Be Accountable and Grow Your Business

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The Phone Call

It was 8:00 on a Monday morning and my phone was already ringing.  The call was from Bob, a distributor of mine in Kalamazoo.  Bob was frustrated.  He had just received a call from an upset customer.  Bob’s customer was tired of waiting for their replacement windows.  It had been seven weeks since the homeowner had placed the original order.

“I’ve been buying windows from you for the past two years,” Bob said.  “You guys make a great product.  It’s the best window on the market.  Our customers love those windows.”

I cringed as I continued listening.  There was a “but” coming, and I knew it.

Bob continued with, “But they don’t like waiting eight weeks to have them installed.  My customers get upset, and we’re not getting the referrals from them like we used to.  The delivery times are costing us business.”

I’ve heard this all too often, I thought to myself.  For the past two years we had constantly improved our products.  We attracted many new customers, but our production just hadn’t kept up with sales.  We were upsetting customers as fast as we were acquiring them!

Bob ended the conversation with a statement that I had hoped he wouldn’t use.  “Sam, get the delivery time down or you are going to force me to look for another supplier.”

 My frustration level had grown to the same high level as Bob’s.  We work too hard to get new accounts to just lose them, or our valued older accounts, because of poor production habits.  I called a meeting.


The Meeting

 The shiny new table that sits in my screened-in porch was jammed with people.  There wasn’t an empty seat in the house.  My two business partners were there along with the plant manager, the sales manager, three of our sales people, two line managers, the shipping clerk, and our newly hired director of operations.

 A small cooler was on the floor in the corner.  It was filled with refreshments, and there were some munchies on the table.  This was not going to be a short meeting, and I wanted everyone to be comfortable.

  I opened the meeting with a welcome.  Then, I recanted the phone conversation that I had the day before with Bob.  I ended my welcome and introduction by stating, “We have a challenge at hand, and if we are going to survive in this business, then we need to come up with a solution.”

  There was silence around the table.  One of my partners broke the silence by stating, “We have to have two week turn around times.  We must make our windows in two weeks!”  He was the partner in charge of production.  I was in charge of sales and marketing.

 “We’ve been hearing that for the past two years,” I stated.  “I’m not as concerned with the what, I want to know how.”

  I turned to Gary our sales manager and asked him, “What are you hearing from the other customers?  What do they want?”

  Gary said, “Well, our customers love the windows and doors.  The quality is great, and the tremendous variety of options helps them make the sale.  They just hate our delivery times.  And, it’s getting harder and harder to walk in the customer’s door.  They’re just so mad sometimes!  It doesn’t pay to go out and get new customers and sell more, because we only create more problems when we do that.”

 I did not like that last thought.  We’re not selling because we don’t want the headache of poor delivery, is what Gary was saying.  The three sales people also relayed the same message.

 The plant manager just sat there with his head down, and so did the two line managers.  Then my partner again reiterated, “We need a two week turn around time.”

 I’d had it with that comment.  Everyone in the room knew what we needed, but no one was willing to stand up and say how they thought we could get it done.  I turned to my partner and asked a series of questions.

 “When an order comes into the office how long does it take to enter it into the computer and check it?”

“One day,” he responded.“How long does it take to schedule and make the insulated glass for the windows?”

“That also takes one day,” he replied.

“What’s involved in production from that point?” I asked.

 “We have to schedule the windows, cut the parts, assemble the parts, and then wrap the completed unit,” he said.  He went on to say, “That whole process takes about a day and a half.”

 The shipping clerk piped up and stated, “I can stage and pack the trucks in less then a day.”

  I was writing everything down.  Then I added up the times.  “Four and a half days,” I stated.  Then I turned to my partner and asked, “You feel that we need two week turn around, right?”

“Right!” He stated.

 “So what you’re saying is that the orders should sit in the office for one week and then we should make the orders the next week?” I asked.

 He paused but then reluctantly said, “Yes.”

 So I asked, “Why do the orders need to sit for a week?  Why don’t we just get the orders in and make them in a week?”

  Then I turned to our new director of operations and asked, “What if we had a Friday cutoff for all orders.  Any orders received by 4:00 on Friday afternoon would be entered and checked on Monday, the glass would be made on Tuesday, window parts would be cut and assembled on Wednesday and Thursday, and the completed windows packed on the truck and shipped on Friday?”

He rubbed his chin, thought philosophically, and said, “We could do that.”

  My partner said, “Let’s get to two weeks first and then worry about one week.  Right now one week is impossible.”

 I asked the plant manager, “How long would it take to get this type of production system created and implemented?”

 “We’re getting to the slow season.  We could clean up our backlog and be ready to go in four weeks.”

 I said, “Do whatever you feel is necessary to get the job done.  If there is any way I can help just let me know.”

  Everyone sat up.  There was an energy level in the room that I hadn’t seen in a long time.  Questions were flying, and thoughts were being shared.  We had a goal.  We believed.  We had breathed new life into the company.


The Changes

The next day the director of operations went to the factory workers and shared with them the outcome of our meeting.  Then, he turned to them and said, “You’re the ones closet to the job.  Do whatever you need to do to get your production lines running as efficiently as possible.”

 The factory workers were excited.  They had always been told what to do.  No one had ever enlisted their input.  The workers were even given special incentives like company lunches, and getting off early on Friday if the goals were met.  They were on a mission.  I was beginning to really like the new director of operations.

The workers changed the layout of their production lines and suggested changes in some of the ways work was scheduled.  Over the next four weeks we cleaned up our backlog and made the suggested changes in the plant.

The big day came.  We closed our orders out on Friday and began our new system.  The next Friday our first truckload of windows went out.  They were on time and everyone in the plant was excited.


Another Phone Call

Six weeks after we had made the dramatic changes and had proven ourselves my phone rang.  It was a Monday at 8:00 AM.  Bob from Kalamazoo was on the line.

“Good morning Sam,” he said.  “I have a favor to ask of you.  Could you delay our shipment this week?

“What’s that?”  I asked.

He paused and then spoke, “Could you delay this weeks’ shipment?”

Concerned, I asked, “What’s wrong?  Is there a problem with our quality?  Did we make something incorrectly?

“No, No,” Bob replied.  “It’s just that you guys are shipping windows and doors to us so fast that we can’t keep up, and our warehouse is full to the rafters.  Our installers can’t get the windows installed as fast as you can ship them!”

 “Bob,” I stated, “It sounds like you have a production problem.  Maybe it’s related to your installation goals.  You know Bob, the faster you get those windows installed the more referrals you’ll get.”  I sorta chuckled inside.

“Bob, most successful companies isolate their biggest problems and then tackle them one at a time.  You started us on that journey almost three months ago and look at the great job we’re doing today.  Why don’t I come up and look at your production system?  Together I’m sure we can figure out how to get the windows installed faster, boost referrals, make your company even more profitable, and you’ll be on your way to Building a Better Biz!”

Close The Sale … Give Them a Choice

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The US Open tennis tournament is being played this week. Of all the sporting events I enjoy watching, being at one of the four major tennis tournaments has to be my favorite.

Your ticket will get you into the event, and it is good for a reserved seat in the main stadium. Now, this is where it gets interesting. There can be up to eighteen matches being played at the same time throughout the day.

You get to move around and see whom you would like to see at any given point in time. You can sit in your seat in Arthur Ashe Stadium and watch a featured women’s singles match, or you can walk out to court sixteen and watch a mixed doubles match with some of your favorite players. 

You get to choose whom, when, and where you watch. Some people like the outlying courts, because the bleachers are so close you can almost touch the stars. Some people only like to sit at the stadium or grandstand courts, because they like the comfort of the seatbacks. The bottom line is that you get to move around. You get to choose how you will experience the event. That is the big selling point of a major tennis tournament.

In business and in sales it can be the same way. It is far easier to sell something if you give your prospect a choice. There are three major reasons why you should give your customer choices as part of your closing system.


1. Choice allows the customer to tailor many of the aspects of your product or service to fit their specific needs.

Not everyone is the same. We all have different needs. The first automobiles were only available in black. Today, car colors and trim packages are many and varied. It is not unusual for a car company to sell a particular model just because it is available in a unique color or accessory package.

When you go to the grocery store, you can find fruit packaged in different sized containers. A family of two might only need a pint of strawberries, a medium family could want a quart, and a large family or someone having a party may buy an entire flat of strawberries!

Choice provides the customer the ability to get just what they need. By giving your customer a choice, they feel that you are catering to their specific needs, and they appreciate that.


2. Choice allows your customer to better control how they experience the sale and the ownership of your product or service after the sale is made.

Offering a choice as to how you do business, the warranty you provide, and the different service plans available allows your customer to shape and control how they experience doing business with you before, during, and after the sale.

Allowing the customer to choose where the transaction is made can be very powerful. Do you go to them, or do you have them come to you.

Warranties have an associated cost for you. The more extensive the warranty is that you offer, the greater your costs will be. Some clients want a lot of coverage. Others want or need less. By providing a choice, the client gets the level of security that they need in order to invest in your product or service and not feel like they are paying for something they will not use.

Customer service or ongoing customer support are other areas that you can create choices for your customer. Different levels of support programs can be made available. Many times, you can charge them differently based upon what is offered.

Software companies do this a lot. You may receive limited support with the purchase of a particular product. Then, you can purchase additional support either on a per incident basis, or for a larger fee you can receive unlimited support.

These choices not only allow you to tailor the experience for your client, but they also allow you to generate more revenue.


3. Choice allows you to assume the sale and let the customer determine the details.

Maybe the most powerful reason to offer them a choice is that it allows you to assume the sale first. Then, all you and the customer have to do is work out the details of ownership.

When my children were younger, my wife and I would ask them if they wanted to wear the blue shirt or the white one. The fact that they need to get dressed now is assumed. The only decision to make is which shirt they will wear.

Also, in this example we are limiting choices. I don’t care which shirt they choose. They both look nice, and either way they will be dressed. I have eliminated choices that I don’t find acceptable before they ever arise.

With your customers it can be the same way. You may ask a customer, “Would you like to close on the property next week, or will the end of the month work best for you?”

This popular closing technique is called Alternative of Choice. Either choice is good for you. The question is not whether they are going to buy, the question is only when they will close.

A clothing store associate may ask their customer, “Do you need a belt to go with that outfit, or would you like to look at a coordinating shirt?” Here, the sales associate is assuming both the sale of the outfit and an add-on purchase.

Providing choice offers dialog for you and your customer. You show them that you are interested and are working to best fit their needs. People buy from people who they like and trust. Make it easy for your clients to own your products and services by offering them a choice and you will be on the road to Building a Better Biz.


Mastermind Your Business for Accountability and Success

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I went to my Mastermind Group meeting yesterday.  I didn’t really think that I had much to discuss.  Boy, was I wrong.

All I wanted was a quick approval on the artwork for my new business card.  I thought this would take about 60 seconds.  Thirty minutes later, my card was totally redesigned.

The members of my Mastermind Group questioned the specific message that I wanted my card to convey.  They had me remove three logos that were on the back of the card.  My web address was removed since it is part of my email address.  Other irrelevant information was removed, so I could use a larger font for the remaining data.  Then, they had me add two sets of credentials behind my name; information that I took for granted but would be valuable to a potential client.

My business card was less cluttered, easier to read, established immediate credibility, and was laser focused around the value that I deliver to my clients.  The new design was fantastic!

I regularly help clients with their marketing tools, but I was so close to my own situation that emotion got in the way.  The Mastermind Group saved me again.

My Mastermind Group is made up of seven business professionals.  Once a month, we come together for our regular meeting.  Each time we start off by going around the table to give a quick recap of our “numbers” for the month.  We openly share all profit and loss numbers.

If there are any other exciting events in our lives, we mention those too.  Then, we move on to the next part of our meeting.

The main portion of our meeting is comprised of each member taking a turn to discuss any issues they face.  Someone might discuss a personal problem.  Someone else may talk about a marketing program that they want feedback on.  We’ve discussed profit sharing programs, product development, mergers, collections issues, sales tactics, getting children into college, and more.

Our mastermind group has turned into an indispensable, fast track business and personal growth tool.  We help hold each other accountable so that we achieve our desired results.

Major corporations have a board of directors.  The President of the United States has his cabinet.  Independent business professionals and small business owners need a Mastermind Group to give them the high-powered leverage that the big boys have.

My Mastermind Group has been meeting regularly for eight years.  We’ve worked together and watched all of our businesses grow many fold.  There isn’t one member that would give up their spot in this group.

Here are four steps that will help you establish your Mastermind Group and put you on the fast track.


Choose Your Members

Find four to six people you feel comfortable with.  You can all be in the same industry, or not.

Some people can’t get past the competition barrier.  Cavett Robert used to say, “Don’t fight for a bigger piece of the pie.  Make the pie bigger.”  I like to work with members of my industry.  It’s very productive.  I have helped people set up groups across industry lines and they’ve been equally successful.


Create a Set of Guidelines

We are very simple.  Our policies are:

Everything we talk about is confidential.

No guests.

New members must be approved by everyone in the group.


Set a Regular Meeting Schedule

We meet on a monthly basis for eleven months of the year.  Once a year we go on a two-day retreat and work on our yearly strategic planning.


Have a Set Meeting Format

People need to know what to expect when they come to a meeting.  Have a format and a timetable and stick to it.  Conversations naturally wander.  Keep everyone on track and focused.

When it’s someone’s turn to speak, all conversation should be about that person and their issues.  It’s their time!


Celebrate Everyone’s Success

My Mastermind Group is a place where we can share our successes.  It’s not bragging in our group.  It’s expected!

When we close the big sale, we let everyone know.  I just received an email today from a member that told me about a huge book deal she received.  Hurray!

Napolean Hill first mentioned the Mastermind Concept in his book “Think and Grow Rich.”  It is a power tool, one that every business professional should have as part of their success arsenal.  It will help you move to a new level of accountability and results.

Start your Mastermind Group today and you will be on the road to Build a Better Biz!

Deliver Authentic Value and Grow Your Business

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July 11th was the international release date for the new Apple iPhone 3G.  Stores around the world opened their doors and proceeded to sell out of every phone they had.

Here in St. Louis the line was so long you would have had to wait 5 hours to buy and activate a phone.  While I chose not to wait I did decide to hang out a bit and chat with some of the people who were waiting.  It was mid-day and shortly I saw someone from California Pizza Kitchen arrive.  CPK is located in the mall and has excellent pizza.

The woman began to go down the long line of people who were waiting and asked if anyone wanted to order pizza for lunch.  Before long she was running back with her orders, coming back for more orders and then running back to start delivering the pizzas from the first round of orders.  I’m sure that CPK had a great day of sales as they had their normal restaurant business as well as so many of the people who were waiting in line.

Someone at CPK must have noticed the line and thought, “Those people could use some food.” Other than the occasional Powerbar no one had brought anything to eat.  CPK saw a need and then went about filling it.  They delivered value for everyone who was stuck in line and getting hungry.

To grow our business we must be accountable to deliver authentic value.  Our business model is based on the value we deliver, who we best deliver it to and how we deliver it.  Authentic value represents the value that the client really needs.  It is not about the value we think they need or the value the client thinks they need, although that is important.  Truly successful companies deliver authentic value. People waiting in that line really needed something to eat, something that was brought right to them and something that was easy to purchase and consume.

How much time do you spend thinking about your clients, talking to your clients and evaluating the value they need?  What is it that will make their job easier, remove stress, add enjoyment to their life, enable them to achieve their goals?  The answer to these questions applied to the services you provide and the products you sell will help you create authentic value.  Be accountable to regularly evaluate your clients and your capabilities.  Strive to deliver authentic value– you will be on the road to Building a Better Biz.

Create New Value For Your Clients

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Apple Computer, Inc. opened their application store in iTunes today.  The App Store has hundreds and soon to be thousands of applications that you can download and easily install on an iPhone.  Some of the applications are free.  Others are for sale.  Most of the applications being sold are priced from $.99 to $9.99.

Need a little app to keep track of all the tasks you need to complete?  Maybe you want an app to manage your finances?  How about an app that detects where you are and then lists all of the theatres nearby showing a specific movie you want to see?

One of my favorites is Moo.  When you turn your phone over it makes the sound of a cow just like the toy from years ago.  Another favorite is Rotary Dialer.  This app gives you the picture of an old fashioned rotary phone and you can dial your friends like they did way back in the 70s.

So, why am I sharing all this with you?  Simple.  What Apple has achieved is simply genius.  They have taken a product that is manufactured by many companies and available at many price points and turned it into a completely new industry.  Apple will sell millions of these phones.  Then they will sell millions of dollars of applications that we can all use to customize our phone.  Apple is using their App Store to deliver new value to their existing customers and to attract new ones.

What are you doing in your business that brings new value to your clients?  Is there some way to add value, create value or redefine the value you deliver to your clients?

Differentiation is a key way to build a competitive advantage in an industry.  Most companies continue on about their business.  If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.  Apple Computer doesn’t fix it.  They don’t even break it.  They throw it out and create an entirely new solution to fill a need, a need that many times people don’t even know they have.

Apple ups the value equation.  They deliver what others may have unsuccessfully attempted but also what others haven’t ever thought of.  They do so in a way that is cool and fun.  Apple understands that the experience of doing business is almost as important as the additional value they deliver.

Create more value for your clients.  Break out of your traditional mold.  Engage your clients in a way that is fun, unique and leaves a lasting impression — you will be on the road to Building a Better Biz.

Making Powerful Choices

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We become what we become because of the choices that we make over time and the accountability we have to our choices.  Some choices are easy like, “What do I have for breakfast?”  Others are hard such as, “How are we going to grow our sales by 35% this year?”

Many times, we are so frustrated or confused that we don’t make a choice.  Not making a choice is a choice.

Life and business are simply a series of choices stacked upon one another. Over time these choices lead us to our desired results.  Make great choices and you can get great results.  Make poor choices and you could lose millions.  Though it’s simple on the surface, the ramifications are significant.

Successful people know in which areas of business and life to spend their time making choices.  They realize that it is important to identify key issues and to proactively deal with them.

Less successful individuals wait for things to happen and then spend their time putting out fires.  It is always easier to make a choice when you are relaxed.  Under pressure, decisions become filled with emotion and are much more difficult to make.

Obviously, proactive choices are easier to make, and they play a major part in building your business.  So, how do you best organize your thinking to make great choices?

I believe that you make your best choices when it comes from your “core.”  I call this decision making process, “CORE2.”  Here’s how it works.


Current Situation

What is your current situation?  Where are you now?  What issues are at hand?  Are you dealing with a current problem or thinking strategically?  What are all of the facts that surround the situation?  What is working?  What isn’t working?

You need to be able to accurately answer all of these questions and more!  It is critical that you know where you are coming from, the issues at hand, and any strengths and weaknesses that might affect your situation and choices.

I define success as, “closing the gap between where you are now, and your vision of the future.”  People often spend their time goal setting, and looking towards the future.  Although, I’m a big advocate of setting goals, I also believe that it’s only half of the equation.

We all must have a very clear vision of where we are going, but it is absolutely necessary to be clear about where we are today.

If I invited you over to my house for dinner, you might phone me and ask for directions to my home.  My reply would be, “Where are you coming from?”   When you know where you’re coming from, then you can determine how to get to where you want to go.

Once we fully understand our current situation, we are then in a position to strategically and tactically plan out what we envision for ourselves.


Outcome Desired

Do you have a vision of the future?  Do you know where you are coming from and where you are going?

What do you want to achieve?  In the big picture, this is “goal setting” or “vision clarification.”  On a day-to-day basis, it is knowing where you want to stand tall when making decisions on issues that range from what color you should paint your office, to the information you have on your business card, to the adjustments that you might make to sales and marketing procedures.

You must be clear in your mind about the end result you desire.  And, if you achieve that end result, what will it mean to you and your business?  What are it’s side effects?  How will this success affect your business?  What are the consequences for your employees and your customers?

Each time you achieve a goal there are ripple effects.  It’s not enough to want to move in a certain direction to capture a specific outcome.  You must spend time understanding how this success will impact other areas of your business.


Roads You Can Take

When I speak at a convention or an annual company meeting, I will often tell my audience that there are many roads to success.  If five people are given a specific challenge, it’s possible that each person will come up with a plan that is different from the others in order to achieve their goal.

When my son was in the Cub Scouts, he came home with a project.  He had a box.  In it was a block of wood, four nails, and four plastic tires.  That’s right, it was Pine Wood Derby time.

My son’s goal was to make a car that looked good and went fast.  I have to tell you, at the race there were some really fast cars, and they all looked different.  Each boy found a different solution to the same problem.

When making a choice, you too are faced with options.  Brainstorm.  Make a list of each possible way that would achieve your desired outcome.  Don’t pass judgment on your ideas.  Just write them down.  The more possible solutions, or roads you can take, the better.

Sometimes, you will come up with one idea that is based on others that you’ve had.  This type of synergistic thinking is very powerful.  If you have a Mastermind Group, take your challenges to them and brainstorm together.  In a group setting, you will naturally build on each other’s ideas and create possible solutions that you would never have created yourself.

I attribute most of the great business choices I’ve made to the collective thinking of my Mastermind Group.  It is very powerful to have six other people concerned with my success.


Examine and Execute

Now, examine each possible, “road to success.”  Look at the advantages, drawbacks, side effects, and any other related issues.

Although several options are on your list, many times a couple of them will stand out immediately.

Is there a very best idea?  Maybe there is a clear winner.  If not, you will need to weigh the “upside” against the “downside.”  In other words, do the potential gains justify the potential risks?

Sometimes, it is wiser to work towards a more modest goal to greatly reduce your risk of loss.  Then, once you’ve achieved your goal, you can take the next step and move the risk factor up a notch.

When the best alternative is determined, don’t wait; just do it!  Many times, a choice is a good choice today, but may have less value tomorrow.  Conditions can change quickly.  Your competition may adjust or move in a different direction.

Don’t be in a rush, but once you’ve made the best possible choice, don’t procrastinate either.

Effective business professionals spend time analyzing all of their alternatives.  Then, when making a final decision, they move immediately and implement a plan to achieve desired results.

Making effective choices is time consuming and mentally challenging.  Achievement is based on series of consistently good and well thought out choices.  Once you make your choice you must be accountable for it.  Great choices combined with accountability equals great results over time.

Work from your CORE, make great choices, and you will be on the road to Build a Better Biz!

Give Them a Chance to Buy

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I recently registered a new URL.  (It is for those of you who are curious.)  I used to handle the transaction.  When I purchased the URL, a screen came up that asked if I would like more information on tools that would add value to my new URL.  I had the option of saying yes or saying no.

Right before hitting the final submit button there was a “special customer” offer that made one of their services available at greatly reduced prices.  After the transaction was completed I was taken to a thank you screen where another offer appeared.  This screen thanked me for the order and offered a special “Thank You” discount of 30% off of select additional services if ordered within the next 30 minutes.

There was no pressure.  The offers were real, legitimate, and beneficial to me.  I ordered two items and then went about my business.  They turned a $9.00 sale into a $39.00 sale.  Let’s see, that’s a 435% increase in business.

What did they do?  They researched my needs.  They knew, based on  my original purchase that I probably had additional needs based on their prior experiences with other clients.  They made offers to me that were very appealing.  They let me choose between several offers.  The choice presented to me wasn’t “do you want to buy or not” the question instead was “which items would you like to buy”?  They gave me a reason to buy, the discount.  And, they gave me a reason to buy now, the 30-minute promotion.

These guys are great at what they do.  Are you?

In sales, if you are not in front of a customer, then you are unemployed.  And, if you are not asking for the order, you are not doing your job.  It’s basic, it’s simple, and these are the facts.

Look at your business.  What possible add-ons could you offer to your clients?  The first sale is the hardest.  After that, you have a relationship with your clients and they will be willing and most likely eager to make additional purchases from you.  You are not required to wait a long time before asking for the up-sell or to sell additional services and products.

Do you really know your clients needs?  Great organizations know their clients current needs based on past experience, and because they go to the trouble to ask their clients.  Don’t think you know everything.  Once a year, ask your clients in a formal survey what their needs are, and you will be amazed.

Predict the future and you’ll most certainly be rich.  If you know your industry and your clients, then work to understanding what their future needs might be.  The better you can anticipate those needs, the better you will be able to beat your competition, take market share, and grow the value of your existing clients.

Know what your clients and potential clients need and desire, work to filling those needs, and ask for the order — you will be on the road to Building a Better Biz.

Expanding Your Center of Influence

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I was in the backyard playing with my two youngest daughters.  It was late in the day, and the sun was low on the horizon.  The night air was cool and our shadows were long on the driveway.  My youngest daughter, Allison, walked up and stood right at the end of my shadow and said,  “Look how big you are daddy.”

When you added Allison’s shadow to mine I did look very tall.  I certainly covered more ground.  Building your center of influence is quite the same thing.  You as an individual can only cover so much ground.  You can only meet so many people.  You can only create so many business opportunities.

If you are the only champion of your cause then you will limit your success.  By growing your center of influence and having others talk about you, refer clients to you, and be thinking about your well being you can cover more ground.  Having Champions on your team will extend the ground you cover and the results you achieve.

Successful professionals are constantly extending their center of influence.  They seek out and create champions that will help them achieve their goals.  Here is how to organize your thinking and actions to grow your team of Champions.

Think of your Champions as two groups: the first is your Inner Sphere, and the second, your Outer Sphere.  Your Inner Sphere contains those people who you have developed a good relationship with.  They know what value you offer and they believe in what you do.  They trust that you will deliver a high level of service and quality product if they recommend you to one of their peers.

In order to develop deep, meaningful relationships with your Inner Sphere of Champions you should contact them on a monthly basis.  Maybe you call one month, or send them an email, or clip an article and mail it to them.  Whatever the action might be, staying in contact on a monthly basis will help you maintain a top-of-mind awareness.  These Inner Sphere Champions like you and believe in you, and because of this they want to see you succeed.

Take a sheet of paper and list those individuals who might fit into your Inner Sphere of Champions.  Go for eight names.  I call this your Great Eight.  Once you identify these people, begin a monthly program to stay in touch with them.  Remember to deliver value first before ever asking for anything.  If you are an asset to them, then over time they will be come an even greater asset to you.

It is also critical that you have already developed a super Memorable Marketing Message before connecting with them.  By its definition you must be able to communicate in under ten seconds the value you deliver, and who you will best deliver that value to.  If you have this powerful but simple statement developed, then you can make sure your Champions know it and can repeat it to others who could use your products and services.

Now think about your Outer Sphere of Champions.  Write down fifteen names. I call these your Future Fifteen.  This is like your minor league system for your Great Eight.  You should touch base with your Outer Sphere of Champions quarterly.  These are people that you may have a loose relationship with or someone that you want to meet and get to know.  These people over time have the potential to expand your center of influence as you get better acquainted and move them into your Great Eight.

Every day you should be thinking about who should be added to either your Inner or Outer Sphere’s of Influence.  You should always be on the lookout for a great idea to contact them with.  Maybe one month you purchase a relevant book, write a little note in each one, and mail those books to your Great Eight.  Get the picture?

Expanding your center of influence in an ongoing project that, over time, will pay big rewards.  Begin the process today and don’t let a day go by where you don’t think about expanding your center of influence.  Follow this ritual, and you will be on the road to Building a Better Biz! 

No Rain Delays

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The Masters golf tournament I was watching was delayed by rain. A baseball game I went to last year was delayed by rain. And, my daughter’s soccer game last week was delayed by rain. Rain may delay the games we play, but in life there are no rain delays. Every second of every hour of every day we’re in the game! There are no timeouts, no substitutions allowed, and no rain delays.

We get up each morning and have a seemingly endless list of things that need to get done. Along the way our phone rings, we receive email, and people filter through our lives. There is so much we want to accomplish, so little time, and so many distractions. No matter how we feel or what is going on in the world, everything stays in motion, and we need to be able to anticipate or react where it is necessary. Time marches on, and you’ll get left behind if you are not prepared to take on both the challenges at hand, and the surprises that life will undoubtedly throw at you.

Here are three things you should constantly be involved with if you want to make sure you are prepared for almost anything.

1. Study

Research has shown that less than 5% of Americans have read a non-fiction book since the last day of their formal education. The world is constantly changing. How many of you would have been reading this ezine 15 years ago? Probably none! If you don’t continue to study and learn, you will not keep up with new ideas, technology, and methodology. Your competition is changing. Studying and learning are critical in order to be able to adapt to both your competitions new initiatives as well as creating new direction for you.

Here’s a simple exercise. Look at your business and decide what you would like it to look like in two years. Now ask yourself, “What do I need to learn to be able to create the company I see in my future?”

Do you need to learn more about marketing, sales, leadership, communication, or management? What tools do you need to make your vision a reality? You can look at your life the same way. Maybe you want to be a better parent. What skills do you need to hone? Get the idea?

Your education should not stop when you finish school. Actually, that is when your education really begins!

2. Exercise

It is not enough to just feed your mind. You must take care of your body as well. Being in shape means that you can move at a faster pace, that you are not constantly running out of energy, and that you feel your best.

You don’t have to run marathons, but regular exercise is important to stay strong and to help keep mentally sharp. Always consult a doctor before changing your exercise habits, but I find that I think with more creativity and with better reasoning when I’ve been exercising regularly.

Start off small. Even five to ten minutes of exercise will make a difference. A brisk 45-minute walk five times a week will leave you ready to take on the world.

3. Build Relationships

If you’re like me, you have a vision of your future. You have goals set for yourself both personally and professionally. There are doors you want to pass through. Most of those doors have locks on them. What I have found is that the key to the doors we want to passage through exist on someone else’s key ring.

Networking and building relations ships is critical to expanding your opportunities and building your business. The more people you meet and get to know, the more chances that you will build a bridge that will take you where you are looking to go.

Business partnerships come from business relationships. Sales, referrals, and even helpful advice all flow to the individuals you meet and develop relationships with.

I used to try and live life in a vacuum. I had my issues to deal with, my business to build, and my family to take care of. I was “too busy” to worry about meeting a lot of “new” friends and associates. Well, what I found out was that the new people that I met provided rewarding experiences, had information to share, ideas I could use, and ultimately helped me build my business and have even more time for my family.

Who are you meeting? What opportunities are you putting on your calendar so that you can network and build relationships? How do you follow up with someone after the initial contact? Your keys are out there to take and use to open those doors of opportunity. Go find them!

Live a life of continuous learning, exercise for better health, and build new and deeper relationships, and you will be on the road to Building a Better Biz!

7 Habits Of Incredibly Unsuccessful Business Professionals – Part II

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We’ve heard over and over what to do to be more successful. In the first part of this article I told you four bad habits not to do.

Below I will discuss the other three bad habits that you must eliminate if you are to sell more, build your business, and increase your income this year.

It’s very simple. If you can eliminate all seven habits you will find your business growing, expanding and prospering.

5. Spend It All Today, There Will Be More Tomorrow

You see this everyday. Many times you don’t even know that you’re looking at a prime example of this bad habit.

I know several people that drive fancy new cars, live in very big homes with swimming pools, and send their kids to the finest private schools.

They are always buying toys; new computers, the latest digital cameras, new stereo equipment, and of course the “can’t do without” home theatre complete with super deluxe ultra-realistic surround sound, 35 speakers, and 750 watts of ear busting power!

Whether they are doctors, sales professionals, entrepreneurs, small business owners, or managers at Exxon, it’s all the same issue. You can’t continue to spend more than what you are taking in.

No matter how hot it is outside, or how clear the sky, is I know that sooner or later it will rain. In business you will run into slow times. Do you have money put away for those times? In your personal life you will run into unexpected financial pressures. Are you saving money on a regular basis?

Plan a budget. In your budget, start off at the bottom not the top. The bottom line is the amount you want to save this year. You will need to save for future expenses, such as retirement, money for college for your children, a new home, and anything else you wish to be able to afford.

Upwards from the bottom line, you need to list all of the purchases you will be making. Include house payment, cars, food, and the usual everyday expenses. Also include vacation costs, presents, and anything else you would like to purchase.

Add all of this together. This is the amount of money you will need to have after you pay your taxes.

Now we need to figure what we will need to pay Uncle Sam. Multiply this amount by (1 – your tax rate). If you are paying 30% taxes then divide the amount of money you added up above by (1 -.30) or .70.

This is what you will need to earn to be able to live the life you desire and save the amount of money you will need to meet future expenses.

6. Neglect Seeking Change

This is an easy trap to fall into. You work very hard to achieve what you have. It’s hard to take the time to think about building to even higher levels.

There is an old expression; “If you do today what you did yesterday, you’ll get tomorrow what you got today.”

I don’t think this holds water. You see, the world is changing around us. New businesses are forming, the internet is more robust, and people are more educated then ever before. We must change just to keep up.

If you want to get ahead it is critical to look at two areas for possible changes.

What changes have you been resisting? This is the first area to examine. Have you been holding back from putting your business on line? Have you been using old systems in your office? Is there a software change you need to consider?

First, embrace the things you have been fighting.

Now ask yourself, “What can I change to be better than my competition?” This is proactive change. Can you improve your customer service? Can you add additional value to your sales process? Are there needs that your clients have that could be better addressed or served? Could you be more productive if you added an assistant?

There are so many things that you could evaluate for change. Start small but think big. And, even though all good things come from change, not all change is good.

Only by considering change and looking for ways to proactively change can you then grow and outpace your competition.

7. Fail To Say “Thank You”

Sometimes we get so busy that we forget to thank everyone who has helped us.

It’s quite simple. We could not do what we do alone. Our assistants, our suppliers, our clients, our family, the community in which we live, and even the UPS driver all play a part in our success.

As a frequent flyer, the airline I use most often sent me coupons to give to their employees when I, “catch” them doing a great job. The employees could turn the coupons in for awards and time off.

I put the coupons in my briefcase and forgot about them. One day I was at the airport early and wanted to take a different flight than the one I was scheduled on. I went to the service counter and asked for assistance.

The customer service person probably shouldn’t have changed the ticket, and if she did there probably should have been one of those ridiculous “penalty” fees. Well guess what? She put me on the earlier flight and bumped me up to first class!

I remembered the coupons in my briefcase and offered her one. She resisted. “I was just doing my job,” she said. I insisted, signed the coupon and gave it to her. She just grinned.

As I walked off, she was feeling great. I was feeling great too because I felt good about doing something positive for her. But guess what? The next person that came up to the counter probably received even better service because she was in such a great mood.

My actions, and saying “thank you” went beyond the person I thanked. My actions also extended to others that she came into contact with.

Thank the people around you for everything; for a great job, for working so hard, for letting you present your product to them, and for delivering your mail. You get the idea. If you thank enough people on a regular basis, then someone will be there to thank you on one of those days that you need a little pick-me-up.

Saying “thank you” creates allegiances. If you want loyal customers, loyal employees, and loyal supporters just remember to say “thanks.”

These 7 bad habits will hold you back. Eliminate them now. Focus on your success — you will be on the road to Building a Better Biz!