Remember the excitement as a child when the summer months rolled around? When that last school bell rang, a sense of adventure and freedom was upon us as we looked forward to warm, sunny days. As adults, this desire is still within us – but our adult responsibilities get in the way. Sitting at our […]
According to a recent Bersin Report, a major focus in the years ahead will be on human performance – a combination of how we think, feel, experience, and react to the world around us. People today are experiencing higher stress levels, pressure to do more in less time, and forced to juggle multiple priorities – […]
The ‘War for Talent’. I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase over and over – and perhaps, even have a battlefield story of your own. Today more than ever, companies are competing for talent – forcing employers to find ways to stand out from the pack. There is one thing that makes each company unique and […]
When it comes to differentiating your organization, leveraging technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) can strengthen and improve your culture, and increase operational efficiency and productivity, if it’s implemented in a thoughtful way that doesn’t disrupt workflow. Bill Gates said it best – “The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so […]
You are sitting across the table from a job applicant. His resume checks off all the hard skills (e.g., technical knowledge, software skills, product knowledge, industry experience). But does he bring the soft skills needed? A common mistake employers make is assuming that just because someone has all the hard skills required, he or she […]
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a focus on employee well-being and improving ‘life at work’ – recognizing the importance of supporting the mental, physical and emotional health of our workforce. Afterall, our mental and physical energy drives our ability to think, act and create. Although offering a wellness program is often made with […]
As we shared in our most recent blog, an organization’s culture is the driving force behind any successful reward and recognition program. And with employees often spread out across multiple locations, offering a centralized, values-based reward program supports a united culture and shared values system. In turn, reward programs have a real impact on the […]
The Boston Red Sox are World Series Champions! Years of hard work, dedication, and drive culminated this past week – end result? Trophies, championship rings, banners, confetti, bubbly, praise – celebration for a job well done. Did the players have to wait long for these rewards? Not at all. The world was right there ready […]
When hiring talent, leaders often look for the perfect mix of knowledge, skill, and experience that a person can bring to the table. The stronger the resume, the quicker the hire can make an impact. However, as the world of work around us changes, new skills are needed to remain competitive. Employees know this and […]
As a leader, one of the most important things you can do is groom the next generation as capable of continuing your vision – or better yet, transform it into something even better than you could have imagined. When leaders fail to develop those around them, no one wins. Top talent leaves for greener pastures […]
Years ago, I had the opportunity to listen to the hall of fame basketball Coach Pat Summitt speak at an HR leadership conference in Tennessee. When she walked on stage, her energy filled the room. The crowd was on the edge of their seats, fully engaged, and walked away with a sense of newfound purpose. […]
The world’s greatest leaders have something in common – the ability to engage, inspire and connect with those around them. From leaders on the championship court such as LeBron James to those at the top of forward-thinking organizations like Sheryl Sandberg, they have a way of rallying others to produce outstanding results. The way you […]
There are many benefits to learning. Learning keeps us youthful and healthy, makes us more interesting, gives depth to our skillset, and can be fun. In an organization, an educated workforce is critical to keeping your company growing, fostering innovation, and remaining competitive. On the flip side, a stagnant workforce is vulnerable to competitors and […]
Difficulty doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you have a net worth of $50 million or $50,000. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a multi-million dollar company, or working for someone else. You’re going to encounter situations that draw a before-and-after line in the sand, where things change in a moment’s notice. If you are […]
When it comes to talent, we tend to think of hiring someone who has a specific list of skills or experience to meet our business needs of TODAY. Hiring someone based on how well his resume matches the job description is a traditional approach and not necessarily a bad thing; however, today the world of […]
It takes great courage to think big. It’s much safer to stay where we are comfortable, because big thinking requires us to examine what’s holding us back. It requires us to evaluate the decisions we’ve made in our lives that seemed right at the time, but perhaps ended up not serving our highest purpose. One […]
Plain and simple – there is no room for harassment in the workplace. Behaviors that constitute harassment can impede the victim’s ability to function at their best and inadvertently affect those around them. When an employee is harassed by a co-worker or supervisor, he or she can experience negative changes in emotional, physical and mental […]
Chances are, somewhere in your organization you are collecting real-time feedback. Real-time feedback provides us with a glimpse into a segment’s current feelings, attitudes, and behaviors that can have an impact on our business. However, just gathering data is not enough. What do you do with it? First, let’s refresh WHY real-time feedback is so […]
I’ve had many conversations with business owners recently regarding the stress their clients are infusing into their lives. At the risk of sounding unsympathetic, in each situation I’ve suggested that they’ve allowed these conditions to occur. In both our personal and professional lives, we operate within a framework of “unconscious acceptance.” We communicate to the […]
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not just something in movies anymore – it is becoming more and more mainstream every day. Recently, we discussed the role of AI in eLearning. But what about other facets of the workplace? How can we leverage the benefits of AI to advance our recruiting efforts, elevate the employee experience, and […]
The old method of reviewing employee performance once a year is quickly on its way out. Why? Because reviewing performance only once a year is not enough to keep our goals and development objectives top of mind. As a result, teachable moments are missed and we lose sight of our goals when more urgent issues […]
Our kids have attended overnight camp for almost 10 years, since they were 7 years old. One of their traditions is color-war, when the camp of about about 400 campers is split into 4 teams for a week-long competition. Of course, every kid wants to be a Color War Captain. Every kid wants to wear […]
Mindfulness. You may have heard this term being thrown around more and more. It is not a new concept; however, with the speed of life today, it is a practice that has come back into vogue. But what is mindfulness and how can you promote it in the workplace? In short, it refers to our […]
When consulting with clients on improving their recruiting function, I have found poor communication is one of the top reasons there is a breakdown in the process. Strengthening the relationship between key stakeholders (e.g., recruiters and hiring managers) is critical to having a well-oiled recruiting machine. With a strong recruiter/hiring manager relationship, you will find: […]
Today’s employees are hungry for opportunities to build their skills. They actively seek out companies that invest time, energy, and resources into employee learning and development (L&D). In turn, those employers who make this investment see higher job satisfaction, increased loyalty, more creativity, and improved retention. It really is a no-brainer – if you want […]
Leadership continues to be a key focus of today’s management. Who are our leaders of tomorrow? How do we make sure they are ready to lead? Waiting to move a high-potential employee into a leadership role when “the time is right” may not be the best strategy. The traditional way of assessing each person’s potential […]
As the mother of two teenagers, a recurring conversation theme in our home is friendships, and the importance of being selective when choosing those with whom we invest our time. Recently, our oldest son, who is heading to college in the Fall and will have an opportunity to build new friendships, asked me to share […]
It’s no secret that emotional intelligence and self-awareness are two of the most important leadership characteristics. The ability to read verbal & non-verbal cues, control emotions, and compassionately empathize with others are necessities for building & sustaining any healthy relationship. One of the most effective tools for developing self-awareness and opening up lines of communication […]
6 Leadership Lessons From My Interview on the Tony Robbins Podcast I was thrilled the Tony Robbins team invited me as a guest on his podcast to talk about organizational culture. Core values, disciplined hiring practices, and two-way communication are just a few essential elements to build healthy organizations. 6 Ways Your Grief Changes You […]
My lifetime legacy mission (LLM) is to educate, equip, & empower 100 million entrepreneurs & leaders worldwide to reach their greatest personal & organizational potential. In my last two speaking engagements, I watched the audience’s reactions as the conference coordinator read my bio aloud. People were taken aback. They raised their eyebrows and smiled in […]
In today’s self-promotional, often grandiose, rose-colored online society, it’s easy to feel that you never do enough, that you’re not at the right places with the right people at the right times, and that you can never catch up. It’s a self-sabotaging mindset that can dash our hopes and deflate our spirits. How do we […]
Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) is a term created by two researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer. It was popularized by Dan Goleman in his 1996 book of the same name. (Emotional Intelligence). They define Emotional Intelligence as the ability to: Recognize, understand and manage our own emotions Recognize, understand and influence the emotions of […]
Tony Robbins launched The Tony Robbins Podcast on March 30. Not surprisingly, it immediately rocketed to the top of iTunes. After all, anyone who can convince 6,000 people to walk across hot coals together–including Oprah Winfrey–can achieve just about anything. My episode, “Transforming Your Company’s Culture,” was released on April 10. In my interview, I share many […]
I recently designed and facilitated a two-day leadership training program for senior managers in the Air Force. The program objective was to educate them on the mindset and skillset required to lead effectively in the 21st century. They work in an environment of heavy demands, limited resources, and severe time constraints, and are challenged to […]
As we near the end of the first quarter, I’ve consolidated and recapped my columns from my Successful Culture blog, my Inc. Magazine column, and my SmartCEO column. I have difficulty keeping up with my own content, so I can only imagine how hard it is for you to do the same! As always, I […]
Hooray it’s almost Spring! It has been a long, cold winter with lots of hibernation. I LOVE Spring. It is symbolic & meaningful in so many ways, symbolizing growth, warmth, hope, and rebirth. The Spring equinox is the time in the Earth’s annual cycle around the sun in which day and night are equal in […]
There are four words that, when we hear them, we stop in our tracks because we know they are going to be followed by a lot of other words we may not want to hear. This happens in both our personal and our professional lives. Those four words are…. “WE HAVE TO TALK.” Did you […]
One of the questions I’m constantly asked is, “Marissa how do you get so much done?” Admittedly I move at a brisk pace. I don’t really have a choice, because I have a lot going on. However, we all do. We all have too much to do and not enough time. We are all somewhat […]
Haters. We all have them, quietly circling around us like vultures, waiting for us to fail. If we pay attention them, if we empower them and let them know they impact us, our minds can trick us into thinking that we will actually fail. I’ve identified the three types of haters that live on the […]
Ask any business owner if they’ve ever worked with friends, and you will likely get a yes. How they answer you (with a scowl or with a smile), will determine if it turned out well. One of my clients is WAKA, an 18-year old company that has put kickball and social sports for young professionals […]
I recently spent a Saturday afternoon with 600 other people from around the globe attending a 3-hour online leadership program conducted by leadership expert Seth Godin. The program included nine modules, covering topics such as culture, strategy, leadership versus management, how to enroll your followers, certain failure, and authority versus responsibility. All topics had “ah-ha […]
A client is currently interviewing potential project management partners. This is a big decision. She intends to delegate all project management tasks. She is expecting meticulous reporting and financial oversight, and a strong representation of her company’s brand. She has no interest in micromanaging. There aren’t many options, due to the size of her […]
So often when we’re thinking of expanding, we turn our attention to the external hiring process. In many cases, however, who we need is already with us. It seems logical to move a proven employee from one position to another. After all, we know their work styles & capabilities, and they know our culture, customers, […]
In my recent Inc. Magazine column, “Why You Should Ditch Your Goals for 2016,”, I briefly mentioned my STARS™ Model that I created and am now using with my clients to help them set non-negotiable intentions for 2016. Intentions are not merely outcomes. They reflect a mindset that failure is not an option. NOTE: While […]
If you could commit to one game-changing action that could really drive business this year, and help you work ON your business instead of IN your business, what would it be? For 2016, I’ve made what I think is a transformational resolution, which will ultimately help me to be a better entrepreneur. This year, I […]
This past month, I broke through two mental barriers. One barrier was professional and one was personal, but my success with both of them originated in the same place: my mind. The first barrier was a significant accomplishment because it was a culmination of a 7-year dream that I would not let die. Upon learning […]
Happy Holidays! As we bring 2015 to a close, we hope you have had an opportunity to spend time with loved ones, and have paused for some moments of gratitude. Moving into 2016, I recommend five books that are probably not on your traditional business list. They don’t address sales, marketing, networking, strategy, finance, culture, […]
This is a re-print of one of my most popular blogs that I first published in December 2011. The end of the year is always a time of introspection & reflection for what has past, and hope & anticipation for what is to come. We attach so many expectations to ourselves, to others, and […]
A relatively new client revealed to me that she was blindsided with more than $100,000 in overtime penalties for her hourly workers. Her first inclination was to blame her employee, who was responsible for timesheet reporting. As I started to uncover the broken links in her processes, I learned that the company’s entire time-tracking and […]
A client who hired me to help her get a grip on her time management, energy management, & prioritization told me this week that she invested in a second side business as “Plan B” – a second revenue stream – in case her primary business doesn’t work. She told me, “I only spend about an […]
In 1969, leadership expert Dr. Laurence Peter wrote about the management predicament of promoting top talent to the point where they are no longer competent enough to do their jobs well. While Peter’s observations had a sarcastic spin, they were right on point 45 years ago, and are still very relevant in today’s workforce. The […]
As we go into the Holiday season, be kind & compassionate with yourself. Holidays are hard. We’re bombarded with messages of joy & gratitude everywhere, and we often feel compelled to feel grateful, when what we really feel is tired, stressed, and anxious. It’s not so easy to simply “choose happiness,” or “choose gratitude,” […]
Life is Not Perfect. Life is Not Easy. Life is Good. Occasionally, we experience a speaker that touches our hearts, souls, and minds in a profoundly impactful way. This was my experience last week at the Inc. Magazine Iconic conference in Washington, DC. Conference, when Life Is Good Founder Bert Jacobs took the stage. Bert […]
One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of my role as a growth strategist is working with companies that have multiple co-founders. I often engage with these companies after one of the partners reaches out to me to discuss their growing pains. Through my 20 years of business ownership experience, my professional training, and […]
One of my favorite business books, alongside Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and Steve Jobs by Walt Isaacson, is Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne and part of Harvard Business Review Press. A blue ocean strategy enables a company to create uncontested market space. In a “red ocean,” or a sea […]
We’ve all heard (and said) the sayings, “Growth happens outside of your comfort zone.” “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” “You must get comfortable with discomfort.” Everyone who says it (including me) says it with such authority that you would think they spend every moment of their lives in discomfort. It’s funny […]
“Marissa, one of my employees is bringing a lot of personal drama to work. How can I deal with that?” This is a common challenge in businesses of all sizes. As CEOs and leaders, we are naturally personally invested in the health and happiness of our employees. However, where is the line of demarcation for […]
“Allow me to introduce you to one of our region’s most successful business icons.” This was how a colleague introduced me to another woman at a recent awards event. This happens often. Because of my public persona, many people place me on a grandiose pedestal. While always well-meaning, the challenge with any pedestal is that […]
At the Inc. Women’s Summit in New York last month, the most insightful panel was “The Great Millennial Debate: How to Work and Profit Together.” The millennial generation entered adulthood at the turn of the 21st century. The panel moderator was millennial Christine Lagorio-Chafkin, a senior writer at Inc. She interviewed: Stacey Ferreira, co-Founder […]
I recently returned from speaking at Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) NERVE Conference in Nashville, TN. I had the privilege of hanging out with 800 other entrepreneurs for three days straight. I also just returned from the Inc. Magazine Women’s Summit in New York with 600 women entrepreneurs. It was incredible powerful! Every session I attended at […]
I’m writing this week’s column from beautiful Nashville, TN, where I am attending & speaking at the 2015 Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) NERVE Conference. I am with 1,000 other entrepreneurs who have immersed themselves in three days of learning, connecting, and recharging. This week’s conference concludes a 10-day stretch of non-stop learning opportunities for me. The […]
I remember the sky was the most beautiful & vivid blue. The temperature was warm, but with a feeling of Fall. Like every Tuesday, I buckled in our 4-year old and 1-year old to take our oldest son Jared to pre-school at our synagogue down the street. My plan was to drop off Jared and […]
A client called me to discuss a serious situation with a customer. My client is a government contractor, and has placed 20 full-time employees at her customer’s location. There is a lot at stake with a potentially volatile situation. As one who personally knows the challenges of the government environment, and of running […]
Strategic planning retreats often have a bad reputation. An executive team takes the company or a group of key stakeholders off-site for a few days to share the company vision, and put a plan in place for moving to the next level of growth. In theory, this is a great idea. In reality, the excitement […]
My summer mantra was PURGE. I had a mission this summer to get rid of anything that no longer served me. We donated A LOT of goods to various charities. We threw away useless items that were taking up space. We de-cluttered and cleaned. In my personal space, I wanted to clear out my energy. […]
I’m at my happy place… the ocean. This is my favorite week of the year. I spend hours reflecting, dreaming, and meditating, which restores my mind, body, heart, soul, and spirit. This week I share with you a wonderful poem on Perspective. In all aspects of our lives, our perspective and our mindset is our […]
We all seek counsel and comfort when we are embarking on something big, or going through change. Are you seeking the right assistance? Who we ask impacts the advice we get, and potentially the action we take. Asking the wrong person can be disastrous. When seeking counsel, remember these five factors: 1: An individual’s personal […]
I was interviewed for an upcoming leadership book last week, and I was also interviewed by Entrepreneur Magazine this week about leadership & organizational culture. Over the last 20 years as an entrepreneur who has led and coached hundreds of other leaders, and has had the privilege to learn from some extraordinary leaders, I’ve identified the […]
It’s been an honor and a privilege to join news anchor Rebecca Cooper for the last three years as one of the DC region’s small business experts on ABC’s Washington Business Report. In my latest segment which aired on Sunday July 12th, I discussed the importance of a strong online branding strategy, and shared the […]
By now, the whole world knows about Donald Trump’s audacious remarks in which he characterized Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists. The ripple effects have been massive. One of the latest business partners to sever ties with Trump, is Celebrity Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, who was slated to open a flagship restaurant in Trump’s DC-based […]
Happy Independence Day from Successful Culture! In honor of this holiday that celebrates our freedom, I wish our supporters two types of freedom: Freedom from Fear Freedom from Negative Thinking Both of these behaviors essentially create mental prisons. They stop us from moving forward to pursue our dreams and realize our potential. In an historical […]
It happens to every company. We work hard to foster a relationship with a prospect. We invest time and energy into learning about their organization. We get excited about helping them achieve their mission & being a part of their success. We submit a proposal. They select someone else. There are many reasons why we […]
In lieu of Successful Culture’s weekly leadership column, this week’s column honors the victims of the latest mass shooting in our country. The victims include: 1. Rev. Clementa Pinckney. He was the church’s pastor and a state senator representing the 45th District. A married father of two, Pinckney was elected to the state House at […]
One of the nicest business gifts we receive is a referral from a happy customer. When we receive a warm introduction, what is the best way to respond? One of my coaching clients presented this question in a recent session. Coincidentally, I had recently received a referral and introduction from an existing client. In fact, […]
“My mindset is not in a good place.” This was the first thing a client said to me during our weekly coaching call this past week. Mindset is the single most important tool in a business owner’s toolbox. Without a mindset of confidence, intention, and achievement, we can lose our ability to push through challenges […]
Meetings are a regular part of business life. They are also a wonderful opportunity to exchange valuable information & ideas, and move goals forward. When we are not intentional in our meeting preparation, we miss the chance to be fully present with our key stakeholders (employees, customers, partners, advisors, prospects). I get many requests for […]
It’s graduation time and that means lots of new grads will be flooding the market. How can employers and grads team up to create a winning partnership? I recently shared advice for employers and graduates during my regular Small Business Spotlight segment, on ABC’s Washington Business Report. You can access the link to my segment […]
One of my CEO coaching clients attends a monthly networking event that attracts a lot of decision influencers but not a lot of CEOs. We were discussing how she can leverage the contacts she’s making so that she can eventually connect with the decision makers (either the CEO, or head of the division she supports). […]
It happens in every growing business. We evolve beyond our initial customer base or our initial business model. When we launch, we have a small infrastructure, and are testing the waters. We don’t want to bite off more than we can chew. We take on smaller projects to create our processes, define our service offerings, […]
One of the greatest rewards I witness with my clients is to see their revenues grow, and to see them move forward with their missions. We work on so many aspects that directly impact business & personal growth: Time Management (increasing productivity and decreasing busy-ness) Mindset (seeing & believing in one’s own self-worth & value […]
NOTE: This is an excerpt of a detailed white paper I have created for my clients that outlines specific strategies for developing these confidences. If you would like the full white paper, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I’m working with a very brave CEO who stepped into a global non-profit to turn it around after […]
One of my clients mentioned this week that she was attending an awards event honoring New Jersey’s 50 top women business owners. It’s a prestigious event, attracting about 300 C-level and executive women. When approached strategically, these events can yield great connections and open up lucrative doors. Here are some tips I gave her to […]
We all have a set number of hours in a day, with multiple demands always competing for our attention. How do we maximize efficiency & productivity? This is a MAJOR issue with most leaders who are chasing way too many relationships, company tasks, opportunities, and requirements. Productivity is essential for health and happiness because it […]
I attended a round table last month with some other CEOs to discuss growth strategies. The topics included People, Strategy, Execution, and Working Capital. One of the CEOs shared that she was struggling to get the right people in place. She had employees that could do their jobs, but they weren’t passionate about the company […]
Growing companies constantly grapple with the contradictory philosophies of “Multiple Hats” and “Dedicated Swim Lanes.” After all, how can one be expected to focus on only one responsibility when they have to pitch in and help with many other requirements? There are four tools business owners can use to clear up confusion surrounding who owns […]
I’m currently coaching several CEOs who have asked me to work with their growing executive teams as their businesses scale. One company in particular currently has 14 employees, and is projected to be at about 50 employees by the end of the year. While this may sound exciting, unmanaged growth can be detrimental and dangerous […]
In the never-ending battle for great talent, business owners always struggle with the decision to hire someone with experience, or hire someone without experience. There are many factors that business owners must weigh when making a hire. The decision goes way beyond a resume. Quite often, a start-up will think it’s a good idea to […]
I’m blessed to work with many business owners who are rapidly growing. They are certainly enjoying the growth, but alongside the joy is pain. Business growth for most entrepreneurs brings two types of pain: 1: There are not enough hours in the day to do everything required to implement their vision. 2: Entrepreneurs are happiest […]
A long-time client emailed me last week with news that one of her key employees abruptly gave notice due to a personal situation. She was very disheartened. We invested a lot of time shaping the job description and refining the vetting process to attract the top talent. We succeeded and landed a rock-star…and now she’s gone.
Everyone is looking for shortcuts to productivity and efficiency. There are two things you can do TODAY to increase your focus and productivity without disrupting your business.
In my work with my CEO clients, one of the first things we do together is re-visit the company’s core values, mission statement, and vision statement. Quite often, CEOs want to list “communication” as a core value to demonstrate commitment to healthy positive communication with internal and external stakeholders. Naming communications as a core value is easy. Living it is hard.
It’s January, so you know what that means!! It’s “All-Hands” time! It’s the time of the year when companies bring their employees together to get them excited about the road ahead.
This past week, I’ve had conversations with three separate business owners about how to successfully connect with prospects. Should you connect through LinkedIn? An email? A phone call? The answer is YES – you should do all of those.
However, before you do any connecting, you need to be able to answer one question:
“Those who live in the past limit their future.”
This was the message I received on my Yogi tea bag last night, as I enjoyed my nightly cup of tea. How timely and appropriate as we bring 2014 to a close.
As we bring 2014 to a close, I want to thank everyone for their support of Successful Culture. As someone who knows firsthand how hard it is to transform a business dream into a reality, I’m honored and blessed for the opportunities to help my clients achieve their goals.
Visit any business website, and you will likely see a scrolling list of the awards the company has won. Awards for leadership, philanthropy, marketing, design, organizational culture, industry position…there is literally an award for every size company, in every industry. Most awards programs create categories according to revenue size so that every organization has a chance to be honored.
Entrepreneurs who have successfully launched a business will find themselves at a fork in the road.
In one direction, there is the option to stay at the solopreneur level. This is a great option for those who…
In my coaching and consulting work with CEOs, the most common challenge is finding the right people. One of my favorite tools to aid in this important decision is part of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), created by Gino Wickman. Information Experts implemented EOS several years ago. I frequently reach back to my EOS toolbox when helping other CEOs move forward.
Whether you are an employee or an employer, chances are you have your share of nightmare stories about the fallout of hires that were not the right fit for a position, or the organizational culture.
Partnerships are one of the most important – and messiest – parts of business. Right now, I am working with clients who:
1: Are building a great partnership
2: Are trying to get out of bad partnership
3: Have narrowly escaped a seemingly good partnership gone bad
In my own experience, I was the majority owner in a partnership at Information Experts (with my husband). With Successful Culture, I am contemplating bringing in a partner.
To grow beyond a solopreneurship, a business owner often needs to enlist the help of a partner. There are many reasons for this including:
Business owners live and breathe their company missions. Often, their business identity plays a significant role in their personal identity. Naturally, they can effortlessly explain what their company does, why it exists, what it stands for, and where it is going.
This is not often the case with employees or customers.
Here are two sets of questions to help you determine if your two most important stakeholder groups – your employees and your customers – really understand your company.
I’ve been a hard core fitness enthusiast ever since I was 15, when I saw Linda Hamilton in The Terminator. I learned then that physical strength is not only beautiful; it is also essential to feeling confident and capable in all aspects of your life.
Executing on a dream or vision to build a business is one of the most mentally challenging endeavors a person will ever pursue. Every day, we are faced with nonbelievers, seemingly insurmountable challenges, and 101 reasons to quit. But still we persevere.
A client called me last week to coach her through a delicate situation with a customer. Her customer had entered into a legal agreement, and at the last minute, wanted to change the terms of the agreement without consent from the other party. This would have jeopardized the entire transaction. Furthermore, her customer insisted that she had told my client about her decision prior to signing the contract (which was not true). My client was on the hook to talk her customer out of a really bad decision, even though her mind was made up.
A client asked me, “Marissa, should I involve my other employees in the interviewing process?” My answer was an enthusiastic YES. From the intern to the executive, the CEO should never unilaterally own a hiring decision.
4 Ways to Stretch Your Time & Money Through a Multi-Platform Marketing Strategy (And an Entrepreneur’s Super-Food)
The two scarcest resources that small businesses have are time and money. They lack the financial cushion and manpower that larger companies have to grow. At the same time, customers are overwhelmed with work & information, are time-starved, and have ADD. These three things get in the way of building trust, loyalty, and recurring revenues with customers.
As a follow-up to last week’s column, “Five Things to Do to Start Your Day,” I’m sharing five things to conclude your day, and set yourself up for a fresh start the next day. Admittedly, I don’t have success every day with all of these. The idea is to Strive for Five. Doing one or two will make a huge difference in your anxiety levels, and maybe even improve your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Every day, life is going to throw you curve balls. It’s highly unlikely that you will ever have a day in which every minute, or every event goes according to plan. This is why it’s so important to spend a small amount of your morning setting yourself up for the ability to rebound and manage the unexpected. Here are the five things I strive to do every morning to begin my day in a place of strength.
I came across an article in The Providence Journal last month, when we were in Rhode Island for a family event. The article advised readers to identify their dating “deal-breakers” before jumping into the online dating world. The idea of “deal-breakers” came up again last week during a client coaching session, but this time I was discussing them in the context of customer relationships.
One of the most rewarding aspects of working with small businesses is seeing them grow. Growth usually translates into new hires. For many of my clients, we’ve created processes and strategies to lay a foundation built on transparent communication, clearly defined goals, and aligned expectations.
One of the most effective actions a company can implement is the weekly huddle. This time together ensures that all employees (and other valuable team members) are kicking off the week in complete unison. It is a time for the CEO to communicate weekly goals and expectations, and to learn from direct reports what employees have on their agenda.
This is a high-level meeting, and is a two-way dialogue so that all attendees know that their contributions matter, and that their voices are heard. These touch-points create positive energy for the week, and build relationship equity among the team members.
Vision without execution is just hallucination.
“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”
“The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion.”
“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.”
Vision and leadership are two sides of the same coin. One can’t lead if they don’t know where they are going. I’m often asked how a leader can develop “vision.” There’s no simple answer.
I’m writing this column from Bethany Beach, Delaware, which has been our family escape for 17 years. As we were packing, I checked quite a few times to make sure we had our chargers, my laptop, and my iPad which I loaded with several business books to read.
Fast forward six days… I didn’t read one business book, and I responded to less than 20 emails. Instead, I picked up a great beach read that chronicled how the lives of three very different women interconnected.
So you’re finally taking the plunge. You’ve had it with fulfilling someone else’s dream, you know you have a unique value to bring to the world, and you’re ready to get it out there. The problem is, you have no idea what to do first.
Here are the seven simple secrets to setting yourself up for success.
A very successful business owner who is going through a rough patch asked me, “Marissa, what’s the one thing you recommend I do to triage my company, and turn it around?”
As the owner of a 20-year company that has experienced multiple government shut-downs, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the implosion of several industries, major contract protests, and even a lawsuit from an unethical subcontractor, I have a lot of experience with triage.
Can we be honest with each other? As much as we love our work, we don’t always love the people we work with. What happens when you encounter someone in the course of your workday that can potentially suck the life out of you while you are trying to succeed in the workplace?
In my coaching with dozens of CEOs, this issue presents itself over and over. Potentially toxic situations manifest with customers, vendors, employees, or other industry colleagues every day, in virtually every environment.
“I CALL SHOTGUN!”
I’ve always been amused when kids fight over the front passenger seat. Maybe it’s because when I was growing up, I never had a shot at the front seat, since I’m the youngest of three, and the only girl. I was always relegated to the middle seat in the back with the hump. But that’s a story for another day.
Kids are under the illusion that the “shotgun” seat holds more importance than the back seats. Actually, the only seat that really matters is the driver’s seat, because it’s the seat that controls the journey.
In business, this is often the case as well.
When you’re in business growth mode, two ideas constantly rent space in your head:
1: I need to get this done yesterday.
2: I need to spend as little money as possible.
This thought process actually undermines the decision process we desperately need to follow when building a business.
In an ideal world, we would make all of our business decisions, carefully, slowly, and thoughtfully. We wouldn’t be driven by artificial deadlines or lowest price. We wouldn’t rush to quickly check important decisions off our list. We wouldn’t be attracted, like a moth to a flame, to offers that seem too good to be true. But entrepreneurs invariably are attracted to the light.
Well, it’s summer, which means it’s time for beach trips, outdoor concerts, BBQ’s – and internships. My 20-year old company Information Experts has hired interns for more than 10 years to support all types of marketing and communications initiatives, and Successful Culture has two great interns this summer.
I attended Matt Dixon’s presentation on The Challenger Sales Model last month, which was particularly relevant for today’s selling environment. The last few years have been especially tumultuous and challenging for many industries, and connecting with your customer in a meaningful way has never been more important.
Have you ever walked into a clothing store, saw something you loved, and just walked out with it without buying?
Or, have you ever called a service provider who is the competitor of a current provider, and asked them to help you for free because their selected vendor isn’t doing their job well?
When I was in college, I waited tables to have money for my “essentials.” I loved the work because I could talk with so many different types of people, I was part of a (really fun) team, and I made good money. Looking back I realize that one of the reasons I was a successful waitress was because I can quickly read people and connect with them in a way that makes them comfortable.
I attended an exceptional Young Presidents Organization (YPO) learning event last week, where Steve McLatchy, author of Decide: Double Your Results, Reduce Your Stress & Lead By Example, spoke. Many people speak at a high level about the differences between management and leadership, but few articulate it well. Steve nailed it.
Leadership is a result you produce. If things are exactly where they are when you arrived in a “leadership” position, then you’re providing maintenance, not leadership. A true leader never “arrives” at leadership. The moment you’ve arrived there, you are a manager, and in maintenance mode.
In a nutshell, leadership = improvement, and management = maintenance.
Small business owners are vulnerable to major disruptions when life throws a curve-ball. We make ambitious plans with “permanent” deadlines, knowing that one unexpected event can derail everything and we will need to pivot.
“I know you’re busy, but….”
“This may sound [crazy/stupid/silly], but…..”
In one of my recent coaching sessions, I worked with a client who is having difficulty engaging with an aggressive, somewhat disrespectful colleague. Let’s face it; we all have to deal with difficult people at some point in our careers. They are as predictable and enjoyable as taxes.
As a small business owner, I know first-hand how important it is to have a PR plan, but I also know that time, money, and resources are scarce!
So how does a business owner communicate their value – especially in an information-overloaded world, and rise above the noise?
The two questions small business owners must always ask when trying to get good press is:
I was paralyzed with indecision. Then, my coach and 20-year advisor snapped me out of it. “Marissa, you don’t have the luxury of standing still.” The word “luxury” struck a chord. In business, time is money. Energy is money. If a business isn’t smartly applying these two valuable resources wisely, it means they are applying them poorly. There’s no in-between. There’s little margin for error.
One of my favorite writers is Seth Godin. He has a way of framing brilliantly simple concepts in a succinct way that makes you go, “Why didn’t I think of that??”
One of his blogs last week was Cracking the Pottery. He talked about how we need to be able to let go of what’s not working for us, even if we’ve invested a lot of time/money/energy in it, so that we can be free to work on what IS working.
This is a conundrum that most entrepreneurs face for these reasons:
One of my favorite books when I was growing up was “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” With the stroke of a purple crayon, Harold designs the life he imagines. When he wants to go for a walk, he draws a moonlit path. When he’s hungry, he draws himself a lunch. When he becomes scared of his own illustrated dragon, he creates an ocean and a sailboat to escape just in time.
Harold uses his creative thinking to escape from life’s corners that constrain him.
People with big vision often find themselves painted into a corner. We set upon our path, often underestimating or unaware of the obstacles that may get in our way of progress. Or, we over-commit, and find ourselves completely overwhelmed with what we have promised to others. Wouldn’t it be great if we could draw ourselves an ocean and a sailboat, and simply sail away to a far-away land?
We can’t do that, but when our backs are up against the wall, we can create additional paths to lead us out of our corners. We can transform our corners into a doorway.
Entrepreneurship is all about calculated risk. We can create strategic plans, implement repeatable processes, hire the top people, and engage with the best customers. However, the only way to grow to the next level is to bite off more than you can chew, and pray you don’t choke.
I know the feeling of biting off more than you can chew. Four years ago, Information Experts made the strategic decision to invest in a newly formed Joint Venture (JV) to pursue a multi-billion dollar Department of State program. The risk was ridiculously high but the possible reward was astronomical.
I’m working with a great company who’s committed to moving to the next level of growth. The owner/founder has done a very good job of establishing himself as a highly dependable and reputable subcontractor, but wants to triple the company size, and evolve into a prime contractor over the next 3 years. We have a lot of work to do. To make this pivot, we have to build his infrastructure, implement required processes, and align with the right people.
One of our most immediate tasks is to evaluate and shift the mindset and commitment of his current team. Growth can’t happen alone. It takes a village to build a business.
It’s all coming back to me….the early days of building a business, and laying a solid foundation to support healthy growth. I find myself with lengthy to-do lists that require many sets of helping hands. It’s tempting to simply throw new tasks over the fence to those that have already proven to be experts as I grow Successful Culture.
But wait. I’ve been down this road before with Information Experts. I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, and then tossed the overflow to a team mate. Eager to please, they say yes, even though my new request is outside of their core expertise… setting us both up for disappointment.
I’ve had a slew of podcast interviews over the last few weeks, and virtually all of the hosts have asked me what I think is the necessary ingredient for continued business growth. I speak from a place of making mistakes, and from getting things right over the last 20 years.
The three things I believe companies need to survive are a market niche, relevancy, and a mindset of greatness. I’ve named them in order of difficulty.
Values dictate every major decision and action in an organization – from the clients that a company engages, to the people that a company hires, to seemingly simple behaviors such as leaving a door open or closed. Values determine our behavior when others are not around to watch us. They are the core of integrity – which manifests when values are integrated with our actions. Personally and professionally, they frame the most important aspects of who we are, and what matters to us.
One of my coaching clients called me this week, asking for advice on where to find a great sales rep. She’s launching a start-up that has been in the works for months, and is obviously anxious to get her product to the market. My advice to her was to look in the mirror. That’s where she would find her best sales rep.
When Sunday arrives and you take a peek at the work-week ahead, what physical reactions occur in your body? Does your heart race a bit faster from anxiety? Does your stomach tighten? Do you feel stress in your neck and shoulders? Have you ever thought about these reactions?
How many times a day do you mindlessly look at others that are different than you with a “THEM” frame of mind? This could apply to people who look differently, perform different jobs, practice different religions, engage in different hobbies, or any other type of difference. We probably all do it without being aware of it. Even though I strive to come to all experiences and people with an open mind, a blank canvass, and free of judgment, human nature causes all of us to evaluate those that we see based on societal prejudices that seep into our subconscious.
As one who sees leadership and spirituality as two sides of the same coin, I often refer to Deepak’s 7-Step Framework for LEADERS. Deepak describes a leader as “the symbolic soul of a group of consciousness.” He says that group consciousness could be a family, an organization, a community, a country or the whole world. He explains that the leader represents the longings, the aspirations, the deepest desires of the group, so in a sense, “the soul.” This is exactly why the CEO owns the culture of an organization, which is the organizational DNA.
Personal development is not a tool for reaching a bigger goal. Instead, becoming a “complete human being is already the biggest and most noble goal you can aspire to.” Most of us are on a quest of continuous self-improvement, with the goal of attaining greater success. “If I attend this school, if I obtain this certification, if I achieve this milestone, then I will be able to attain another level of achievement.” The personal development is often tied to a desired outcome that moves us from one level to another.
There’s no disputing the fact that business is cut-throat. One day your most important strategic partner is bringing you into a great business opportunity. The next day, they are submitting a proposal to win business from your client. To sustain the ups and downs of career development and business growth, you require a thick skin. So how do we stay tough and protect our interests, while maintaining a mindset of abundance and compassion?
Personal development is not a tool for reaching a bigger goal. Instead, becoming a “complete human being is already the biggest and most noble goal you can aspire to.” Most of us are on a quest of continuous self-improvement, with the goal of attaining greater success. “If I attend this school, if I obtain this certification, if I achieve this milestone, then I will be able to attain another level of achievement.” The personal development is often tied to a desired outcome that moves us from one level to another.
I came across a compilation of 19 shoestring-budget strategies that will help you connect with your target audience without going broke – exactly what a small business needs to expand their presence and stay financially healthy.
Here are my suggestions to move these ideas to implementation.
1: Pick three out of the list and focus on them. If you try to tackle the entire list, you will do a mediocre or poor job for all of them. Then, once those are done, move to the next three. The greatest ideas fail at implementation because we bite off more than we chew.
2: Determine what you can outsource, and what you need to manage yourself. For example, if you decide to join a Chamber, you personally need to cultivate those relationships, so ensure you have enough time to be present in the organization. If you decide to write a blog, you need to build your editorial calendar and write your blogs, but can outsource the mechanics of posting and sharing.
As a small business owner, deciding how and where you will dedicate your very limited time is essential to your success.
3: Finally, if an idea isn’t working for you, pivot quickly. Drop the tactic and move on. It’s all about figuring out what works best for you at this point in time.
Here is the link to the complete presentation.
Here are the tips:
How do we define our deepest desire? And if we don’t know it, how can we get to where we are supposed to be? How do we reach our destiny? It’s so easy to lose sight of the “why” behind our daily deeds. When we lose connection to the “why,” weariness and hopelessness creeps in. We often work in a reactive mode, answering phone calls, emails, and the needs of others. We envelop ourselves in deadlines. Every day that we go to work, we are slaves to checklists. What is our larger purpose behind it all?
What can you do between now and January 1st to ensure your 2014 is your best year yet?
One of my most impactful success strategies is having accountability partners. I have two accountability partners. One keeps me on track with all aspects of my life… My entire to-do list for Information Experts, Successful Culture, my writing, my media strategy, my family, my friendships, and my health & wellness. My whole life is organized according to the spreadsheet I deliver to her in preparation for our weekly Thursday morning calls.
My second accountability partner keeps me on track with my Successful Culture growth strategy. We learn together, build our business plans together, share best practices, put deadlines in place for growth milestones; and we are even planning a series of co-branded live events in 2014. We have all-day monthly planning meetings, as well as twice-monthly phone check-ins.
It’s no secret that the ability to pay attention is essential to our success. If our attention skills are strong, we can perform well on required tasks. If they are stunted, we perform poorly. Daniel Goleman is one of my favorite authors. His first two books explore the vital connection between emotional intelligence and transformational leadership: “Emotional Intelligence” and “Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence.” His most recent book is “Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.”
In the December issue of Mindful Magazine, Daniel discusses three types of focus that we all require to enjoy a connected, fulfilling life: Inner focus, Other focus, and Outer focus. Leaders especially require strength in all three areas to achieve their goals.
Nelson Mandela has come to the end of his long walk to freedom. He joins some of the greatest leaders in history – Lincoln, King, Gandhi, Gorbachev, Kennedy, and the Dalai Lama – as a man who dedicated his life to unity, equality, and creating a world that is guided by compassion, tolerance, and justice.
Mandela’s passing provides us the opportunity to examine our own leadership traits. I’ve identified 8 traits that I believe defined Mandela’s life and leadership. These are traits that I have always tried to carry through my 20 years of entrepreneurship, and it’s not been easy. Mandela has inspired me to try harder; I hope he inspires you too.
As much of the country is blanketed in snow and ice, this is a perfect time to pause… to take a deep breath, notice the beauty of our surroundings, and slow down. Yes, the snow wreaks havoc on our well-assembled plans. School is canceled, day-care is closed, meetings and appointments are pushed aside, our travel plans are either rescheduled or delayed.
Fortunately for most of us, however, the winter weather is nothing more than an inconvenience.
Two of my favorite things about the snow (besides snow angels) are the way it falls in solitude, and the visual effect it has on our landscape. Both of these gifts are actually deceptive, for beneath the snow lies Spring. While we are in the moment of the winter solstice, we shift focus away from the fact that just beneath our feet, and also just above our heads is growing grass and budding trees & flowers. Even in the stillness and solitude of a snowstorm, Spring life continues to push forward.
There is a big difference between “hearing” and “listening.” We often hear the people around us, whether engaged in a group dialogue or one-to-one discussion, but we don’t always “listen.”
Especially in today’s environment where there are so many platforms to speak, we are bombarded with noise and messages that dissolve into useless babble.
Ideally, the art of conversation is an intentional exchange between two like-minded individuals that is mutually beneficial, and creates connection and harmony. In this circumstance, the two participants are equal partners. The speaker is active, and the listener is receptive. A conversation in which someone is speaking but no one is listening – either intentionally or non-intentionally – creates disharmony in the conversation and the relationship.
I wanted to build a company. I had no money, I had no business experience and I had no business idea. So I was perfectly qualified. I didn’t want to build a bank. I wanted to build a technology company. Many days I went to work wondering if it would be my last day. There were many near-death experiences over the first 5 years. Our idea involved doing the business differently and that was hard to sell.”
This is the transparency that Capital One CEO Rich Fairbank shared with 300 entrepreneurs and Capital One customers as he kicked off his 90-minute talk. He reminded us that regardless of industry or size of company, there are many universal truths that apply to all organizations and entrepreneurs.
Businesses can’t grow without strategic partnerships. When thoughtfully selected, the right partner can enhance a company’s client base, capabilities, market presence, and overall brand. When selected poorly, the wrong partner can result in wasted time, energy, and resources, with nothing to show for your efforts, and can potentially harm your company or reputation.
No one would buy a luxury home from a builder living in a shack, or trust a wealth manager that was financially irresponsible. When we evaluate the skills of web designers or graphic artists, we ask to see a portfolio of work, and we visit their sites.
Our own actions give us credibility, or they discredit us. There is no in-between.
Would you hire yourself?
Entrepreneurship is as American as apple pie, baseball, and SpongeBob Squarepants. The essence behind entrepreneurship is the freedom to live a professional life that has the most meaning to you – to not be defined by someone else’s value system, personal vision & goals, and decisions. But with that freedom comes tremendous accountability, responsibility, and risk.
As SpongeBob and Patrick so eloquently discussed, entrepreneurship has unlimited possibilities. With entrepreneurship, we are limited only by our own vision (and money – but we can often find it if we look in the right places). However, entrepreneurship does bring its own pain and suffering with it, so to answer Patrick’s question, yes entrepreneurship can hurt at times.
I had the privilege of speaking at the National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC – www.nwboc.org) conference last week in Palm Beach, Florida. One of the highlights of the conference (where 200 women business owners came together to learn, share, and connect) was keynote Barbara Corcoran. Barbara is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country. She took a $1,000 loan to start her real estate company, The Corcoran Group, which she grew into a $5 billion business. She sold the firm for $66 million in 2001.
Barbara is also a host and investor on ABC’s Shark Tank. During the last three seasons, she has bought 11 new businesses. She is also the author of three best-selling books, and is a regular small business and real estate contributor on all of the major networks.
Like all great entrepreneurs, Barbara’s journey to success has been filled with wonderful lessons. I have summarized them here for you.
Selecting your networking communities; Top DC 7, best learning community, favorite online spots, best events
As a follow-up to my March 10th Washington Business Report segment on strategic networking (http://bcove.me/xuc1biiy), I’ve compiled strategies on selecting the networking communities that are right for you. I’ve also listed the top 10 networking communities, along with information on the best learning community, the best events, and my favorite online spots.
First, let’s look at five ways that will help you decide where and with whom your should spend your valuable time.
February was a month of wins – and losses. Everyone talks about their wins, so I’m going to move right past those, and get to the topic that that leaders rarely glorify: the losses.
I was rejected in February by TED. TED stands for Technology, Engineering and Design. There are TED events all over the world that feature speakers that have ideas worth spreading. The TED website (www.ted.com) is my all-time favorite site because it opens our minds to so many ways of thinking about things we’ve never even thought about! It spotlights our greatest potential in any topic you can imagine.
The disaster of the failed Carnival Triumph cruise ship has captivated all of us over the last week.
As a frequent cruiser who has cruised Carnival and other lines, I cringed upon seeing the pictures and videos of the squalor and disgusting conditions aboard ship. I sympathized with the passengers who entrusted their safety to Carnival, yet found themselves living a week-long, potentially life-endangering nightmare. Throughout the course of the week, I kept asking myself how well I would cope with being trapped on board with my family.
Fortunately, the nightmare has ended, now that the ship has docked in Mobile Alabama, with all passengers and crew members safe (albeit hungry and dirty).
Throughout this disaster, I’ve been watching how CEO Gerry Cahill has conducted himself. Personally, I think he has done an exceptional job – especially compared to Former BP CEO Tony Hayward during the 2010 oil spill disaster that claimed 11 lives and has spewed 100 million gallons of toxic oil into the Gulf of Mexico. – and here’s why:
Spouses that choose to work together embark on a very unique journey. This arrangement is not a conventional marriage. Two of the hardest things a person can attempt is to build a successful business and a successful marriage. 90 percent of all businesses fail within the first 5 years. The divorce rate (in the U.S.) is now higher than 50 percent. Combine these two endeavors, and you face a lot of risk. There is a lot at stake at home and at work if things get rocky. The levels of expectations for one another are much higher than in a typical business partnership or typical marriage. Consideration must extend much further than, “I have this great business idea, can you help me?”
As a follow up to my January 10, 2013 segment on Washington Business Report (http://www.wjla.com/articles/2013/02/washington-business-report-feb-10-2013-85006.html) on working with your spouse, I’ve interviewed several other business owners who have braved this model to learn what makes it work, and how to avoid trouble in paradise. Rather than giving a simple bulleted list of strategies such as “schedule a date night” or “agree not to talk about marriage at home,” I’m sharing a more detailed behind-the-scenes glimpse of the complexities of this arrangement. If you are currently working with your spouse, or thinking about it, this is an important column for you.
My January small business segment on ABC’s Washington Business Report with Rebecca Cooper-Dupin focused on accountability and goal-setting strategies to start 2013 strong. Accompanying me was my accountability partner and personal financial advisor, Anne McCabe Triana, owner of CAM Private Wealth (http://www.camprivatewealth.com). I’ve expanded on those strategies here, incorporating many great ideas from other small business owners.
Public and private events of 2012 have challenged many of us emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. As we transition into 2013, I wish you….
Forget the USDA Food Pyramid (at least for the next few minutes). The four food groups that truly nourish us are our Mind, Body, Heart/Soul, and Spirit. When we feed these every day, the rest of life takes care of itself.
Here are specific ways you can feed these four food groups in 2013.
December 14th’s massacre of 20 children and 6 adults in Sandy Hook Elementary, a Connecticut-based elementary school by a deranged 20-year has left not only our entire country shaken, but our entire world. What would possess a young man to take such horrific action? As a parent, my blood ran cold when the news first broke. These families that lost loved ones will never be “OK.” For the rest of their lives, they will feel pain and loss every day. Nothing will ever fill the void that has been left. Every day will be filled in some capacity with sadness and grief.
I actually searched for some sort of guidance on leadership during a crisis like this. There were dozens of articles on how to lead in “tough times” – times of economic uncertainty, times of changing political climates, times of war, and other typical tough scenarios. There was nothing, however, on how leaders should react and somehow be a catalyst for change.
My December small business segment on ABC’s Washington Business Report focused on general, personal, and professional time management strategies. I have many more strategies than I could cover; I’ve included all of them here.
How we can make the most of our holiday downtime – you know those pockets of time when office productivity is low, laziness is high, and we’re all pressing the reset button to move into the new year? I came across an article by Kevin Daum (http://www.kevindaum.com), a best-selling author, Inc columnist, Inc 500 entrepreneur, and fellow Entrepreneurs Organization (http://www.eonetwork.org) member that answered this question.
I’ve taken 2 of his suggestions and mixed them with 3 of mine. Whether you’re the reflective, spiritual, meditative type, the hyper-focused Type-A type, or somewhere in between, there should be something for everyone on this list.
As a small business owner, nothing communicates confidence to prospective customers, employees, and partners more than your title as CEO.
In just three letters, the title communicates self-confidence, leadership, vision, strategy, and credibility.
It’s always the right time to live life from a place of gratitude. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, today I reflect on what it means to be thankful as an entrepreneur.
At last week’s Cadre event (http://www.cadredc.com/), I had the opportunity to hear best selling author Mike Michalowicz (http://mikemichalowicz.com/) speak about his theory of Colossal Entrepreneurship, which is the basis of his book, “The Pumpkin Plan.” Just when I think I have finally mastered the whole entrepreneurship mindset, a new perspective comes along that makes me re-think my whole approach.
This is what happened with Mike. His idea of “The Pumpkin Plan” came from observing pumpkin farmers that grow colossal pumpkins over the course of a year. Those pumpkins don’t magically appear because of a healthy crop season and good luck. These farmers follow a systematic approach to pumpkin growth that differs from the strategies traditional farmers use to grow the maximum quantity of pumpkins possible.
Entrepreneurs know that they require tremendous resilience and energy to recover from setbacks, move through challenges, and inspire others when situations are difficult. I’m often asked how I do have so much energy – especially since I live a caffeine-free/sugar-free life (no coffee, soda – or even chocolate as of October 1st).
I never have an answer because I don’t really understand what people are talking about. I only operate at this energy level. Anything else seems to be in slow motion.
Most entrepreneurs have two common attributes:
A high BS level (always well-intentioned of course.) This could also be known as eternal optimism or eternal positivity
n my meeting today with my customers at Defense Logistics Agency, one of the Directors asked me, “Marissa, how is Information Experts preparing for sequestration?” The question caught me off guard, but fortunately, I’ve attended so many events to learn about sequestration strategies that I was quick on my feet to answer.
Here are the five strategies we’ve implemented to prepare for budget cuts:
Last month, I attended the quarterly Chief Learning Officers (CLO) breakfast led by CLO Media (www.clomedia.com). The panel and discussion centered around the changes occurring in the workforce, and the convergence of education, skills, and work. As someone who has a Master’s Degree in Instructional Systems Design/Curriculum Development, and as CEO of a company (www.informationexperts.com) that provides education and training solutions to the market, I’ve always been interested in how social changes impact educational trends in the workforce.
Much of my information is from one of the best resources I have encountered on this topic: The Apollo Research Institute (www.apolloresearchinstitute.org).
Information Experts (www.informationexperts.com) has gone through A LOT of changes these last few months. These changes have been QUITE an educational journey for me. Honestly, there were times when I wanted to write a column, and I was paralyzed. The words just wouldn’t flow. I felt as if I had nothing valuable to share because my own leadership circumstances were so perplexing to me. I lost my footing, and questioned whether I had any right to share my insights and lessons.
Now that I have emerged in a better place, I look forward to sharing my experiences with you as I continue to process how they have shaped my company, and shaped me as a person, mentor, and leader.
On a positive note, these past two months have provided me with many opportunities to help others through my speaking.
The evening of Monday August 20th was a night to remember. Verne Harnish, who is Founder of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), Founder and CEO of Gazelles, Venture Columnist for Fortune Magazine, and Author of the international bestseller “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits,” spoke to the Washington DC Chapter 0f EO. His visit was especially meaningful because EO is celebrating its 25th year, and the DC chapter was the inaugural EO chapter.
Harnish brings more than 30 years of entrepreneurship experience, a global perspective, and an unmatched understanding of what business owners require to build lasting companies. Fifty business owners gathered at the home of our chapter president for education and inspiration from the individual who was responsible for creating the world’s largest entrepreneurial community.
The Deltek Summer Party attracted close to 1,000 people in the government contracting space this week. Sandwiched between two great networking opportunities was a two-hour overview of the government contracting landscape, and a non-sugarcoated assessment of what companies have to do if they are to survive the current environment.
Robert Lohfeld, President of Lohfeld Consulting and a capture management expert, gave his assessment of 7 market drivers, and how businesses should manage them to stay competitive. Jim McCarthy, Owner of AOC Key Solutions which supports $3.4 billion per year in client wins, and also a capture management expert, outlined 6 key trends that business owners must accommodate to keep moving forward.
Traditionally, the CEO is responsible for the “heart” of the organization… the vision, culture, mission, strategy, and values. They are the “Chief Evangelist Officer,” or the “Chief Cultural Officer” or even the “Chief Emotions Officer” (yes I’ve seen that one too).
Conversely, it’s usually the COO that is responsible for the “blood and guts of the organization” – the person that ensures the operations within the organization can support the vision.
Strategy & Process are Interdependent
Experience – backed up by a lot of research and peer consultation – has taught me that strategy and process are two sides of the same coin, and that the CEO must take ownership for the creation of the core processes that enable a business to run. It doesn’t matter how strong a vision is. Without the processes required to execute, the strategy will fall flat. And while I absolutely believe that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” the one essential element that organizations require for healthy strategies, cultures, and ultimately growth is process.
Living in the DC region and leading an organization that supports our government and our war-fighters, I sometimes think we have an enhanced awareness to the profound impacts that our heroic veterans have made on our lives, and to the sacrifices so many have endured.
The freedom that all of us have has not been “free.” Our freedom to vote, to earn a living, to speak freely, to pursue happiness, to practice our chosen religion – these and many other liberties have come at too high of a price for so many heroes.
As CEO of an organization that serves many military branches, the intelligence sector, and other agencies that indirectly support our war-fighters, I truly feel it is an honor to serve our federal government and agencies/branches that send our armed forces into battle.
“Every adversity, every failure and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.”
This is just one of the golden nuggets of wisdom that stays with me from one of my all-time favorite business books, “Three Feet From Gold” by by Sharon L. Lechter and Greg S. Reid. (http://threefeetaway.com/). The book is a synopsis of Napoleon Hill’s philosophies for success (http://www.naphill.org/).
The title conveys that people often give up on their dreams because they believe they can’t succeed, when in reality, their success is within their grasp – sometimes literally three feet away.
Feeling discouragement or even despair when we’ve convinced ourselves that success isn’t an option happens to everyone. So how can we push past the negative thinking? How can we find the strength and resolve to continue for three more feet to find our own pot of gold?
As a business owner always looking for exceptional talent, and as a mentor to emerging entrepreneurs seeking guidance on how to hire great people, I’ve learned that there are six definitive traits that great potential new hires share. These apply to candidates in all positions, in every sector, at any level – from intern to senior management.
If you’re in the market for a new position, if you’re charged with scouting for new talent in your organization, or if you’re a business owner trying to make those essential first hires, consider these characteristics or behaviors.
If you pick up the phone and start making calls without thinking about your approach, habit and the phrases you’ve picked up from telemarketing calls you have received over the years are going to dominate what you say. Surprise, surprise: that’s not the most effective way to make calls. You may be committing age-old blunders without even knowing it. These strategies were written by one of my Mastermind group members, friend, and trusted advisor Bill Cates, also known as The Referral Coach.(http://www.referralcoach.com/). Bill is THE EXPERT for anyone who wants to know how to build a thriving referral-based business.
Here’s a quick checklist of classic telephone prospecting mistakes. Are you making any of them? If so, take action to rectify your approach!
This past week, veteran Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith submitted his resignation via the New York Times, due to the “toxic culture” that now permeates the organization. “I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it…. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for,” he said.
Smith’s resignation cost the company more than $2 billion.
See what Marissa has been up to this month. Download your copies of her webinar and new e-book to learn how to build an organization that your employees love.
Imagine pitching your idea to 1,000 investors. Over and over and over again. A little insane, right? Not if you’re Seth Goldman, CEO and C-Tea-O of Honest Tea. When we think of Honest Tea, we think of a delicious beverage, and a wildly successful business.
Dig a little deeper into the roots of Honest Tea, and you’ll discover an entrepreneur who is forever committed to the mission of “changing the way people eat, drink, think and live.”
Seth shared the struggles of his early days with 300 business leaders at the sold-out ConnectPreneur Event in the DC region, architected by global serial entrepreneur and angel investor Tien Wong, CEO of Lore Systems (www.lore.net).
It occurred to me this weekend after I attended Yanik Silver’s (http://www.yaniksilver.com/) Underground 8 Online Seminar that one of the primary reasons I am SO FIRED UP about my future is because I am on the LOWEST RUNG of what I call my Personal Learning Ladder™ (PLL). I can’t remember the last time I learned so much in such a short period of time…. Learning opportunities are all around us. We have unprecedented access to knowledge, people, and information that previously was unattainable. What are you doing to continue your learning and growth?
How engaged are you in building a bigger and better future for you, your company, your family, our world?
That was one of the questions I pondered as I absorbed every word that Matthew Kelly delivered at a recent Entrepreneurs Organization (www.eonetwork.org) event. Kelly is a master organizational consultant to several Fortune 500 organizations on the issue of employee engagement. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller “Off-Balance” and “The Dream Manager.” Kelly led 125 entrepreneurs through the thought-provoking exercise of questioning our own engagement, as well as the engagement of those around us, such as our employees.
“If it’s not broken, why fix it?” We’ve all said that as a justification for not moving forward with a difficult situation or decision. The question is, what if the status quo is broken and we’re just ignoring the need for repair? What if we lack the awareness, clarity, courage, or strength to take painful action to get to a better place? Business activity falls into three buckets: Preservation, Destruction, or Creation. To move to the next level, a business must go through all three phases.
Are You The Gatorade of Your Market? "No one else has the ability or right to do what we do in our market."
When you hear “Gatorade,” what do you think? While the name may conjure up seemingly simple ideas such as “sports drink” or “flavored water,” the science behind the Gatorade brand is actually very complex, and is focused on something much bigger, bolder, and specific.
Sarah Robb O’Hogan, North American President of Gatorade and Global Chief Marketing officer of Sports Nutrition for PepsiCo, shared how Gatorade’s brand weakened during the bloated economy, and how the recession brought the brand back to its core consumer. Gatorade’s global mission is “to be the world leader in innovative sports nutrition.” Says O’Hagan: “No one else has the ability or the right to do what we do in our market.”
Leadership isn’t just about knowing how to do the right things. It’s also about being hyper-aware of behaviors that can quickly alienate your employees and bring down your organization. In a position of leadership, everything you do counts. All eyes are on you, even when you aren’t there. Employees feel your presence throughout the day because you set the tone. This is what it means to be a leader – to be aware of how your actions and decisions impact others even when you are physically absent. My 17 years of business leadership have taught me 15 ways how to fail at leadership.
One of the most important strategic relationships a business owner has is with his/her banker. Yet so often, we treat this relationship as a commodity.
Switching banks is not something that I would recommend lightly. As veteran business owners know, the process is cumbersome, stressful, and time-consuming even under the best circumstances. However, sometimes you have to know when it’s time to make a change.
My wish list for everyone in 2012. Happy New Year, and may this year bring you health & happiness, laughter & learning, inner peace to appreciate where you are right now, and just enough restlessness to propel you forward.
For 2012, I wish you…
Courage. I wish you the gift of courage to make difficult decisions. Courage to pursue a road less traveled if it is where you need to go at this point in time. Courage to submerge yourself in sadness without hesitation when your soul requires it. And courage to claim your own happiness no matter how much others may resist your choices.
It’s that time of the year when we tell ourselves that we’re going to be better next year. There’s no shortage of experts to help us achieve “better” or “more.” Is it just me, or are we experiencing an obsession with how-to-lists, habit lists, and steps to a better place?
Throw a tiny pebble into a pond and watch the ripples reverberate. They cascade outward beyond the point that our eyes can see. The effects occur on the surface and beneath it. Have you ever thought about this change principle in the context of an organization? One of the most disruptive actions regarding a group’s dynamic is the addition of a new member. In an organization, bringing in just one new employee into a company can potentially affect the chemistry and interactions of existing employees, and therefore compromise productivity. Consciously or subconsciously, employees are thinking, “How will this change affect my job?” “How will this person affect how we do things around here?” Their sense of organizational trust may be challenged.
Always, Never, and Every are the easiest ways to set yourself up for failure. There’s no room for error. Everything is presented as an all-or-none… an absolute. Who wants to live life with no wiggle room for error?
The quest for perfection is too exhausting and completely self-sabotaging.
Be a little kinder to yourself. Show some self-love. Lower the self-expectations just a notch.
How much valuable time do you expend on activities that don’t fuel your passion or make you struggle? That’s the question I considered as I listened to David Siteman Garland talk about the activities that fill our time on a daily basis. David was a special guest at an event hosted by one of the most remarkable networking communities in the DC region called Cadre
What if you could generate about $1.6 million in sales every year by filling a room with people that pay you to stare at them? Meet “Braco” (pronounced Braht-zo), a “gentle man from Croatia” who apparently has a remarkable gift that has helped countless lives. Each year, 200,000 people pay $8 each to stare at Braco for 30 minutes. In silence. He tours the U.S. and Europe to reach people who are “seeking help from life’s difficulties, health problems, relationship issues, and more.”
I’m trying to get a grip on my schedule. So I did what any overwhelmed, process-oriented, analytical overachiever does. I googled “Time Management Strategies.” I found HUNDREDS of articles, white papers, and lists on time management. Seriously – who has time to write, read, or remember all of that information?
After wasting 15 minutes, I realized that – as usual – all of the answers we need and solutions we seek actually reside right inside of ourselves. I took a deep breath and a long sip of my herbal tea, and I came up with a simple list of really easy strategies
Today’s entrepreneurs view the world and the future through a different lens than that of current or past generations. If the conventional system won’t accommodate them, then they will build an unconventional system. That is exactly what they have done with crowdfunding.
Building a multi-million dollar company can take over your life.
Expanding a business requires careful thought about the lifestyle implications, access to money, and a thorough business plan that maps out the path to go from your current state of business to your desired state of business.
“Million, million, million.” It feels good when we say it, doesn’t it? Especially when we talk about growing our businesses. “I’m going to hit a million dollars.” “I’m going to be a millionaire.” “I’m working on my goal of $1 million in sales.”
So how does a leader keep going – with a smile on her face? I’ve developed several strategies to continue moving towards my goals, and I’m happy to share 6 of them with you. Reach back to these as you move through your challenges.
Joining the Club: Five Strategies for Selecting Networking Organizations & Communities That Deliver ROI
Do you ever feel like a lazy slacker because you’re certain you’re the only person not attending various networking events, or not a member of an organization? It’s easy to get sucked into the networking vortex.There are so many events that you could attend a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and reception event every day of the week and still not make the rounds to every event out there. Wherever you reside, you have to choose wisely.
Leadership is hard. Vision, strategy, financing, legal, IT, HR, operations, management, sales, marketing… and staying strong through it all. Tough.
If you don’t absolutely love what you do, if you don’t believe in the positive difference you are making in the world around you, you can fatigue very quickly.