Book Summary of ‘Sales Growth’​ by Thomas Baumgartner

Marc Benioff knows a thing or two about sales. He visits and meets with thousands of sales executives every year in his role as Chairman & CEO of salesforce.com. In the foreword of the book Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World’s Sales Leaders, Benioff is surprised that there isn’t more rigorous research in the field of sales. Incredibly, he says, “MBA students can graduate without ever attending a class in sales.”

A team of global leaders from McKinsey’s Sales & Marketing practice led comprehensive research and interviews with more than 120 of today’s most successful sales leaders across a wide range of industries. The results led to Sales Growth, one of the first comprehensive books on the discipline of sales management.

Read this book and you’ll learn about five strategies that the world’s best sales practitioners use to create growth in any market.

Strategy #1: Find Growth Before Your Competitors Do

The first way to find growth before your competitors do is to look 10 quarters ahead to find out what the market will want.

There’s a well-known quote by Wayne Gretzky, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.” In order to do this well, you’ll need to “surf the trends” and see where your market is heading. Of course, you will need to invest in the appropriate resources in order to take advantage of the demand when it hits.

You should be looking at technological, political, geographical, and regulatory trends. For instance, cloud computing is estimated to be worth $65-$85 billion by 2015, so one opportunity would be to target small businesses with a pay-as-you-go model for online software.

The second thing you can do to find growth before your competitors is to “mine growth beneath the surface.”

In essence, this is all about turning on the microscope to find small pockets of growth that collectively deliver real impact. For instance, a European telecommunications company broke down its 15 traditional sales regions into 500 micro-markets. This exercise made it very clear that it was under-investing in areas that were prime candidates for significant growth, and over-investing in areas where its returns would be much lower.

However, if you want to start analysing your markets in this sort of microscopic detail, your sales force will need assistance from other teams, including marketing, and even customer service in order to execute effectively. For instance, your marketing team might need to transfer some of its spend to markets where there is more growth opportunity.

The third thing you can do is to “find growth in big data.”

Making the most of big data means doing much more than analyzing the information contained in your CRM. It includes looking at data from your company, your suppliers, partners, and even your customers’ social media accounts.

When you start looking at all the sources of data in your decision making process, you find growth potential in unexpected places. For instance, a marketing executive at Google noticed that the colour of the links in the Gmail ads was different from the colour of ads on the Google search engine. The company tested 40 different shades of blue to see which link colour would generate the most revenue. The results were staggering. The winning blue collar added $200 million in revenue to Google’s coffers.

Strategy #2: Sell the Way Your Customers Want

How do your customers want to buy from you? The answer to this question is not as simple as it once was given the dramatic changes that the Internet and social media are driving

The first thing you can do to sell the way your customers want is to “master multichannel sales.”

This goes beyond the traditional understanding of multichannel, which typically assigns lower-value customers to low-cost channels such as the web and telesales, and directs bigger customers to more expensive channels, specifically, face-to-face direct sales.

In the new world of sales, leading companies understand that more important customers might have smaller needs that risk being unfulfilled because sales reps simply couldn’t afford to spend time on them. The implication is that you might consider pairing up an inside sales rep with each field sales rep. One company reaped a sales force productivity increase of 14% just from this simple change.

Of course, to master multichannel sales you also have to integrate online and offline experiences. The key here is to truly understand what your customer’s decision journey is. For instance, in the case of a car dealership, customers will probably want to research models and prices online, before they head in to the dealership for a test drive.

The second thing you can do to sell the way your customers want is to “power growth through digital sales.”

As the authors point out, more than two-thirds of all sales today involve some sort of online research, consideration, or the purchase. This proportion will only grow with time, and there are two specific ways to generate sales growth from this trend: optimise fanatically and get social.

Online optimisation is a huge topic with many facets. One of them is conversion rate optimisation through A/B or multivariate testing. A powerful example is this when upscale shirtmaker Thomas Pink learned through testing that adding product videos to its website doubled conversions compared to static images. You also need to start thinking seriously about investing in a great mobile web experience, as more and more people use their mobile device to shop online.

Getting social means that you need to start thinking about how you engage your customers and prospects through the various social networks. Although it’s still “early days” for many B2B marketers, the best performers are finding growth by running test campaigns through social media.

The third lesson the authors drew from leading sales executives was “innovating direct sales.”

This means doing things a little bit differently from your competition. For instance, sales leaders have found that by engaging customers early, and by not mentioning their products in these early discussions, they were able to generate higher levels of sales.

These early discussions instead focused on collaborative problem-solving of the customer’s specific business issue. Another finding was that companies who had more experts on hand as part of the sales process, sold more.

There are plenty of other options for selling the way your customers want: orchestrating direct and indirect channels, investing in partners for mutual profit, and selling like a local in emerging markets. If you want a more in-depth look at these elements, you can read more in the complete version of the Sales Growth book.

Strategy #3: Soup Up Your Sales Engine

“Souping up your sales engine” is all about designing sales processes that support your sales team.

The first thing you can do to turbo charge your sales engine is “tune your sales operations for growth.”

This means unearthing every opportunity to let your sales teams use more of their time to sell. That might seem simple enough, but if you haven’t looked at how your reps are spending their time lately, you might be in for a surprise.

A logistics company found that its sales reps were spending only 35% of their time actively selling. The rest of their time they were having to deal with other issues such as billing systems updates, internal communications and firefighting. Once the company understood this state of affairs, it implemented solutions to cut down on non-sales related activities, and voila – instant sales growth.

The second thing you can do to soup up your sales engine is to “build a technological advantage in sales.”

As the authors explain, putting the right insights into the right person’s hands at the right time can be enormously valuable. One company was able to help its reps automatically map their daily travel plans to enable them to make the best use of their time.

The technology looked at traffic patterns and the store hours of their retail customers and then automatically generated a map for them to follow. Not only did the reps not have to spend too much time mapping out their day, they were also able to travel much more efficiently and spend more of their time actually selling.

You should also enable your channel partners to take advantage of these insights. For example, Cisco developed communication tools for its own reps, and then opened them up to its channel partners so that they could take advantage of them as well.

Strategy #4: Focus on Your People

Of course, with all of this focus on technology and strategy, it’s easy to forget that we are also dealing with human beings. So, it makes sense that you also need to focus on your people in order to create sales growth.

The first thing you can do to is to “manage performance for growth.” There’s a difference between managing a sales team in the traditional way, and managing a sales team to engineer growth. To do the latter properly, you need to create a mindset shift in a few key areas.

First, you need to “coach rookies to become rainmakers” – as quickly as possible.

Traditional thinking was that “coaching” was a nice-to-have. Wrong. Sales growth thinking makes it a core competence of your team. Through the research the authors carried out, they found that a structured coaching program with weekly contact between the coach and sales rep was critically important. One industrial company has what it calls an 80/80 rule: sales managers are required to spend 80% of their time with their reps, and 80% of their variable compensation is tied to that coaching.

Second, you need to set the tempo of performance.

As the head of advisor sales at a US financial services firm says, “Great sales leaders run their operations with the precision of an engineering firm.” One pattern that emerged from the authors’ research was a high pace of reporting. Sales reps report to managers, managers report to executives, and the sales executives report to the CEO – every single week. Those calls are used to address issues and to put in place corrective actions.

Third, you need to recognise that it’s not just about pay.

Non-cash rewards can be a powerful incentive – up to four times more effective than cash rewards, if designed correctly. Even perks as simple as tickets to your team’s favourite sporting events can be a more powerful motivator than extra money in reps’ pockets. And, believe it or not, extra training for your team can also be considered a powerful motivator.

It’s one thing to create the mindset shifts we’ve just described, but it’s another to make them stick for the long haul. The authors found that it’s bolstered by going a level deeper. “Building sales DNA.” is critical.

The key to embedding these concepts is to encode the behaviour you know will be successful (such as those weekly meetings) into your team’s daily, weekly and monthly routines. After all, as the authors state, adults need to apply a new skill at least 20 times before it will stick.

The final item to pay attention to when creating long-term change is to give your middle managers a starring role.

Too often, companies underinvest in front-line managers, who can easily make or break any change effort.

Strategy #5: Lead Sales Growth

The final section of the book starts off with a great quote by Albert Einstein, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it’s the only way.”

The only way to generate the growth that you and your team are looking for is to drive it from the very top. As the authors point out, transformations of all kinds are two and a half times more likely to succeed if they have strong leadership commitment.

The most successful leaders focus on a few specific things in order to make this happen.

First, they challenge the status quo.

If there’s one thing that’s certain in your drive for growth, it’s that you’ll meet resistance from your team. By having the courage to insist that you and your entire team always challenge convention – always question the “but we’ve always done it that way” mentality, you’ll be ensuring the long-term growth of your sales team. Second, leaders galvanise sales teams.

You will need your team’s buy-in over the long run if you want your sales growth program to succeed. To get that, you need to paint a simple and compelling vision of the future. One CEO created a video highlighting the vision for the company that brought tears to their sales executives eyes (seriously). That’s the type of vision that you need to create. Lastly, leaders need to demand results.

Sales growth leaders know that in order to generate results, you need to be very specific about what you’re trying to achieve. First, be crystal clear on who is responsible for the growth plan. Second, be willing to move talent around to deliver results – ultimately rewarding those who produce results by setting them up to achieve even more.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.

Book Summary of ‘Great by Choice’ by Jim Collins

Introduction

It’s 1912 and Raold Amundsden and Robert Scott are in a race to the South Pole. In a story seemingly designed perfectly to illustrate the difference between thinking that will lead to success and thinking that will lead to failure.

Amundsden’s team makes it to the South Pole first, and make it back alive to tell the story. Scott’s team, on the other hand, are less fortunate. They make it to the South Pole weeks later, only to find Amundsden’s team had planted a flag to mark the occasion. They struggled mightily on the trip back, eventually succumbing to the elements and perishing on their way back to civilisation.

The details of this incredible story seem to mimic the findings of Jim Collins’ research in his current book, Great by Choice. When Jim Collins wrote his best-selling book, Good to Great, he became an instant business hero. Executives from around the world aspired to be Level 5 leaders and focused intently on finding their hedgehog concepts.

But there was a question that remained unanswered: in a world that is increasingly in financial turmoil and constant change, how do you succeed? In a methodology similar to Good to Great, Collins and his team studied companies that were in industries where there was a constant state of change, and found that there were some companies that outperformed the marketplace by a significant margin.

He called these the 10x companies, because they all had outperformed their “industry index” by more than 10 times over the span of the study. In fact, on average, the 10x companies outperformed the marketplace as a whole by 32 times.

If it sounds to you like these would be some good companies to learn from, you’d be right. What Collins and his team concluded was that there were 4 main attributes of a 10x company – fanatical discipline, empirical creativity, productive paranoia and Level 5 ambition. In the following few minutes, you’ll find the keys to becoming more like Amundsden and less like Scott.

Attribute #1 – Fanatical Discipline

The first attribute of a 10x company is that they have fanatical discipline. Collin’s gives us the metaphor of the 20 mile march. Starting out on a cross-country journey, the metaphor goes, you’d be much better off walking 20 miles per day consistently than walking much more on the good days and much less on the bad days.

In business, the 10x companies realised that a similar principle applied – that you should do whatever you need to do in order to get results in the down years, and resist the urge to grow too wildly in the up years.

A great example of a company that has done the 20-mile march consistently is Southwest Airlines – the celebrated anomoly of the dreaded airline industry. Southwest demanded a profit from its business every single year.

For entrepreneurs, this sounds obvious. But in the airline industry, which was losing $13 billion per year, this is a remarkable thought. Even in the months after 9/11, when the industry was in shambles, Southwest was turning record profits.

They also excelled at the flip side of the 20-mile march, and controlled their growth in the up years. In 1996, for instance, there were over 100 cities who wanted Southwest to open operations there. Instead, they took a methodical approach and expanded to only 4 cities.

If you want to bring the 20-mile march to your organisation, here are the 7 elements you can learn from:

1. You should use performance markers to deliniate lower bounds of performance you are willing to tolerate. It should be difficult to achieve, but not impossible.

2. You also need to create self-imposed constraints to understand how much you are willing to grow in the good times. This should create some discomfort as well – there should be the feeling that you should be doing more and growing faster. It takes discipline to look at opportunities and turn them down – a lesson that Starbucks and many other fast growing companies learned the hard way.

3. These constraints should be tailored to the specific circumstances of your company and market environment. For instance, a web company has different growth challenges than a coffee chain. Setting those upper and lower bounds appropriately is critical.

4. These targets should be largely within your control to achieve. Could those other airlines have set up their businesses so that they achieved profitability every single year? Yes, but it would have took some significant planning and preparation like Southwest did.

5. You need to be thinking about the ‘Goldilocks’ time frame when setting these bounds – not too long and not too short. If you make the timeline too short you’ll be forced to deal with too much variability, and set it too long and will lose all its power. A year worked for Southwest, and something that’s a year or less is probably the range you want to be hunting for.

6. These bounds should be designed and self-imposed by you, and not by outside forces or circumstances. For instance, if you are in a public company, choosing a bound for what your earnings per share need to be every quarter would be a lazy choice driven by the demands of Wall Street. Choose a performance marker that is a true reflection of the underlying business instead.

7. Lastly, the march needs to be achieved with a great consistency over time. Hitting it every once in a while just doesn’t cut it. It’s the discipline to hit it time and time again that will determine your long-term success.

Attribute #2:Fire bullets, then cannonballs.

It’s a great metaphor for the process of creative experimentation and planning that seems to be popular with web startups, but I bet that will now also become more popular with the mainstream business community.

The idea is that if you were down to your last bit of gun powder, and had an enemy ship bearing down on you, you’d need to be judicious in your use of last reserves. Take it all and fire a cannonball, and the chances are that you are going to miss, and perish. But fire bullets first instead, and sooner or later you are going to find the right trajectory for your shots. Then, and only then should you load up the cannonball and take your shot.

Collins defines a bullet in the business context to be something that is:

1. Low cost – it shouldn’t cost you a lot of money to fire a bullet.

2. Low risk – the result, one way or another, shouldn’t have a major impact on your business.

3. Low distraction – it shouldn’t take much time away from the other major priorities the company has at the moment.

There are 5 steps to the process:

1. Fire a bullet. Make a hypothesis about a goal you are trying to achieve.

2. Assess whether or not you hit anything. Was your hypothesis correct?

3. Consider whether or not it’s worthwhile turning this bullet into a cannonball. This will depend largely on whether or not additional resources and money would lead to a big win for your company.

4. Convert it into a cannonball once you are convinced that you have calibrated the bullet correctly.

5. Terminate bullets that show no evidence of eventual success.

Attribute #3 – Productive Paranoia

It’s a great metaphor for the process of creative experimentation and planning that seems to be popular with web startups, but I bet that will now also become more popular with the mainstream business community.

Although Apple usually serves as a great example of creativity and hit products, the underlying story shows a great discipline in creating bullets, then cannonballs. It kept making investments in its’ “computer as the digital hub” strategy, first with the iPod, then iTunes as a platform and then the iPhone.

What the world saw as breathtaking innovation and big bets, Apple saw itself firing bullets and then turning them into cannonballs after they were sure that they were going to be a huge success.

All of the 10x companies seemed to be paranoid about something. But instead of acting like crazy people on the lookout for the next government conspiracy, they always have one eye out for the risks that could bring their companies down.

One of the things that each of the leaders of the 10x companies knew at all times was where their “death line” was, and they devised strategies for making sure they never got close to it. They knew that their company, like all companies, would run into a rough patch or ten along the way.

As the saying goes, you can afford to stay in business for as long as you can keep paying for your mistakes – once you cross the death line, that’s it. Game over.

There were 3 specific things that each of these companies did:

1. They had enough cash on hand to make sure they were prepared for any unforeseen events or bad luck before it happened. There’s a lot of bruhaha right now about the fact that Apple has tens of billions of dollars in cash reserves at the moment and that it’s an inefficient use of their money. But one thing is for sure – they are prepared for almost anything. And that economists and financial analysts for the most part don’t know what they are talking about.

2. They bound the risk they are willing to take on. Specifically, they pay attention to 3 kinds of risk – deathline risk, asymmetric risk (where the downside is much, much greater than the upside), and uncontrollable risk. Only when they were comfortable with the risk they were taking on, would they move forward with a plan.

3. They zoom-in and zoom-out. In zooming out, they would sense a change in the marketplace, determine how long they had in order to respond to the change, and then take the appropriate action. By zooming in, they would focus on the extreme execution of plans and objectives.

The big question that they ask themselves is “how much time until our risk profile changes here?” A great case study of this is action is what Andy Grove did when he found out he had cancer. As stunning as this would be for anybody, Andy did something that most people wouldn’t even think to do in this situation – he sprung into action.

He knew that he had months before any major decision needed to be made about what course of treatment to pursue, and he took that time to assess all of his options. He saw himself as the only person responsible for his health, and studied enough about his cancer and possible treatments that he could have probably passed a medical school exam. All the while running Intel.

That’s the hallmark of a great leader – truly understanding the timeframe in which you need to make a major decision, and then using that time to prepare yourself appropriately.

Attribute #4: Level 5 Ambition

Just like the leaders in Good to Great displayed Level 5 leadership (humility paired with professional will), the 10x leaders displayed a desire for their companies to succeed even beyond their tenure. The way they did this is through something that Collins calls SMaC. These are Specific, Methodical and Consistent operating principles as a recipe for success.

This is much different than core values or mission statements, because these are specific criteria for how they will run their company.

A great example of this was Southwest and how they ran their airline much differently than the other carriers. For instance, they only flew 737 airplanes so they could save costs and time by learning how to maintain and fly one model of airplane. They would remain a low cost carrier.

They would always have a high utilisation rate and low turnaround time for their aircraft. As Collins pointed out, Southwest only changed their SMaC by 20% over a 25 year period. That’s quite remarkable when you think about it.

And the other 10x companies operated in a similar fashion. By having a business strategy that was articulated and that could stand the test of time, they were able to focus their attention on the execution of these plans. Of course, even when the companies did amend their SMaCs, they did it with either empirical creativity or productive paranoia, only changing direction when they absolutely needed to, or when they could prove that it would be a home-run.

There you have it: everything you need in order to start your own 10x journey!

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.

Book Summary of ‘First, Break All The Rules’ by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman

Over the last twenty years, managers have come to realise that competitiveness depends on being able to find and keep talent. They have started to realise that whatever the role a person has, their most valuable assets lie between the ears: their talent.

So how does a manager attract and retain talent? According to Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman they must First, Break All the Rules. Find out why and what we should break to do what great managers do differently.

Lesson 1: The Defining Dozen

Buckingham and Coffman spent a significant amount of time interviewing great managers and researching leading companies to distil the essence of a great workplace. What did they find?

By considering the answers to twelve questions, an organisation can measure where it is on the scale regarding their ability to attract and retain talent. These questions don’t necessarily give a recipe, but what they do is cover the key elements. The questions are:

Do I know what is expected of me at work?

  • Do I have the right materials and equipment I need to do my work properly?
  • At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  • In the last 7 days have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  • Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  • Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  • At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  • Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important?
  • Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  • Do I have a best friend at work?
  • In the last 6 months, have I talked with someone at work about my progress?
  • At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?

By considering these twelve questions alone we have probably enough to focus on and start revising our talent retention strategy. But that’s only the first 30 pages of the book. Buckingham and Coffman offer much more. Let’s press on.

Lesson 2: Climb Every Mountain

Buckingham and Coffman don’t suggest that we are going to be in a position to address all of the 12 challenges in one go. They compare progress towards creating positive answers for the 12 questions to climbing a mountain, and that aligning our companies to the questions is a journey.

The first stage is Base Camp and fundamentally helping our staff understand what the expectations of working for us are. What are they expected to do? How much can they expect to earn? Can they expect an office, a desk, a workstation? Effectively they ask: “What do I get?”, aligning to the first two questions.

The second stage is Camp 1. Having settled into the role, staff begin to ask different questions. Are they doing good work? Are they in a job where they can excel? Do others recognise this? Will others help them get better? They focus on their individual contribution.

This aligns to questions 3, 4, 5 and 6. Next it’s Camp 2. It’s all about belonging. They are comfortable with their contribution but does this really align to the company? Are co-workers similarly committed? Can the company offer support for the long game or do they need to move on? Here questions 7,8, 9 and 10 are addressed.

Camp 3 beckons and the summit is in sight. Here it’s all about teamwork – pulling together in the same common and forward moving direction. It leads to innovation, building in growth for self and company.

The last two questions, 11 and 12 are raised. With positive answers to all 12 questions the summit has been reached. Focus is clear. Staff feel a sense of achievement, of belonging, of being “in the zone” at work. It’s a great place to work, with a great manager. So how does a great manager create this feeling? According to Buckingham and Coffman they apply four skills, four rule-breaking actions.

Lesson 3: Key #1: Select for Talent

Traditional managerial convention says that when we are recruiting we should select a person based on their experience, intelligence and determination. Buckingham and Coffman say: BREAK THIS RULE! Great managers select for talent.

Great managers disagree with the common definition of talent. It is too narrow. In their mind, talent is a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behaviour that can be productively applied. The right talent is fundamental – much more than experience, much more than brainpower, much more than will power. We need to nurture talent to succeed.

Skills and knowledge can be easily taught. Talent cannot. Skills are the how-to’s of a role. They are traits that can be passed from one person to another.

Buckingham and Coffman break talent into three categories. Striving talents – the “why” of a person. Why they do things, their drive, why they are who they are. Thinking talents – the “how” of a person. How they think, how they rationalise decisions, their values. Relating talents – the “who” of a person. Who they trust, who they confront, who they ignore.

As a manager we need to know the talents we want. At selection time we need to look beyond the job title and description. Which talent is more aligned to our needs? Are we looking for drive – then striving talent is our target. Are we looking for logic? Thinking talent is best. Are we looking for communication? Choose someone with relating talent.

We need to think about how the person will fit into our organisational culture. Different companies require different talent types. We need to think of our team. Where is their talent alignment? Where is the talent gap?

It’s not easy. Talent spotting is a talent itself. To help, Buckingham and Coffman suggest we identify the one critical factor relating to each of the three talent categories and focus on them during selection. We should structure our interview technique around seeking out those who hold the right blend.

Lesson 4: Key #2: Define the Right Outcomes

Managerial convention also states that when setting expectations we should first define the right steps. Break this rule, too. Great managers define the right outcomes.

As a manager we may think we are in control, but we’re not. Our staff, the people who report to us have more. They can ultimately decide what they will do and how they will perform. So how can we maintain direction and performance?

Buckingham and Coffman tell us that great managers define the outcomes – what they want to happen – then let their staff decide how to get there. A side benefit of this approach is that staff take on responsibility. By making the choice of how things will be done they are accountable for the outcomes.

Letting staff take on responsibility does not mean we have to relinquish everything. Buckingham and Coffman give us “Rules of Thumb” to follow.

Rule of thumb #1: Don’t risk it. Employees must follow certain required steps for all aspects of their role that involves accuracy or safety.

Rule of thumb #2: Standards rule. Employees must follow required steps when those steps are a part of a company or industry standard.

Rule of thumb #3: Don’t let creed overshadow the message. Required steps are useful only if they do not obscure the desired outcome.

Rule of thumb #4: There are no steps leading to customer satisfaction. Required steps only prevent dis-satisfaction. They cannot drive customer satisfaction.

All of these rules create a framework to allow a focus on outcomes. They identify what must remain and what can be given away in the process of achieving the desired outcome.

Lesson 5: Key #3: Focus on Strengths

Managerial convention states that when motivating a person we should help them identify and overcome their weaknesses. Break this rule. Great managers focus on strengths.

Good managers don’t try to fix weaknesses. Good managers have recognised the unique talents of individuals and therefore focus on the strengths these bring and work around the weaknesses. Great managers build roles for people around their strengths, not around organisational hierarchies.

This means that staff can focus on what they are wired to do. If we want to be a great manager we must openly discuss ‘strength exploitation’ with our staff. We need to sit down with them and say things like: “Bob – you are good with words, I want you to be our marketing copywriter”.

Treat people as you want to be treated. We’ve all heard that guidance many times. Great managers ignore it. They recognise that behind the statement is conformity. Making everyone similar. It also implies that we know best. But are we better than everyone else in each of their roles? I doubt it.

Great managers treat staff as the staff wants to be treated. When a great manager sits down with a staff member, they are not fixing or correcting, they are looking for ways to further exploit the individual’s talent. They seek to highlight and perfect the individual’s unique style. They seek to create ways to help the individual avoid interference and help them focus on their strengths.

Lesson 6: Key #4: Find the Right Fit

Managerial convention states that when developing a person we should help them learn and get promoted. Break this rule. Great managers help find the right fit.

At some point in their employment a staff member will ask their manager: “What’s next for me? Where do I go from here?” Great managers help staff find roles that further expand what they are good at. What a manager should not do is promote to fill gaps in an org chart. Frequently, good workers don’t make good supervisors.

Great managers are good at feedback. They don’t leave it to an annual performance review. After all, they are always on the lookout for better ways to exploit strengths so feedback is constant. As a result, great managers are always aware where the next opportunity will come.

Their role is not to protect the organisation by pigeon-holing staff. What they strive to do is better the best. A great manager puts their staff on the right path and simply gets out of the way.

So there we have it. Twelve questions, five levels, and four keys to breaking lots of rules, and building better teams.

Let me know your thoughts….

Book Summary of ‘The Fish That Ate The Whale’ by Rich Cohen

Sam Zemurray – The Banana Man – represents the best and worst of the American dream. A Russian immigrant who came to America with nothing, he created a vast business empire through insight, determination, and shrewd business practices. But there are unsavoury parts to his story as well, which finds him personally spearheading a coup d’etat in Honduras so his empire could grow unimpeded.

As Rich Cohen describes in The Fish That Ate The Whale, Zemurray’s legacy doesn’t represent what most of us would think of as a “business hero”. But as Cohen points out, the lives of “great men” rarely do.

But buried in the story of The Banana Man are leadership and business lessons that we would all do well to incorporate into our daily practice – especially for entrepreneurs who are just starting their journey.

Here are 4 of them.

Lesson #1: Find value where others see waste

As I’m writing this I’m staring at a bowl of bananas, and completely taking it for granted. They are yellow, and are just starting to get the little brown freckles that let you know that when you take the peel off you’ll be sinking your teeth into the world’s most delicious fruit.

Back in 1895, moving bananas from the Caribbean to the United States was a little bit of a hassle. They arrived by boat and were loaded onto trains that would deliver them – very slowly – to their intended destinations. They would then be loaded onto cart and buggy, taken to a warehouse, where they would then be sold to local stores.

Back then, the appearance of those brown freckles by the time they got to the port meant that they wouldn’t survive to the end destination. Zemurray would watch in astonishment as up to 25% of the entire haul was set aside to rot in landfills in Mobile Alabama – the port city closest to his home in Selma.

He knew that if he could figure out a way to get the “ripes” (what they called the freckled bananas) to the end destination sooner, he could carve out a niche for himself and be successful.

This is exactly the path that Clay Christensen describes in the Innovator’s Dilemma – Zemurray was coming in at the bottom of the market where the big boys didn’t want to play – where the margins are small and the work is difficult.

This was Zemurray’s first step to becoming known around the world as The Banana Man.

He bought the bananas that the fruit company was going to throw out, and figured out a way to sell the bananas directly from the train as it was passing through the numerous towns on the way to the final destination.

Lesson #2: Find your way with what you have

When you are starting out like Zemurray did, you don’t have access to the capital required to compete with the big boys. In those days, you needed to own the land, pay the labourers, have ships to transport your crops, and own railway cars to get the crop to it’s final destination. None of which Zemurray could afford.

But if you flip this around and look at it from Zemurray’s perspective, it seems like he’s getting into the easiest business ever created. The fruit was grown for him, harvested and shipped for free. Everything else he needed could be rented as required, so there were no on-going capital costs needed for him to start.

At the same time, he did whatever he needed to do in order to help grow his business – including finding other jobs when there were slow periods at the beginning.

The lesson here is that being a leader and entrepreneur often means making the most out of what resources are at your disposal. The successful ones don’t wait for adequate resources to show up at their front door – because they know that they never do.

Zemurray used this scrappy “can-do” attitude to become a millionaire by the time he was 21 years old.

Lesson #3: Act quickly and creatively

Eventually, Zemurray had squeezed all of what he could out of the “ripes” market. He had become one of the world’s largest traffickers of bananas, and turned his sights on competing with the big boys by purchasing his own land and producing his own crops.

By far the largest company in the banana business at the time was United Fruit. It grew and shipped over 90% of the world’s bananas.

Zemurray and United Fruit both wanted to purchase a piece of fertile land that was on the border of both Honduras and Guatemala. They discovered during the process that there seemed to be two rightful owners of the land – one of them in Honduras and one of them in Guatemala.

This seemed to make things confusing for United Fruit, who had their lawyers working overtime to figure out the best way to approach the situation.

While that was going on, Zemurray purchased the land twice – once from each of the owners.

This story is a reminder that no matter how large or successful you become, that thinking like a creative entrepreneur will always leave you one step ahead of your competitors.

Speed and creative thinking matters.

Lesson #4: Stay close to the action

Zemurray got his start in the banana business because he was close to the action and paid attention to the details. And that’s exactly how he liked to operate his business as well.

For instance, when he finally got into the banana growing business, he moved to Honduras and worked the jobs his regular labourers worked so that he would know everything about the business.

This approach helped him succeed in running a much larger company as well. In 1930 he sold his company to United Fruit for $31.5 million in stock (worth about $428 million today), and then retired. But as the Great Depression raged on, the company’s stock took a nose dive and lost nearly 90% of the value it had at the time Zemurray sold.

That obviously didn’t sit well with him, so he bought up a controlling stake in United and made himself the President of the company.

The depression was ravaging the company, and the board of directors hired a slew of consultants and economists to try and figure out what to do to turn the company around. Rather than listen to the economists and their projections, he instead went down to the docks in New Orleans, where he grilled the captains of his ships and the workers who understood what was happening on the front lines.

Finding the answers he needed to turn the company around, he promptly fired the board of directors, decentralised decision making and made the company profitable again.

The lesson? You can’t run your business unless you understand the details and stay close to the front lines.

So what are you going to do today?

Zemurray was a man of action, and if we want to follow in his footsteps, we need to be as well.

So before you head off with the rest of your day, think of one thing that Sam Zemurray would do differently if he were doing your job – and then go ahead and do that today.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.

Book Summary of ‘Obliquity’ by John Kay

Happiness is not achieved through the pursuit of happiness. The most profitable businesses are not the most profit-oriented. The wealthiest people are not those most assertive in the pursuit of wealth. The greatest paintings are not the most accurate representations of their subjects.

The consequences of our actions depend on the responses of other people, and these responses spring not just from our actions but from their perceptions of our motives for undertaking these actions. The economist and Financial Times columnist John Kay tells us the best approach is “Obliquity: Why Our Goals are Best Achieved Indirectly”.

Lesson 1: The Principle of Obliquity: Goals are often best achieved without intending them

In obliquity there are no predictable connections between intentions and outcomes. Oblique problem solvers do not evaluate all available alternatives: they make successive choices from a narrow range of options.

Good decision makers are eclectic and tend to regard consistency as a mark of stubbornness, or ideological blindness, rather than a virtue.

For example, Boeing created the most commercially successful aircraft company, not through love of profit, but through love of planes. Their oblique approach to profitability delivered spectacular results.

But the oblique approach did not meet the approval of the executive who decreed the company’s previous preoccupation with meeting ‘technological challenges of supreme magnitude’ would have to change. Directness would displace obliquity, ‘We are going into a value based environment where unit cost, return on investment and shareholder return are the measures by which you’ll be judged”, they said.

Consequently, Boeing’s civil order book fell behind that of Airbus, the European consortium and competitor (Note: the aims of Airbus were not initially commercial but, by oblique chance, Europe’s champion became a profitable business).

What was the market’s verdict of Boeing’s strategy and performance in terms of unit cost, return on investment and shareholder return? Their stock value dropped significantly. Fortunately, Boeing took note and successive executives once again emphasised the civil aviation focus.

By 2008, Boeing had regained its leading position in commercial aviation from Airbus and the share price returned to its earlier value. Shareholder value was most effectively created when sought obliquely.

Lesson 2: Greed is NOT Good.

Even among Wall Street traders and investment bankers, regularly identified as exemplars of greed, bonuses come to matter as much for the kudos they confer as the cash they generate. Why else would they be so obsessed by the sums paid to their colleagues and competitors?

But the direct pursuit of wealth, whether as an end in itself or for the possessions it brings, tends to damage both the individuals and organisations that seek it.

The popular TV show “The Apprentice” encourages its participants to engage in self-interested displays that in most contexts – including most business contexts – are not only offensive but counter-productive. Good TV, but not oblique.

We all know the famous quote of Gordon Gekko, the anti-hero of Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street: ‘Greed is good.’

Gekko was partly based on Ivan Boesky, a notorious corporate raider of the 1980s, who Kay explains, was reported as telling a class at Columbia: ‘I want you to know that I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.’ Soon after, Boesky went to prison, convicted of insider trading.

Nearly all failures of the recent economic downturn have involved corporate and financial sector greed – Citigroup, RBS, Bear Stearns and Lehman. The common feature of every one of these companies is that very large amounts of money were made by individuals while the business itself ultimately failed. A corporate culture that extols greed is, in the end, unable to protect itself against its own employees.

The motives that make for success in business are oblique : commitment to, and passion for, business, which is not at all the same as love of money – a lesson that we need to learn.

Lesson 3: Muddling Through

We might set out a plan for ourselves, setting out how actions and goals contribute to our objectives. But often we do better to approach the issue obliquely.

In 1959, Charles Lindblom Sterling Professor of Political Science and Economics at Yale University described ‘The Science of “Muddling Through”’. He contrasted two modes of decision making. The root, rational, comprehensive method was direct and involved a single comprehensive evaluation of all options in the light of defined objectives. The oblique approach – ‘Muddling through’ – was a process of ‘initially building out from the current situation, step-by-step and by small degrees’.

Lindblom’s thesis was that practical decision making is oblique. Such an approach, he says, involves no distinction between means and ends and limits analysis paralysis by problem simplification and ignoring many alternative options. We’ve all experienced frustration and delay caused by countless meetings and committees over analysing “what-ifs”. The oblique approach is an answer.

Kay suggests Picasso, Sam Walton, Warren Buffett each ‘muddled through’, in Lindblom’s sense. None relied on a root analysis of defined objectives. Each improvised, constantly. Each pursued a combination of high-level objectives, intermediate goals and basic actions. Each drastically limited the alternatives that were reviewed and relied on successive limited comparison rather than a comprehensive evaluation of all available options.

The creation of a sustainable business – a high-level objective – calls for achieving a variety of intermediate goals – profitability, good products, motivated employees, customer satisfaction. In turn, these goals require a series of actions – cost reduction, pricing policies, product launches.

Lesson 4: Profit is an oblique benefit

Profit is a fact. Or is it? If you look at a corporate annual report, you will find several different measures of profit. Shareholder value and return on investment are not the same thing, and neither is the same as profit as defined by any standard.

The maximisation of profit is never an item on a boardroom agenda. Board members address the problem of inadequate performance, discuss new products, express concern about the human resources of the business or the disappointing reactions of customers.

The executive manager pursues higher level objectives obliquely, and if successful they secure the continued viability of the business by constantly balancing the wide ranging components of business success.

What made Henry Ford, Walt Disney or Steve Jobs great businessmen was that they modified the rules by which their success, and the success of others in their industry, were measured. They changed our appreciation of what is good and bad in personal transport, in children’s entertainment and in computing. They sold us products we had not imagined.

No one will be buried with the epitaph ‘He maximized profit’. Kay suggests the epitaph of men such as Henry Ford, Walt Disney or Steve Jobs should read instead: ‘He built a great business, which made money for shareholders, gave rewarding employment, and stimulated the development of suppliers and distributors by meeting customers’ needs which they had not known they had before these men developed products to satisfy them.’

Lesson 5: Abstraction and Closure

Kay tells us, “All real problems are incompletely and imperfectly specified, and to tackle them we have to try to close them in some way. Closure means deciding what to bring in and what to leave out.”

Ford – who invented mass production – and Disney – who reinvented the cartoon – closed the problems they faced rather well. Among hundreds of automobile engineers and entrepreneurs, Ford created the product and business model that would be the basis of the greatest new industry of the twentieth century.

Disney demonstrated how the entertainment of children, which had occupied talented adults for centuries, could be turned into a commercial activity of global reach. That is how these men built great businesses and became very rich.

Abstraction is the process of turning complex problems we cannot completely describe into simpler ones that we can. But choosing which simplification is appropriate requires judgement and experience. Our simplifications are often personal and subjective.

The London Underground map is instantly recognisable. A map that is widely, and justifiably, regarded as an inspired piece of graphic design. The map has been reprinted thousands of times and has guided millions of users successfully to their destinations. But as any Londoner will confirm, it doesn’t represent reality. Maps are by design, simplified representations of complexity.

The usual form of abstraction in business is the model. Like maps, models are selective simplifications with associated risk. There is risk derived from the assumptions of the model: the known unknown. There is risk about the appropriateness of the model as a description of the world: the unknown unknown. When new data arrives we always have the problem of whether to treat it as new data about the parameters of the model or new data about the relevance of the model.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes how people in business and finance are repeatedly ‘fooled by randomness’, inferring skill from runs of success although neither statistical analysis nor conversation with them reveals evidence of such skill. The mistake is to make inferences about the relationships between outcomes and processes when we cannot observe and do not understand the processes themselves.

Lesson 6: The Hedgehog and the Fox

In a famous essay, Isaiah Berlin adopted Tolstoy’s distinction between the hedgehog – who knows one big thing – and the fox – who knows many little things. Hedgehogs move slowly and directly, while foxes move quickly and obliquely. There are important roles for both kinds of attribute.

Although the foxes perform better in terms of the quality of their judgements, the hedgehogs perform better in terms of public acclaim. Hedgehogs are people who know the answers. Foxes know the limitations of their knowledge. Hedgehogs create headlines for journalists, and their confident certainties attract the attention of politicians and business leaders.

Yet explicit hedgehogs who claim to predict the future will always attract a larger audience than eclectic foxes who acknowledge they can’t, even if the larger audience learns nothing useful from the predictions.

Winston Churchill, the hedgehog, won his place in history by being presciently and ultimately triumphantly right about one big thing – perhaps the biggest thing of the twentieth century. But as historians will tell you, on other matters his judgement was poor, the causes he pursued to the point of failure misconceived: the ill-fated Gallipoli expedition of 1915, his support of the deposed Edward VIII in 1936 and his stubborn resistance to Indian independence being examples.

So how do you recognise obliquity? Are you a fox or a hedgehog? The direct decision maker perceives a direct connection between intentions and outcomes; the oblique decision maker believes that the intention is neither necessary nor sufficient to secure the outcome.

The direct problem solver reviews all possible outcomes; the oblique problem solver chooses from a much more limited set. The direct problem solver assembles all available information; the oblique decision maker recognises the limits of his or her knowledge.

The direct decision maker maximises his or her objectives; the oblique decision maker is continuously adaptive.

The direct problem solver can always find an explanation for his or her choices; the oblique problem solver sometimes just finds the right answer.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. Leave me a comment if you do or don’t.

Book Summary of ‘The Fish That Ate The Whale’ by Rich Cohen

Sam Zemurray – The Banana Man – represents the best and worst of the American dream. A Russian immigrant who came to America with nothing, he created a vast business empire through insight, determination, and shrewd business practices. But there are unsavoury parts to his story as well, which finds him personally spearheading a coup d’etat in Honduras so his empire could grow unimpeded.

As Rich Cohen describes in The Fish That Ate The Whale, Zemurray’s legacy doesn’t represent what most of us would think of as a “business hero”. But as Cohen points out, the lives of “great men” rarely do.

But buried in the story of The Banana Man are leadership and business lessons that we would all do well to incorporate into our daily practice – especially for entrepreneurs who are just starting their journey.

Here are 4 of them.

Lesson #1: Find value where others see waste

As I’m writing this I’m staring at a bowl of bananas, and completely taking it for granted. They are yellow, and are just starting to get the little brown freckles that let you know that when you take the peel off you’ll be sinking your teeth into the world’s most delicious fruit.

Back in 1895, moving bananas from the Caribbean to the United States was a little bit of a hassle. They arrived by boat and were loaded onto trains that would deliver them – very slowly – to their intended destinations. They would then be loaded onto cart and buggy, taken to a warehouse, where they would then be sold to local stores.

Back then, the appearance of those brown freckles by the time they got to the port meant that they wouldn’t survive to the end destination. Zemurray would watch in astonishment as up to 25% of the entire haul was set aside to rot in landfills in Mobile Alabama – the port city closest to his home in Selma.

He knew that if he could figure out a way to get the “ripes” (what they called the freckled bananas) to the end destination sooner, he could carve out a niche for himself and be successful.

This is exactly the path that Clay Christensen describes in the Innovator’s Dilemma – Zemurray was coming in at the bottom of the market where the big boys didn’t want to play – where the margins are small and the work is difficult.

This was Zemurray’s first step to becoming known around the world as The Banana Man.

He bought the bananas that the fruit company was going to throw out, and figured out a way to sell the bananas directly from the train as it was passing through the numerous towns on the way to the final destination.

Lesson #2: Find your way with what you have

When you are starting out like Zemurray did, you don’t have access to the capital required to compete with the big boys. In those days, you needed to own the land, pay the labourers, have ships to transport your crops, and own railway cars to get the crop to it’s final destination. None of which Zemurray could afford.

But if you flip this around and look at it from Zemurray’s perspective, it seems like he’s getting into the easiest business ever created. The fruit was grown for him, harvested and shipped for free. Everything else he needed could be rented as required, so there were no on-going capital costs needed for him to start.

At the same time, he did whatever he needed to do in order to help grow his business – including finding other jobs when there were slow periods at the beginning.

The lesson here is that being a leader and entrepreneur often means making the most out of what resources are at your disposal. The successful ones don’t wait for adequate resources to show up at their front door – because they know that they never do.

Zemurray used this scrappy “can-do” attitude to become a millionaire by the time he was 21 years old.

Lesson #3: Act quickly and creatively

Eventually, Zemurray had squeezed all of what he could out of the “ripes” market. He had become one of the world’s largest traffickers of bananas, and turned his sights on competing with the big boys by purchasing his own land and producing his own crops.

By far the largest company in the banana business at the time was United Fruit. It grew and shipped over 90% of the world’s bananas.

Zemurray and United Fruit both wanted to purchase a piece of fertile land that was on the border of both Honduras and Guatemala. They discovered during the process that there seemed to be two rightful owners of the land – one of them in Honduras and one of them in Guatemala.

This seemed to make things confusing for United Fruit, who had their lawyers working overtime to figure out the best way to approach the situation.

While that was going on, Zemurray purchased the land twice – once from each of the owners.

This story is a reminder that no matter how large or successful you become, that thinking like a creative entrepreneur will always leave you one step ahead of your competitors.

Speed and creative thinking matters.

Lesson #4: Stay close to the action

Zemurray got his start in the banana business because he was close to the action and paid attention to the details. And that’s exactly how he liked to operate his business as well.

For instance, when he finally got into the banana growing business, he moved to Honduras and worked the jobs his regular labourers worked so that he would know everything about the business.

This approach helped him succeed in running a much larger company as well. In 1930 he sold his company to United Fruit for $31.5 million in stock (worth about $428 million today), and then retired. But as the Great Depression raged on, the company’s stock took a nose dive and lost nearly 90% of the value it had at the time Zemurray sold.

That obviously didn’t sit well with him, so he bought up a controlling stake in United and made himself the President of the company.

The depression was ravaging the company, and the board of directors hired a slew of consultants and economists to try and figure out what to do to turn the company around. Rather than listen to the economists and their projections, he instead went down to the docks in New Orleans, where he grilled the captains of his ships and the workers who understood what was happening on the front lines.

Finding the answers he needed to turn the company around, he promptly fired the board of directors, decentralised decision making and made the company profitable again.

The lesson? You can’t run your business unless you understand the details and stay close to the front lines.

So what are you going to do today?

Zemurray was a man of action, and if we want to follow in his footsteps, we need to be as well.

So before you head off with the rest of your day, think of one thing that Sam Zemurray would do differently if he were doing your job – and then go ahead and do that today.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.

Book Summary of ‘First, Break All The Rules’ by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman

Over the last twenty years, managers have come to realise that competitiveness depends on being able to find and keep talent. They have started to realise that whatever the role a person has, their most valuable assets lie between the ears: their talent.

So how does a manager attract and retain talent? According to Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman they must First, Break All the Rules. Find out why and what we should break to do what great managers do differently.

Lesson 1: The Defining Dozen

Buckingham and Coffman spent a significant amount of time interviewing great managers and researching leading companies to distil the essence of a great workplace. What did they find?

By considering the answers to twelve questions, an organisation can measure where it is on the scale regarding their ability to attract and retain talent. These questions don’t necessarily give a recipe, but what they do is cover the key elements. The questions are:

Do I know what is expected of me at work?

  • Do I have the right materials and equipment I need to do my work properly?
  • At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  • In the last 7 days have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  • Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  • Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  • At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  • Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important?
  • Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  • Do I have a best friend at work?
  • In the last 6 months, have I talked with someone at work about my progress?
  • At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?

By considering these twelve questions alone we have probably enough to focus on and start revising our talent retention strategy. But that’s only the first 30 pages of the book. Buckingham and Coffman offer much more. Let’s press on.

Lesson 2: Climb Every Mountain

Buckingham and Coffman don’t suggest that we are going to be in a position to address all of the 12 challenges in one go. They compare progress towards creating positive answers for the 12 questions to climbing a mountain, and that aligning our companies to the questions is a journey.

The first stage is Base Camp and fundamentally helping our staff understand what the expectations of working for us are. What are they expected to do? How much can they expect to earn? Can they expect an office, a desk, a workstation? Effectively they ask: “What do I get?”, aligning to the first two questions.

The second stage is Camp 1. Having settled into the role, staff begin to ask different questions. Are they doing good work? Are they in a job where they can excel? Do others recognise this? Will others help them get better? They focus on their individual contribution.

This aligns to questions 3, 4, 5 and 6. Next it’s Camp 2. It’s all about belonging. They are comfortable with their contribution but does this really align to the company? Are co-workers similarly committed? Can the company offer support for the long game or do they need to move on? Here questions 7,8, 9 and 10 are addressed.

Camp 3 beckons and the summit is in sight. Here it’s all about teamwork – pulling together in the same common and forward moving direction. It leads to innovation, building in growth for self and company.

The last two questions, 11 and 12 are raised. With positive answers to all 12 questions the summit has been reached. Focus is clear. Staff feel a sense of achievement, of belonging, of being “in the zone” at work. It’s a great place to work, with a great manager. So how does a great manager create this feeling? According to Buckingham and Coffman they apply four skills, four rule-breaking actions.

Lesson 3: Key #1: Select for Talent

Traditional managerial convention says that when we are recruiting we should select a person based on their experience, intelligence and determination. Buckingham and Coffman say: BREAK THIS RULE! Great managers select for talent.

Great managers disagree with the common definition of talent. It is too narrow. In their mind, talent is a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behaviour that can be productively applied. The right talent is fundamental – much more than experience, much more than brainpower, much more than will power. We need to nurture talent to succeed.

Skills and knowledge can be easily taught. Talent cannot. Skills are the how-to’s of a role. They are traits that can be passed from one person to another.

Buckingham and Coffman break talent into three categories. Striving talents – the “why” of a person. Why they do things, their drive, why they are who they are. Thinking talents – the “how” of a person. How they think, how they rationalise decisions, their values. Relating talents – the “who” of a person. Who they trust, who they confront, who they ignore.

As a manager we need to know the talents we want. At selection time we need to look beyond the job title and description. Which talent is more aligned to our needs? Are we looking for drive – then striving talent is our target. Are we looking for logic? Thinking talent is best. Are we looking for communication? Choose someone with relating talent.

We need to think about how the person will fit into our organisational culture. Different companies require different talent types. We need to think of our team. Where is their talent alignment? Where is the talent gap?

It’s not easy. Talent spotting is a talent itself. To help, Buckingham and Coffman suggest we identify the one critical factor relating to each of the three talent categories and focus on them during selection. We should structure our interview technique around seeking out those who hold the right blend.

Lesson 4: Key #2: Define the Right Outcomes

Managerial convention also states that when setting expectations we should first define the right steps. Break this rule, too. Great managers define the right outcomes.

As a manager we may think we are in control, but we’re not. Our staff, the people who report to us have more. They can ultimately decide what they will do and how they will perform. So how can we maintain direction and performance?

Buckingham and Coffman tell us that great managers define the outcomes – what they want to happen – then let their staff decide how to get there. A side benefit of this approach is that staff take on responsibility. By making the choice of how things will be done they are accountable for the outcomes.

Letting staff take on responsibility does not mean we have to relinquish everything. Buckingham and Coffman give us “Rules of Thumb” to follow.

Rule of thumb #1: Don’t risk it. Employees must follow certain required steps for all aspects of their role that involves accuracy or safety.

Rule of thumb #2: Standards rule. Employees must follow required steps when those steps are a part of a company or industry standard.

Rule of thumb #3: Don’t let creed overshadow the message. Required steps are useful only if they do not obscure the desired outcome.

Rule of thumb #4: There are no steps leading to customer satisfaction. Required steps only prevent dis-satisfaction. They cannot drive customer satisfaction.

All of these rules create a framework to allow a focus on outcomes. They identify what must remain and what can be given away in the process of achieving the desired outcome.

Lesson 5: Key #3: Focus on Strengths

Managerial convention states that when motivating a person we should help them identify and overcome their weaknesses. Break this rule. Great managers focus on strengths.

Good managers don’t try to fix weaknesses. Good managers have recognised the unique talents of individuals and therefore focus on the strengths these bring and work around the weaknesses. Great managers build roles for people around their strengths, not around organisational hierarchies.

This means that staff can focus on what they are wired to do. If we want to be a great manager we must openly discuss ‘strength exploitation’ with our staff. We need to sit down with them and say things like: “Bob – you are good with words, I want you to be our marketing copywriter”.

Treat people as you want to be treated. We’ve all heard that guidance many times. Great managers ignore it. They recognise that behind the statement is conformity. Making everyone similar. It also implies that we know best. But are we better than everyone else in each of their roles? I doubt it.

Great managers treat staff as the staff wants to be treated. When a great manager sits down with a staff member, they are not fixing or correcting, they are looking for ways to further exploit the individual’s talent. They seek to highlight and perfect the individual’s unique style. They seek to create ways to help the individual avoid interference and help them focus on their strengths.

Lesson 6: Key #4: Find the Right Fit

Managerial convention states that when developing a person we should help them learn and get promoted. Break this rule. Great managers help find the right fit.

At some point in their employment a staff member will ask their manager: “What’s next for me? Where do I go from here?” Great managers help staff find roles that further expand what they are good at. What a manager should not do is promote to fill gaps in an org chart. Frequently, good workers don’t make good supervisors.

Great managers are good at feedback. They don’t leave it to an annual performance review. After all, they are always on the lookout for better ways to exploit strengths so feedback is constant. As a result, great managers are always aware where the next opportunity will come.

Their role is not to protect the organisation by pigeon-holing staff. What they strive to do is better the best. A great manager puts their staff on the right path and simply gets out of the way.

So there we have it. Twelve questions, five levels, and four keys to breaking lots of rules, and building better teams.

Let me know your thoughts….

Book Summary of ‘Great by Choice’ by Jim Collins

Introduction

It’s 1912 and Raold Amundsden and Robert Scott are in a race to the South Pole. In a story seemingly designed perfectly to illustrate the difference between thinking that will lead to success and thinking that will lead to failure.

Amundsden’s team makes it to the South Pole first, and make it back alive to tell the story. Scott’s team, on the other hand, are less fortunate. They make it to the South Pole weeks later, only to find Amundsden’s team had planted a flag to mark the occasion. They struggled mightily on the trip back, eventually succumbing to the elements and perishing on their way back to civilisation.

The details of this incredible story seem to mimic the findings of Jim Collins’ research in his current book, Great by Choice. When Jim Collins wrote his best-selling book, Good to Great, he became an instant business hero. Executives from around the world aspired to be Level 5 leaders and focused intently on finding their hedgehog concepts.

But there was a question that remained unanswered: in a world that is increasingly in financial turmoil and constant change, how do you succeed? In a methodology similar to Good to Great, Collins and his team studied companies that were in industries where there was a constant state of change, and found that there were some companies that outperformed the marketplace by a significant margin.

He called these the 10x companies, because they all had outperformed their “industry index” by more than 10 times over the span of the study. In fact, on average, the 10x companies outperformed the marketplace as a whole by 32 times.

If it sounds to you like these would be some good companies to learn from, you’d be right. What Collins and his team concluded was that there were 4 main attributes of a 10x company – fanatical discipline, empirical creativity, productive paranoia and Level 5 ambition. In the following few minutes, you’ll find the keys to becoming more like Amundsden and less like Scott.

Attribute #1 – Fanatical Discipline

The first attribute of a 10x company is that they have fanatical discipline. Collin’s gives us the metaphor of the 20 mile march. Starting out on a cross-country journey, the metaphor goes, you’d be much better off walking 20 miles per day consistently than walking much more on the good days and much less on the bad days.

In business, the 10x companies realised that a similar principle applied – that you should do whatever you need to do in order to get results in the down years, and resist the urge to grow too wildly in the up years.

A great example of a company that has done the 20-mile march consistently is Southwest Airlines – the celebrated anomoly of the dreaded airline industry. Southwest demanded a profit from its business every single year.

For entrepreneurs, this sounds obvious. But in the airline industry, which was losing $13 billion per year, this is a remarkable thought. Even in the months after 9/11, when the industry was in shambles, Southwest was turning record profits.

They also excelled at the flip side of the 20-mile march, and controlled their growth in the up years. In 1996, for instance, there were over 100 cities who wanted Southwest to open operations there. Instead, they took a methodical approach and expanded to only 4 cities.

If you want to bring the 20-mile march to your organisation, here are the 7 elements you can learn from:

1. You should use performance markers to deliniate lower bounds of performance you are willing to tolerate. It should be difficult to achieve, but not impossible.

2. You also need to create self-imposed constraints to understand how much you are willing to grow in the good times. This should create some discomfort as well – there should be the feeling that you should be doing more and growing faster. It takes discipline to look at opportunities and turn them down – a lesson that Starbucks and many other fast growing companies learned the hard way.

3. These constraints should be tailored to the specific circumstances of your company and market environment. For instance, a web company has different growth challenges than a coffee chain. Setting those upper and lower bounds appropriately is critical.

4. These targets should be largely within your control to achieve. Could those other airlines have set up their businesses so that they achieved profitability every single year? Yes, but it would have took some significant planning and preparation like Southwest did.

5. You need to be thinking about the ‘Goldilocks’ time frame when setting these bounds – not too long and not too short. If you make the timeline too short you’ll be forced to deal with too much variability, and set it too long and will lose all its power. A year worked for Southwest, and something that’s a year or less is probably the range you want to be hunting for.

6. These bounds should be designed and self-imposed by you, and not by outside forces or circumstances. For instance, if you are in a public company, choosing a bound for what your earnings per share need to be every quarter would be a lazy choice driven by the demands of Wall Street. Choose a performance marker that is a true reflection of the underlying business instead.

7. Lastly, the march needs to be achieved with a great consistency over time. Hitting it every once in a while just doesn’t cut it. It’s the discipline to hit it time and time again that will determine your long-term success.

Attribute #2:Fire bullets, then cannonballs.

It’s a great metaphor for the process of creative experimentation and planning that seems to be popular with web startups, but I bet that will now also become more popular with the mainstream business community.

The idea is that if you were down to your last bit of gun powder, and had an enemy ship bearing down on you, you’d need to be judicious in your use of last reserves. Take it all and fire a cannonball, and the chances are that you are going to miss, and perish. But fire bullets first instead, and sooner or later you are going to find the right trajectory for your shots. Then, and only then should you load up the cannonball and take your shot.

Collins defines a bullet in the business context to be something that is:

1. Low cost – it shouldn’t cost you a lot of money to fire a bullet.

2. Low risk – the result, one way or another, shouldn’t have a major impact on your business.

3. Low distraction – it shouldn’t take much time away from the other major priorities the company has at the moment.

There are 5 steps to the process:

1. Fire a bullet. Make a hypothesis about a goal you are trying to achieve.

2. Assess whether or not you hit anything. Was your hypothesis correct?

3. Consider whether or not it’s worthwhile turning this bullet into a cannonball. This will depend largely on whether or not additional resources and money would lead to a big win for your company.

4. Convert it into a cannonball once you are convinced that you have calibrated the bullet correctly.

5. Terminate bullets that show no evidence of eventual success.

Attribute #3 – Productive Paranoia

It’s a great metaphor for the process of creative experimentation and planning that seems to be popular with web startups, but I bet that will now also become more popular with the mainstream business community.

Although Apple usually serves as a great example of creativity and hit products, the underlying story shows a great discipline in creating bullets, then cannonballs. It kept making investments in its’ “computer as the digital hub” strategy, first with the iPod, then iTunes as a platform and then the iPhone.

What the world saw as breathtaking innovation and big bets, Apple saw itself firing bullets and then turning them into cannonballs after they were sure that they were going to be a huge success.

All of the 10x companies seemed to be paranoid about something. But instead of acting like crazy people on the lookout for the next government conspiracy, they always have one eye out for the risks that could bring their companies down.

One of the things that each of the leaders of the 10x companies knew at all times was where their “death line” was, and they devised strategies for making sure they never got close to it. They knew that their company, like all companies, would run into a rough patch or ten along the way.

As the saying goes, you can afford to stay in business for as long as you can keep paying for your mistakes – once you cross the death line, that’s it. Game over.

There were 3 specific things that each of these companies did:

1. They had enough cash on hand to make sure they were prepared for any unforeseen events or bad luck before it happened. There’s a lot of bruhaha right now about the fact that Apple has tens of billions of dollars in cash reserves at the moment and that it’s an inefficient use of their money. But one thing is for sure – they are prepared for almost anything. And that economists and financial analysts for the most part don’t know what they are talking about.

2. They bound the risk they are willing to take on. Specifically, they pay attention to 3 kinds of risk – deathline risk, asymmetric risk (where the downside is much, much greater than the upside), and uncontrollable risk. Only when they were comfortable with the risk they were taking on, would they move forward with a plan.

3. They zoom-in and zoom-out. In zooming out, they would sense a change in the marketplace, determine how long they had in order to respond to the change, and then take the appropriate action. By zooming in, they would focus on the extreme execution of plans and objectives.

The big question that they ask themselves is “how much time until our risk profile changes here?” A great case study of this is action is what Andy Grove did when he found out he had cancer. As stunning as this would be for anybody, Andy did something that most people wouldn’t even think to do in this situation – he sprung into action.

He knew that he had months before any major decision needed to be made about what course of treatment to pursue, and he took that time to assess all of his options. He saw himself as the only person responsible for his health, and studied enough about his cancer and possible treatments that he could have probably passed a medical school exam. All the while running Intel.

That’s the hallmark of a great leader – truly understanding the timeframe in which you need to make a major decision, and then using that time to prepare yourself appropriately.

Attribute #4: Level 5 Ambition

Just like the leaders in Good to Great displayed Level 5 leadership (humility paired with professional will), the 10x leaders displayed a desire for their companies to succeed even beyond their tenure. The way they did this is through something that Collins calls SMaC. These are Specific, Methodical and Consistent operating principles as a recipe for success.

This is much different than core values or mission statements, because these are specific criteria for how they will run their company.

A great example of this was Southwest and how they ran their airline much differently than the other carriers. For instance, they only flew 737 airplanes so they could save costs and time by learning how to maintain and fly one model of airplane. They would remain a low cost carrier.

They would always have a high utilisation rate and low turnaround time for their aircraft. As Collins pointed out, Southwest only changed their SMaC by 20% over a 25 year period. That’s quite remarkable when you think about it.

And the other 10x companies operated in a similar fashion. By having a business strategy that was articulated and that could stand the test of time, they were able to focus their attention on the execution of these plans. Of course, even when the companies did amend their SMaCs, they did it with either empirical creativity or productive paranoia, only changing direction when they absolutely needed to, or when they could prove that it would be a home-run.

There you have it: everything you need in order to start your own 10x journey!

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.

Book Summary of ‘Sales Growth’​ by Thomas Baumgartner

Marc Benioff knows a thing or two about sales. He visits and meets with thousands of sales executives every year in his role as Chairman & CEO of salesforce.com. In the foreword of the book Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World’s Sales Leaders, Benioff is surprised that there isn’t more rigorous research in the field of sales. Incredibly, he says, “MBA students can graduate without ever attending a class in sales.”

A team of global leaders from McKinsey’s Sales & Marketing practice led comprehensive research and interviews with more than 120 of today’s most successful sales leaders across a wide range of industries. The results led to Sales Growth, one of the first comprehensive books on the discipline of sales management.

Read this book and you’ll learn about five strategies that the world’s best sales practitioners use to create growth in any market.

Strategy #1: Find Growth Before Your Competitors Do

The first way to find growth before your competitors do is to look 10 quarters ahead to find out what the market will want.

There’s a well-known quote by Wayne Gretzky, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.” In order to do this well, you’ll need to “surf the trends” and see where your market is heading. Of course, you will need to invest in the appropriate resources in order to take advantage of the demand when it hits.

You should be looking at technological, political, geographical, and regulatory trends. For instance, cloud computing is estimated to be worth $65-$85 billion by 2015, so one opportunity would be to target small businesses with a pay-as-you-go model for online software.

The second thing you can do to find growth before your competitors is to “mine growth beneath the surface.”

In essence, this is all about turning on the microscope to find small pockets of growth that collectively deliver real impact. For instance, a European telecommunications company broke down its 15 traditional sales regions into 500 micro-markets. This exercise made it very clear that it was under-investing in areas that were prime candidates for significant growth, and over-investing in areas where its returns would be much lower.

However, if you want to start analysing your markets in this sort of microscopic detail, your sales force will need assistance from other teams, including marketing, and even customer service in order to execute effectively. For instance, your marketing team might need to transfer some of its spend to markets where there is more growth opportunity.

The third thing you can do is to “find growth in big data.”

Making the most of big data means doing much more than analyzing the information contained in your CRM. It includes looking at data from your company, your suppliers, partners, and even your customers’ social media accounts.

When you start looking at all the sources of data in your decision making process, you find growth potential in unexpected places. For instance, a marketing executive at Google noticed that the colour of the links in the Gmail ads was different from the colour of ads on the Google search engine. The company tested 40 different shades of blue to see which link colour would generate the most revenue. The results were staggering. The winning blue collar added $200 million in revenue to Google’s coffers.

Strategy #2: Sell the Way Your Customers Want

How do your customers want to buy from you? The answer to this question is not as simple as it once was given the dramatic changes that the Internet and social media are driving

The first thing you can do to sell the way your customers want is to “master multichannel sales.”

This goes beyond the traditional understanding of multichannel, which typically assigns lower-value customers to low-cost channels such as the web and telesales, and directs bigger customers to more expensive channels, specifically, face-to-face direct sales.

In the new world of sales, leading companies understand that more important customers might have smaller needs that risk being unfulfilled because sales reps simply couldn’t afford to spend time on them. The implication is that you might consider pairing up an inside sales rep with each field sales rep. One company reaped a sales force productivity increase of 14% just from this simple change.

Of course, to master multichannel sales you also have to integrate online and offline experiences. The key here is to truly understand what your customer’s decision journey is. For instance, in the case of a car dealership, customers will probably want to research models and prices online, before they head in to the dealership for a test drive.

The second thing you can do to sell the way your customers want is to “power growth through digital sales.”

As the authors point out, more than two-thirds of all sales today involve some sort of online research, consideration, or the purchase. This proportion will only grow with time, and there are two specific ways to generate sales growth from this trend: optimise fanatically and get social.

Online optimisation is a huge topic with many facets. One of them is conversion rate optimisation through A/B or multivariate testing. A powerful example is this when upscale shirtmaker Thomas Pink learned through testing that adding product videos to its website doubled conversions compared to static images. You also need to start thinking seriously about investing in a great mobile web experience, as more and more people use their mobile device to shop online.

Getting social means that you need to start thinking about how you engage your customers and prospects through the various social networks. Although it’s still “early days” for many B2B marketers, the best performers are finding growth by running test campaigns through social media.

The third lesson the authors drew from leading sales executives was “innovating direct sales.”

This means doing things a little bit differently from your competition. For instance, sales leaders have found that by engaging customers early, and by not mentioning their products in these early discussions, they were able to generate higher levels of sales.

These early discussions instead focused on collaborative problem-solving of the customer’s specific business issue. Another finding was that companies who had more experts on hand as part of the sales process, sold more.

There are plenty of other options for selling the way your customers want: orchestrating direct and indirect channels, investing in partners for mutual profit, and selling like a local in emerging markets. If you want a more in-depth look at these elements, you can read more in the complete version of the Sales Growth book.

Strategy #3: Soup Up Your Sales Engine

“Souping up your sales engine” is all about designing sales processes that support your sales team.

The first thing you can do to turbo charge your sales engine is “tune your sales operations for growth.”

This means unearthing every opportunity to let your sales teams use more of their time to sell. That might seem simple enough, but if you haven’t looked at how your reps are spending their time lately, you might be in for a surprise.

A logistics company found that its sales reps were spending only 35% of their time actively selling. The rest of their time they were having to deal with other issues such as billing systems updates, internal communications and firefighting. Once the company understood this state of affairs, it implemented solutions to cut down on non-sales related activities, and voila – instant sales growth.

The second thing you can do to soup up your sales engine is to “build a technological advantage in sales.”

As the authors explain, putting the right insights into the right person’s hands at the right time can be enormously valuable. One company was able to help its reps automatically map their daily travel plans to enable them to make the best use of their time.

The technology looked at traffic patterns and the store hours of their retail customers and then automatically generated a map for them to follow. Not only did the reps not have to spend too much time mapping out their day, they were also able to travel much more efficiently and spend more of their time actually selling.

You should also enable your channel partners to take advantage of these insights. For example, Cisco developed communication tools for its own reps, and then opened them up to its channel partners so that they could take advantage of them as well.

Strategy #4: Focus on Your People

Of course, with all of this focus on technology and strategy, it’s easy to forget that we are also dealing with human beings. So, it makes sense that you also need to focus on your people in order to create sales growth.

The first thing you can do to is to “manage performance for growth.” There’s a difference between managing a sales team in the traditional way, and managing a sales team to engineer growth. To do the latter properly, you need to create a mindset shift in a few key areas.

First, you need to “coach rookies to become rainmakers” – as quickly as possible.

Traditional thinking was that “coaching” was a nice-to-have. Wrong. Sales growth thinking makes it a core competence of your team. Through the research the authors carried out, they found that a structured coaching program with weekly contact between the coach and sales rep was critically important. One industrial company has what it calls an 80/80 rule: sales managers are required to spend 80% of their time with their reps, and 80% of their variable compensation is tied to that coaching.

Second, you need to set the tempo of performance.

As the head of advisor sales at a US financial services firm says, “Great sales leaders run their operations with the precision of an engineering firm.” One pattern that emerged from the authors’ research was a high pace of reporting. Sales reps report to managers, managers report to executives, and the sales executives report to the CEO – every single week. Those calls are used to address issues and to put in place corrective actions.

Third, you need to recognise that it’s not just about pay.

Non-cash rewards can be a powerful incentive – up to four times more effective than cash rewards, if designed correctly. Even perks as simple as tickets to your team’s favourite sporting events can be a more powerful motivator than extra money in reps’ pockets. And, believe it or not, extra training for your team can also be considered a powerful motivator.

It’s one thing to create the mindset shifts we’ve just described, but it’s another to make them stick for the long haul. The authors found that it’s bolstered by going a level deeper. “Building sales DNA.” is critical.

The key to embedding these concepts is to encode the behaviour you know will be successful (such as those weekly meetings) into your team’s daily, weekly and monthly routines. After all, as the authors state, adults need to apply a new skill at least 20 times before it will stick.

The final item to pay attention to when creating long-term change is to give your middle managers a starring role.

Too often, companies underinvest in front-line managers, who can easily make or break any change effort.

Strategy #5: Lead Sales Growth

The final section of the book starts off with a great quote by Albert Einstein, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it’s the only way.”

The only way to generate the growth that you and your team are looking for is to drive it from the very top. As the authors point out, transformations of all kinds are two and a half times more likely to succeed if they have strong leadership commitment.

The most successful leaders focus on a few specific things in order to make this happen.

First, they challenge the status quo.

If there’s one thing that’s certain in your drive for growth, it’s that you’ll meet resistance from your team. By having the courage to insist that you and your entire team always challenge convention – always question the “but we’ve always done it that way” mentality, you’ll be ensuring the long-term growth of your sales team. Second, leaders galvanise sales teams.

You will need your team’s buy-in over the long run if you want your sales growth program to succeed. To get that, you need to paint a simple and compelling vision of the future. One CEO created a video highlighting the vision for the company that brought tears to their sales executives eyes (seriously). That’s the type of vision that you need to create. Lastly, leaders need to demand results.

Sales growth leaders know that in order to generate results, you need to be very specific about what you’re trying to achieve. First, be crystal clear on who is responsible for the growth plan. Second, be willing to move talent around to deliver results – ultimately rewarding those who produce results by setting them up to achieve even more.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you own or run a business perhaps you can reciprocate and help me?

I’m doing research for my next book based on my ability to perform a 45 minute business makeover. The framework is the fact I can find any small or medium size business a minimum of €10,000 in less than 45 minutes… without spending a cent on advertising or marketing. I plan to charge €2,000 for this service, and back that up with a written guarantee of a 10 X Return on Investment for the businesses that apply and that I hand pick.

My book will detail the process I use to find each business that money, and I plan to use the book to launch my marketing program worldwide. I’m looking for more specific case studies across industries to establish the credibility and legitimacy of the program.

If you would permit me to find you €10,000 in 45 minutes I won’t charge you a cent to do it. All I do ask is you give me written permission to use your results as a case study in my book, and if you like the results I get for you, perhaps provide me with a testimonial as well.

If this is something you would consider helping me with then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time to speak.

Book Summary of ‘Never Eat Alone’ by Keith Ferrazzi

There’s an old Chinese proverb that perhaps you’ve heard of it:

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Well the same holds true for building your network.

Getting the Right Mind-Set

Here’s the rub: success in any field (but especially in business), is about working with people, not against them. Business is a human enterprise, driven and determined by people. We need each other and we feel a need to help each other.

We’ve all been invited to networking events. Those post-work sessions are often frequented by card ninjas playing top trumps with the other attendees. Ferrazzi believes real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful. It is about working hard to give more than we get.

Real networking is also good for business. Building relationships is good for the companies we work for because everyone benefits from our own growth — it’s the value we bring that makes people want to connect with us.

Here’s the key to success in one word: generosity. And here’s Ferrazzi’s supplement: We’ve got to be more than willing to accept generosity. Often, we’ve got to go out and ask for it. It’s his belief that until we become as willing to ask for help as we are to give it, we’re only working half the equation.

A network functions precisely because there’s recognition of mutual need. There’s an implicit understanding that investing time and energy in building personal relationships with the right people will pay dividends. But it needs to pay both ways: win-win. Any other way and it’s binary. One winner, one loser. So step up and ask for help.

Where we once found generosity and loyalty in the companies we worked for, today we must find them in a web of our own relationships. It’s a more personal kind of loyalty and generosity, one given to our colleagues, our team, our friends and our customers.

Experience will not save us in hard times, nor will hard work or talent. If we need a job, money, advice, help, hope, or a means to make a sale, there’s only one surefire, fail-safe place to find them: within our extended circle of friends and associates.

So, before we ask for help, we need to know what we want. Ferrazzi suggests the more specific we are about what we want to do, the easier it becomes to develop a strategy to accomplish it and part of that strategy is establishing relationships with the people who can help us get where we’re going. Here’s his 3-step process to identifying what we want.

Step One: Find Our Passion

Most people don’t. They accept what they “should” be doing, rather than take the time to figure out what they want to be doing. Yet deep within each of us, there’s an intuitive knowledge of what we want most in life. We only have to look for it.

We need to look inside: without the constraints, without the doubts, fears, and expectations of what we “should” be doing. We have to be able to set aside the obstacles of time, money, and obligation.

We need to look outside: We must ask the people who know us best what they think our greatest strengths and weaknesses are.

Step Two: Putting Goals to Paper

Ferrazzi suggests we use what he calls a Relationship Action Plan of three parts.

The first part is devoted to the development of the goals that will help fulfil our mission.

The second part connects those goals to the people, places, and things that will help get the job done.

The third part helps determine the best way to reach out to the people who will help us accomplish our goals.

Step Three: Create a Personal “Board of Advisors”

Finally, even the best-conceived plans benefit from external help. It helps to have an enlightened counsellor, or two or three, to act as both cheerleader and eagle-eyed supervisor, who will hold us accountable.

Build It Before We Need It

Ferrazzi points out that the people who have the largest circle of contacts, mentors, and friends know they must reach out to others long before they need anything. The most important thing is to get to know contact as friends, not potential customers. The dynamics of building a relationship is incremental: one small step at a time.

Ferrazzi suggests that all around us are golden opportunities to develop relationships with people we know, who know people we don’t know, who in turn know even more people.

So step one in creating our relationship network is to focus on our immediate network: friends and family. Without a doubt they will know someone that might just be that magic connection. When making connections, people who are constrained by fear need to realise the worst anyone can say is “no”. We need to have the “guts” to face up to our insecurities. To help, find a role model and observe their behaviours. Pay attention to their actions and over time, adopt some of their techniques. Slowly, we’ll build up the courage to reach out by ourselves.

The Key Skills needed within our toolbox.

#1 Homework

Leave nothing to chance. Who we meet, how we meet and what the objective of the meeting is should be pre-determined. Research who they are and what their business is. Find out what’s important to them: their hobbies, challenges and goals. Pre-armed with this information we can step into their world and talk knowledgeably. Ferrazzi assures us their appreciation will be tangible.

#2 Take Names

The successful organisation and management of the information that makes connecting flourish is vital. Tracking the people we know, the people we want to know, and doing all the homework that will help develop intimate relationships with others can cause one heck of an information overload. So set up a working system to track the people you want to know.

#3 Warm the Cold Call

Ferrazzi gives us four rules for making effective cold calls:

1) Convey credibility by mentioning a familiar person or institution

2) State the value proposition

3) Impart urgency by being prepared to do whatever it takes whenever it takes to meet the other person on his or her own terms

4) Be prepared to offer a compromise that secures a definite follow-up at a minimum.

#4 Managing the Gatekeeper, artfully

How do we open the door? First, make the gatekeeper an ally rather than an adversary. And never, ever get on his or her bad side. Treat them with the dignity they deserve. If we do, doors will open to even the most powerful decision makers. Acknowledge their help. Thank them by phone, flowers, a note.

#5 Never Eat Alone

Ferrazzi believes invisibility is a fate far worse than failure. It means that we should always be reaching out to others, over breakfast, lunch, whatever. It means that if one meeting happens to go sour, we have six other engagements lined up just like it the rest of the week. He suggests we keep our social and event calendar full. We must work hard to remain visible and active among our ever-growing network of friends and contacts.

#6 Share Our Passions

When it comes to meeting people, it’s not only who we get to know but also how and where we get to know them. Ferrazzi suggests shared interests are the basic building blocks of any relationship. He tells us it is what we do together that matters, not how often we meet. When we are truly passionate about something, it’s contagious. Our passion draws other people to who we are and what we care about. Others respond by letting their guard down. Which is why sharing our passion is important in business.

#7 Follow Up or Fail

When we meet someone with whom we want to establish a relationship, we need to go the extra yard to ensure we won’t be forgotten. The fact is, most people don’t follow up very well, if at all. Making sure a new acquaintance retains our name (and the favourable impression we’ve created) is a process we should set in motion right after we’ve met them. And remember, it’s not what they can do for us, but what we might be able to do for them. It’s about giving them a reason to want to follow up.

#8 Connect with Connectors

We all know at least one person who seems to know everybody and who everybody seems to know. Ferrazzi suggests these people should be the cornerstones to any flourishing network. They are at the hub of many networks. The most efficient way to enlarge and tap the full potential of our circle of friends is, quite simply, to connect our circle with someone else’s.

#9 The Art of Small Talk

We’ve all struggled with that ancient fear of walking into a room full of complete strangers and having nothing to say. That’s why small talk is so important. Conversation is an acquired skill. If we have the determination and the proper information, just like any other skill, it can be learned. The goal is simple: Start a conversation, keep it going, create a bond, and leave the other person thinking, “I like that person”.

#10 Be Unique.

When it comes to making an impression, differentiation is the name of the game. Confound expectation. Shake it up. Ferrazzi assures us vulnerability is one of the most under appreciated assets in business today. Charm is simply a matter of being ourselves. Our uniqueness is our power.

And there you have it…some of the top ideas from the fascinating book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you are interested in becoming a business coach then please email me at andy@vanguardbusinesscoaching.com and we can set up a time for an exploratory discussion.


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