millions they invested in this initiative.

You can decide not to wait until the problem can no longer be ignored.

You can decide to take action. Today.

You can win with Millennials too.

This post was inspired by Fast Company’s article: Inside Marriott’s Attempt To Win Over Millennials.

AMEND Consulting specializes in helping companies take action.

Manufacturing Excellence – First Ever Manufacturing Exchange

Manufacturing excellence is the mission. Today is the day.

Today we blaze a new trail.

Today, and over the next several days, AMEND and Cincinnati Chamber executives will lead a first-of-its-kind manufacturing exchange. The purpose – to share, to learn, to grow.

“Chamber members, Enerfab, Formica, Kellogg’s and Meyer Tool will join The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and 16 other regional businesses for a manufacturing exchange trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, a top manufacturing city, September 23-25.” (According to the official press release, provided in full at the bottom of this post.)

Participants will share their highs and lows, their struggles and challenges, their solutions and celebrations.

Cincinnati manufacturing leaders will “explore manufacturing workforce challenges and solutions, Minnesota’s governmental and economic development support for its manufacturers, and best practices from about a half dozen of MSP’s best manufacturing facilities” according to Pat Sheeran, Vice President of Programs with the Cincinnati Chamber.

Five top Minneapolis-St. Paul manufacturers – 3M, Boston Scientific Corporation, Lubetech, Stratasys, GE Water Tech are opening their doors for site visits, allowing Cincinnati manufacturing leaders to gain first-hand knowledge of their operations. Nine additional Minneapolis-St. Paul manufacturers will also share their insights and wisdom.

Cincinnati manufacturing leaders will share their insights, wisdom, best practices and solutions in exchange.

One hot topic – The War For Talent.

According to Pat Sheeran, “Despite an average pay of $74,000 and above average benefits, 18,000 advanced manufacturing jobs will go unfilled in greater Cincinnati over the next 10 years.”

Attracting and retaining leaders and workers is more than an HR issue. It’s a matter of survival. Cincinnati manufacturing leaders will be spending a lot of time exploring how top Minneapolis-St. Paul manufacturers are tackling this tough issue, returning with new talent management strategies and solutions for growing their businesses.

“Finding new solutions – that’s what this exchange is all about,” said Craig Todd, AMEND Consulting’s Managing Partner. “Helping Cincinnati manufacturers take actions that drive growth. That’s why AMEND is participating, because it’s such a strong fit with our mission. Giving manufacturing leaders the information, wisdom, and courage they need to do what needs to be done, that’s what we’re all about, and that’s exactly what this exchange will deliver.”

All told, during their three-day visit, participating Cincinnati manufacturing leaders will have the opportunity to learn from two dozen Minneapolis-St. Paul manufacturing leaders, several educators, and various government leaders. (It’s not all work and no play though…a ball game, networking, and a mixer are all on the agenda too!)

It’s a bold agenda. One that will return these 16 Cincinnati manufacturing leaders ready for action – complete with new plans, fresh perspectives, and renewed energy for tackling their toughest challenges.

We couldn’t be more excited.



News Release
For Immediate Release

Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber Members Will Exchange Manufacturing Ideas in Minneapolis-St. Paul 20 greater Cincinnati businesses will join manufacturing exchange

CINCINNATI – September 22, 2015 – Chamber members, Enerfab, Formica, Kellogg’s and Meyer Tool will join The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and 16 other regional businesses for a manufacturing exchange trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, September 23-25.

The three-day-trip includes site visits with top Minneapolis-St. Paul manufacturers, including 3M, Boston Scientific and GE Water & Process Technologies. Participants depart by Ultimate Air Shuttle at Lunken Airport, Wednesday, September 23, 1 p.m. Interviews will be available prior to take-off.

“Despite an average pay of $74,000 and above average benefits, 18,000 advanced manufacturing jobs will go unfilled in greater Cincinnati over the next 10 years,” said Chamber Vice President, Patrick Sheeran. “This trip will allow our members to visit and learn from a peer city while also taking a look at how Minneapolis-St. Paul manufacturers attract, develop and retain skilled talent.”

The manufacturing exchange trip is presented by U.S. Bank and is produced by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber in partnership with AMEND Consulting.

About the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber is one of the nation’s largest chambers, representing the interests of 4,000 member businesses. Its mission is to leverage the potential of the business community to create economic prosperity for our region. The Chamber serves its membership and the Cincinnati USA community through leadership and professional development programs, government advocacy, festivals and events, regional vision and collaboration, money-saving benefit programs, networking opportunities and educational programs. For more information, visit

Issued By: Rich Walburg, Communications Director, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber


3 Powerful Words Millennials Use To Improve

You’ve heard all the sayings… The ones that capture the power of words and phrases and how carefully you must use them. “Be careful what you say because your words become your reality.” “Words are like weapons, wield them carefully.” The list goes on and on.

Millennials seem to know something many others don’t. They have figured out the power of one simple phrase, and how to use it to achieve their goals.


Many Millennials Have Mastered This Phrase
Words are powerful and Millennials seem to have cracked the code around using this one simple yet powerful phrase to increase their impact and effectiveness.

They are more willing to say ‘I don’t know,’ and then use it as a type of rocket fuel to super-charge their ability to find the answer, or a set of possible answers.

They seem more willing to explore. To define what’s possible versus what’s impossible. They see the options, more than the restrictions – in many cases.

Why So Negative?
When did it happen? When did the phase ‘I don’t know’ take on such negative meaning. When did it come to imply that we’re incompetent, or unworthy of our post? When did it become a brand of ignorance, and even laziness?

Many of our team members hold engineering degrees. ‘I don’t know’ in the scientific world is the first step to making new discoveries. ‘I don’t know’ in the business world has become something so negative it’s rarely muttered.

Why? How have we gotten to this point? How is it that fear levels have grown so high that using a simple three word phrase registers such disgust?

How Will Progress Happen?
If ‘I don’t know’ can no longer be used to spark new discoveries and challenge what’s possible, how will progress happen?

Millennials more than many others want their work to have an impact – so much so they are often referred to as pushy, entitled, and unwilling to “earn” their place. It is for this reason the connection between their desires and the use of the phrase ‘I don’t know’ is so interesting.

Maybe they are able to go faster and farther because they are willing to say ‘I don’t know.’ They are willing to put it out there, to be vulnerable, to be open to learning without fear of being looked down upon for not knowing everything the world thinks they should know.

Maybe they are so free to use this phrase because they are more comfortable with their skills, talents, and self than any other generation that has come before them. Maybe it’s this willingness to sail their ships that allows them to make rapid progress?

“A ship in harbor is safe – but that’s not what ships are built for.”

John A. Shedd

There’s much we can learn from Millennials if we open ourselves up to the possibility that they have much to offer. A good first step on this learning journey might be giving ourselves permission to say, ‘I don’t know’ and then using the freedom that follows to find amazing new solutions.



Leadership Development – Do You Need More Servant Leaders?

Leadership development is one of the most important activities inside organizations today. It reaches beyond recruiting, beyond retention, beyond next generation leadership, and even beyond succession planning. Leadership development is not an event, it’s not a program – it’s a strategy that provides the foundation for your culture.

Leadership development is not an HR issue. It’s a high-level strategic issue. And getting good at it is a matter of survival.

Leaders – Born Or Made?

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born—that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.

Warren G. Bennis
Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute
University of Souther California

This is good news for us all. We don’t need to look for born leaders – those with the golden ticket. We simply need to find people who share our values, then give them the tools, training, and opportunity to become effective leaders.

Improving Leadership – Is It Worth It?

“Better leadership practices can improve an organization’s bottom line by hundreds of thousands—or even millions—of dollars, depending on the size of the organization and current gaps in management practices.

David Witt, Researcher
The Ken Blanchard Companies

We bet you could use thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions more dollars in profits. Leadership gaps are profit killers. Ineffective leaders slow work flows, make more mistakes, miss growth opportunities, react to problems instead of anticipating problems – and most importantly, have an overall negative impact on the people they lead.

Poor leaders make for poor profits.

Change Leaders or Change Leadership Styles?

In Daniel Goleman’s study, Leadership That Gets Results, 3,000 managers were studied for three years. The connections he discovered between leadership styles and bottom-line results is remarkable.

“Six distinct leadership styles were identified. Each style has a distinct effect on the working atmosphere of the company, and in turn, on its financial performance.”

How much of an impact? 30%!

The research showed a manager’s leadership style is responsible for 30% of the company’s bottom line profitability. That’s too much to ignore.

The good news: helping leaders and managers improve their leadership style management can be just as effective as improving a process, or upgrading equipment when it comes to improving profitability.

Want An Even Bigger Impact? Create Leaders That Serve.

“If serving is below you. Leadership is beyond you.”


Many are confused (or scared) by the term “servant leader.” Don’t be. A servant leader is simply one who wants to serve others first, and then, as a result of that desire to serve, their leadership desires follow. They want to lead because they want to make others better. They want to lead because they want what’s best for the company. They want to lead because they want things beyond material possessions for themselves.

“…servant leaders are the beneficiaries of important contacts, information, and insights that make them more effective and productive in what they do even though they spend a great deal of their time sharing what they learn and helping others…”


Leadership development is a Top 3 priority for all organizations. It has a proven impact on the bottom line, and doesn’t require huge disruption to create a huge impact. Promote leaders who share your values, help them master the 6 different leadership styles, and – for an added boost – encourage them to put others first. Your people and your profits will thank you.


Training, coaching, mentoring, interim leadership/shadowing. Developing people and their skills is a key part of our success formula. (People+Process+Metrics = Transformation) People impact profits, that’s why we impact people.

Not sure how your leaders stack up? Our assessment and evaluation tools can help you find your leadership gaps. Not sure what to do about your gaps? Our development and consulting services can help. Let’s get started.




Training Magazine: Effective Leadership Development
The Ken Blanchard Companies: Make Time To Develop Your Leaders
Fast Company: 6 Leadership Styles, And When You Should Use Them
Harvard Business Review: Leadership That Gets Results
Forbes: Why Isn’t Servant Leadership More Prevalent?


You’ve Got 80 Days Left – Here’s 8 Ways To Pump Up Your Profits!

There are roughly 80 working days left in 2015. 

80 days isn’t enough time to create a blockbuster movie, master a new skill, or travel around the world by boat. 80 days isn’t enough time to make much happen in many cases. Lucky for you, 80 days is plenty of time to make a big impact on your bottom line.

Here’s 8 proven approaches you can use to build up your profits and finish the year strong. (Note: if you’re not on a calendar fiscal, don’t worry. These can be used any time during your business cycle to boost your profits. So go ahead, make more money!)

1) Act Now.
Don’t wait to make the changes you know you need to make. They won’t get easier and the timing won’t get better. No one likes change, so the best way to make it happen is to follow the Nike Principle – JUST DO IT.

Spend 80% of your time working on the 20% of the things that matter. Challenge your thinking by exploring the answers to questions using “what if…” and “if only…” as thought-starters. NBC news created a whole new money making machine when they did this. They asked, “what if the news was a profit center instead of a cost center?” Meaning what if they could make money on the news instead of losing money with each broadcast. The answer to this was Dateline NBC, and it not only became a big money-maker for NBC, it created a whole new industry (investigative journalism).

2) Make It Real.
Thinking versus doing. It’s easy to think, much harder to act, which is why a lot of people do a lot of thinking and not a lot of doing. Science is clear – make it real and you’ll make it real. An author who wanted to have a #1 New York Times best-seller created a NY Times best-seller list showing his name in the #1 spot. This was all his brain needed to start working toward that reality, and, within a year, he had not one, but two #1 best-sellers.

Map out your future. Define what you want. What’s ideal? Who needs to be working where? What’s the best way to organize to get the work done? Organize people based on unique ability versus function, tenure, or power level. Fix job titles so they actually match the work and responsibility of the people delivering, making communication easier.

Define true North. If you don’t know where you’re going, your team doesn’t either. Gaining alignment is one of the most effective ways to streamline your work, accelerate your success, and make more money.

3) Get Direct.
Dan Pink speaks a lot about how asking direct questions is often the most effective way to learn what someone wants…and yet, no one ever does it. Now’s the time. Do it.

Instead of guessing what customers or employees want, ASK THEM. Don’t like the answers you’re getting, make changes. Think “how can I give them what they want?” not, “they don’t deserve all that!”

4) Cut. Cut. Cut.
An instant way to generate a double-digit profit gain is to eliminate your worst performing products or services. A retailer eliminated the bottom 10% of their line-up, their profits increased 13%. An internet service provider eliminated more than half of their offerings (54%) and realized a nearly 20% increase in profits.

Why? Focus. Eliminating the poor performers allowed the workers to spend more time focusing on the money makers. Getting rid of the poor performers, got rid of the unprofitable work and allowed better money-making resourcing.

5) Eliminate Roadblocks.
Many projects and initiatives get off to a strong start because everyone working them is excited to dive in to something new. Keeping momentum high and getting projects across the finish line…that’s the hard part.

Knocking out roadblocks, barriers and obstacles is one way leaders can help their teams get more done. The best method around for making things happen is outlined in Vern Harnish’s book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits. What’s Rockefeller’s secret for getting things done? Daily Team Huddles. These are standing meetings that cover a lot of ground in a little time.

Rockefeller would walk to and from work each morning with his brothers, his company co-leaders. They would discuss what had to get done during their day, and figure out how to help each other make things happen to keep the business growing. They would review their progress and what worked on their way home. They did this every day for 20+ years. The result? An empire. Other great leaders have used this method, too. Condoleezza Rice held TWO daily huddles on the 6’s (6a and 6p) during her time as Secretary of State.

Get your teams in a rhythm, work together to eliminate barriers, and then enjoy the productivity and profit boost that comes from getting more done!

[You can watch the 800-GOT-JUNK team set the gold standard for how to run a daily huddle here, and you can learn a bit more about daily huddles at the end of this post.]

6) ELIMINATE, Then Prioritize
“It isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s not about getting less done. It’s about getting only the right things done. This is the way of the Essentialist.” Greg McKeown’s new book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, is here and it is a powerful reminder that we can avoid stress and burnout, and increase our satisfaction by focusing on the pursuit “of the right thing, in the right way, at the right time.”

Start by defining the difference between the “many trivial” and the “vital few.” Think… Is this exactly what I want? Am I ideal for this opportunity? As McKeown says, “If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.”

Get stingy with your yeses. Begin with no, and then work to make sure every yes deserves to be a yes. Pursue less to accomplish more – now that’s something we can all say yes to!

7) Sharpen Your Systems.
W. Edwards Deming is clear here… Leadership has two jobs to perform: 1) to set the mission/vision/purpose for the company, and 2) to build systems so everyone can do their best work.

Doing these two things with excellence will generate outstanding results. Building systems that allow everyone to do their best work will give your profits a power-punch. Creating the systems is hard. Making them great is a journey not an event.

We recently worked with a client to optimize their line for a fourth time – not because we got it wrong the first three times – rather, we were able to realize big gains multiple times. (The most recent optimization resulted in a 21% efficiency increase.) Our client was able to make this happen, saving his company millions, because he realized operational excellence is a marathon, not a sprint. And, he was willing to be wrong. He wasn’t sure any further gains could be achieved, especially after three previously successful rounds of work. He pushed forward anyway and celebrated a big win as a result.

We’re constantly working with clients to get their systems to work together. A huge challenge. Data systems that don’t talk to each other. ERP systems that hold a lot of data yet deliver no wisdom. The whole point of a system is to enable your best work. If it’s not doing that, it’s time for a change.

8) Set and Stick To Deadlines
A group of willing participants were offered some money to complete a survey. Each set of participants were given different completion times. 25% of those given no deadline completed the survey. 42% completed the survey when given a three week deadline. 60% completed the survey when given a 5 day deadline.

The learning: The more flexible the timing, the less likely the action. Set reasonable and tight deadlines, and then follow up on them. Hold people accountable. If they have to go past the due date, make sure there’s a solid reason for it. In fact, get the reason approved BEFORE the deadline passes. Use dashboards and other communication tools to keep everyone on the same page. You’ll be surprised what you can get done when you get people to make a firm timing commitment.


There you have it. 8 proven ways to boost your profits between now and the end of 2015.


Have additional approaches that work for you? Please share them in the comments. We’re continual improvers, just like you.

Interested in any of the research cited here? Contact us for the study details.

Have a problem you can’t seem to solve? We love those kinds of challenges. Let’s connect to see if we can solve it together.

The Basics of a Daily Huddle:

  • Huddles are always done standing to keep energy and engagement high…and the huddles short and focused.
  • Start with a quick sharing of good news – this inspires and encourages – keeping momentum and energy high.
  • Then run your project check-in, allowing each team member to report in quickly on the progress they’ve made since the last huddle.
  • Next it’s on to “done” items… “Anything we can check off?” And finally…
  • Dive in to roadblocks and challenges. This is the time when all team members can share anything that’s keeping them from getting their work done, and then the entire team works together to create solutions for eliminating the barrier/roadblock.

A Year From Now…

Every now and again you come across a thought that knocks you square in the jaw, like a powerful Joe Frazier left hook. BAM! Plop. Ouch.

Hearing or reading something doesn’t cause any physical pain. You’re not doubled over, or in need of medical attention. You are, however, suffering from a real pain…one that comes with a much harder path to recovery.


Regret’s easy to come by, hard to get rid of, and exhausting to carry. It sticks with you – shaping your actions and decisions every day for the rest of your life.


“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”

Karen Lamb


A Cornell study confirms, it’s not what we tried and failed that we regret the most as we age…it’s the actions we didn’t take that haunt us. You see, when we try and fail, we know the outcome. When we want to act and then do nothing, we never know. And it’s the not knowing that does us in.

The difference between regrets and results is ACTION.


It’s easy to get stuck – to let the day-to-day activities take over. It’s just as easy to get back to driving action. Here are a few ways to jump-start, or accelerate, your success:

1) Visualize It. Cheesy? Maybe. Powerful? Absolutely. Your brain kicks in to high gear when it has a problem to solve or a goal to achieve. Visualizing what you want engages your brain, and that makes action happen. Want to be #1 in your industry, create a list showing you in the #1 spot and everyone else below you. Your brain will start working to make this a reality. Want to cut costs by 30%? Visualize the benefits of the cost cutting (e.g. the new equipment you can buy with the savings, the new space you can expand in to with the savings, etc.) Start to make it real, and it will be real before you know it.

2) Focus and Prioritize. Michael Hyatt suggests you ask yourself this question every day: “What has to be real today for me to take a massive step towards __(fill in your goal or outcome)___. Then follow through on the answer. Whatever has to be true, make it true. Whatever is in your way, get creative and get it out of your way. Use your answer to this question to stay focused on what has to happen, every day, to achieve the results you want.

3) Calculate the Cost of Doing Nothing. It’s easy to think that doing nothing has no consequence, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Delaying action does have a cost, and figuring out what that is might be motivation enough to kick things in gear. Ken Blanchard offers a Cost of Doing Nothing Calculator that helps bring this to life. The back of an envelope works well too.

4) Get Accountable. Ask a friend to hold you accountable for doing what needs to be done. Set meeting times. Have them call to check in. Set deadlines and due dates. How much do you get done right before you leave for vacation? A LOT. Use this principle to make things happen all the time, not just before vacation time.

5) Dive Deep. Reflect on what’s really holding you back – what’s really keeping you from taking action? Is it fear of failure? Fear of looking silly or foolish? Fear of getting yelled at or causing conflict? Pride? Lack of confidence? Identify the “it” and then get rid of “it.” Start by writing down all the reasons you’re not taking action. Then work to prove them true. Find evidence, like an investigator working to solve a mystery. Prove the fear true beyond a reasonable doubt. For most, this will be impossible. Our fears tend to be irrational. They tend to be based on our perceptions and not reality. So, proving them real is very, very hard. Once you realize it’s not true, it can no longer stop you.


The time is now! Tomorrow is today. JUST DO IT!


We ARE Our Own Worst Enemy… Here’s 3 Ways To Stop The Cycle.

A client sent us this piece a couple of weeks ago. It made a connection with him – and us – shining a light on one of the biggest problems we all face every day.


We ARE our own worst enemy. 


We get wrapped up in the weeds, the daily battles, the fires that are right in front of us. We tackle each day hour-by-hour…minute-by-minute…meeting-to-meeting. Never allowing a second to take in the bigger picture.


We just don’t have time, and making time is looked down upon.


Here are 3 ideas to help you stop fighting the fires right in front of you so you can focus on the source of the blaze.


IDEA 1: Get Sticky. Use sticky notes to capture the fires you deal with every day for a week. Caution: Doing this is eye-opening…you’ll probably be surprised how many issues you’re really dealing with every day.

Step 1: Capture ONE fire or problem per sticky note. If you knock out a problem during a conference call, capture the problem on a sticky note. If three problems, challenges, or roadblocks come up during a meeting, capture each on a sticky note.

Step 2: Put all the sticky notes up on your wall, window, or whiteboard – it doesn’t matter where you post them as long as you can see them all at the same time.

Step 3: Read the Tea Leaves. Take a few steps back from your display (yes, literally, take 2-3 steps back) and look at all the sticky notes. Start reading each one as you scan from left to right. Allow your brain to see the patterns that exist.

Step 4: Group related sticky notes together. If three problems occurred because a machine went down, group them together. If five problems popped up because a team member left unexpectedly, group them together.

Step 5: Find the source and take action. What’s the one thing all these smaller issues and problems share? Find this, and get rid of it – eliminating problems big and small once and for all.

Unsure if this will work? Or, maybe you’re thinking it’s not worth the time… Visionary leaders like Steve Jobs and Michael Dell have used this approach to fuel their success throughout their careers. Jobs tapped his ability to put patterns together and predict trends using meditation. Dell uses the sticky note method (outlined above) to help his more logical/rational brain make the connections.


IDEA 2: Tackle one BIG thing every day. Let’s face it – the little stuff is great. It’s easy to dive in to, it makes you feel good because you are getting stuff done, and it’s easier to fit into your “always available” schedule.

Charles Schwab takes a different approach to his days, and it pays off in big ways. Schwab takes 15 minutes at the end of each day to write down the 5 most important things he must get done the next day. He then puts the most important action in the #1 spot.

When he returns the next day, he knows exactly where to start his day…and does nothing else until that most important action is complete. If it takes him all day, that’s fine. He moves the remaining 4 items to the next day, adds a fifth, marks one as most important, and begins again.

It’s effective because it’s a process. It’s great because it allows you to get in a rhythm (which our brains really like), to prioritize your most important work, and drive action not activity. 


IDEA 3: Define your time. We know this is best, but making it happen is a real challenge. (It’s kinda like eating healthy…we know it’s best, but making healthy choices all day, every day is challenging for many.) Here are a few simple changes you can make that can make a big difference:

  • Schedule your most important action items to begin 2 hours after you wake. Why? This is when our brains are at their best. Continue to align actions that require a lot of thought with your other high energy times throughout your day. Do the same with low energy times and activities…which brings us to
  • Deal with email TWICE a day. Emailing is a low energy activity – one that doesn’t require intense thought for a long time. Match up your email times with your low energy times. 10a and 3p are low energy times for many people, making them good starting points.
  • Work for 52 minutes without stopping/interruption, then take a break for 17 minutes. The research is pretty clear here – people who follow this approach are more productive, more focused, and more creative. Get your timer ready and give it a go..see if you get more done by making this one simple change.
  • Check for alignment. Do your actions support your goals? 80% or more of most people’s daily work actions do not align with their stated goals. Check all your actions by asking, “will what I’m about to do get me closer to achieving my goals?” If the answer is “yes,” keep going. If not, well, you know what to do.


Our brain is a powerful super-computer – making more than 35,000 decisions every day (more than 225* of these are about food alone according to researchers from Cornell). Why do we focus on the little things? Because the little things used to save our lives. A twitch of a leaf, or a new scent could indicate a predator. Constantly scanning the woods helped us find the safest path. But today, these old brain patterns often cause more harm than good.

Why are we so often our own worst enemy? Because we’re hard-wired to make lots of little decisions based on the information we have, and that’s exactly what your brain will do all day, every day…unless you take action to change your brain game.


Have tips and ideas for focusing on big issues instead of little actions? Share them in the comments. We’re always looking for ways to improve!


*Research Citation: Wansink, Brian and Jeffrey Sobal (2007), “Mindless Eating: The 200 Daily Food Decisions We Overlook,” Environment and Behavior 39:1, 106-123


5 Reasons Managing All-Stars Can Be A Major League Pain…And What To Do About It
You Are Not Made To Be Fearful
3 People Problems Great Leaders Master
4C Experiences Positive, Lasting Change
The REAL War for Talent – Are You Battle Ready?


You Are Not Made To Be Fearful

You are not made to be fearful.

You are made to be amazing.

You are made to go. To learn. To grow.

You are made different, to make a difference.

You exist to put yourself out there.

To fall down.

To get up.

To keep going. No matter what.

Never forget why you were made.

Never forget how strong you are.

You got this.