In my work I often get to lead strategic and business planning sessions and retreats with some amazingly dynamic and thoughtful entrepreneurs and executives.
These past seven days have been particularly rich in this regard.
Last week, I led a retreat day for the executive management team of one of California's and fastest - growing construction management firms, and on Monday did so for one of the oldest receivable management agencies in the world.
These sessions follow a common pattern: A company’s leaders set growth goals, for sales, profits, company value, and/or on a company, division, product/service basis…
…and then together they grapple with both their realism and the marketing, sales, operational, and financial challenges to be overcome to achieve them.
Through this process, the original goals are revisited, adjusted up or down (or completely rethought!), and almost always brought into plain daylight is the need for profound change - organizationally and at the individual level - for there to be any reasonable probability of their achievement.
There is a common energy dynamic to these sessions that was best described at a famous (or infamous!) empowerment seminar I attended many years ago:
Breakdowns Lead to Breakthroughs.
No matter the industry, the age or level of success or sophistication of the executive group, inevitably the course of a serious strategic discussion follows a “peak to valley to peak” flow like this:
The Opening. The session starts, the group is fresh, full of enthusiasm, energized by being together and by the yet to be discovered business possibilities.
The Breakdown. The first blush recedes, the discussion turns to considerations (of time, money, talent) and of obstacles - competition, market/customer apathy, operational inefficiencies.
Energy drains from the room, creases of doubt and worry spread.
The Breakthrough. When hope is about gone, someone suggests something…
…an idea, a strategy, a new way of approaching/defining/verbalizing the opportunity, the selling proposition, the competitive advantage.
The suggestion is taken up by the group, augmented, permutated, solidified. Heads nod, eyes lock, adrenaline surges.
The group arrives, miraculously, to another place. Different from what had been anticipated for sure but usually far more actionable.
Let me say it again: this emotional “roller coaster" is common to almost all strategic gatherings, and I would venture to say that without it the ability of a group to define and commit to the business action plans that flow from the discussion is limited.
A common question asked is, "How long must we be in breakdown until we get to breakthrough?"
The answer of course, is it depends. Sometimes the breakdown is only a matter of minutes, other times it lasts months.
However, a good measurement of an executive’s effectiveness is his or her ability to get to and move through breakdowns rapidly.
Is it better to have strategic sessions led by an outside facilitator or done in-house?
Well, just like all Olympic gold medalists that have great coaches, so do great business leaders have advisors that help them move through breakdowns and to breakthroughs faster.
So do strategic retreat and planning sessions often and right, more breakthroughs will be had and your business will soar.
Getting to all this is worth a breakdown every now and then, isn't it?
In last week's post, I described The 20% Rule, where by improving four key business processesby just 20% each leads to results doubling.
What I love most about The 20% Rule is how it allows us to set big Stretch Goals, and then focus all our business energy on incremental, ongoing improvements to reach them.
So what does process improvement at a 20% clip look like? It is even easier than it sounds, requiring a mere 2% monthly improvement over the course of a year to more than exceed it.
So why do most of us fall short? I would point to three main reasons:
1. We Don’t Know What to Fix. Thoreau once famously said that “The unexamined life is not worth living."
Likewise, the unexamined business is not worth having - and nicely, those businesses that stay unexamined won't stick around for long anyway!
So before even figuring out what to fix, let’s just make a firm commitment to connect all of our important business processes (marketing, sales, operational, financial, etc.) too easy to measure Data Points and Metrics.
My experience is that doing just this gets us more than halfway to any process improvement goal.
2. Become a Better Fixer. Business, like sports, is a highly competitive undertaking, with many talented players and teams, reaching for the same, brass ring.
And just like athletes must constantly train and practice, so do entrepreneurs and executives need always to work on maintaining and improving their “Business Games,” with skills to rigorously develop and be great at for the 20% rule including:
● The ability to collect data (see above)
● The ability to interpret data - i.e. understanding what data represents in “Three Dimensional” business terms
● From these interpretations, the business “creativity” to arrive at plans and solutions to improve results
● The Will to Act (enough said)
3. No Egos Allowed! The 20% Rule requires us to check our egos at the door and accept which of the above we aren't great at and ask for help. Help, with an authentic desire for it coupled with an inspirational mission and persona, is easy to attract and get.
This is a well-known secret of all successful people, to understand and stay within one’s Circle of Competence. John Paul DeJoria, billionaire co-founder of the Patrón Spirits Company explained it best:
"Do what you do best and try to find others who can fill in by doing the things you are not good at. For instance, I am terrible at details — accounting especially, so I hire accountants to help me. This frees me up to focus on the things I do excel at and I can run a more efficient operation."
So let’s set big Stretch Goals, break them into 20% Attainable Goals, and then incrementally reach and exceed them via measuring what needs fixing, becoming great fixers, and getting help when, where, and as we can.
[Click Here for a complimentary consultation on how to identify and improve your four key business processes by 20% each to double results in 2016]
Like many fellow, proud last minute holiday shoppers, my gift-buying stress has gone down dramatically as online shopping has gotten faster, more reliable, and if it is even possible more price competitive.
I am not alone. Holiday E-commerce continues to one of the great growth industries in the world, with sales growing 13.9% this year, to a record $79.4 billion. At this growth rate, within 5 years ecommerce will represent the majority of US holiday retail sales!
Great for the consumer, but troubling to say the least for all but the biggest online businesses, as the Amazons of the world build on their already dominant positions and put under severe threat everyone - offline, specialty, and smaller retailers - in their crushing paths.
Yes, smaller businesses need to either adapt to this new environment - learning from the strengths and exploiting the weaknesses of the Big Boys - or be steamrolled.
Just say no! Here are changes and initiatives that almost every business can set in motion right now to keep this from happening to them in 2016.
First, Understand and Speak to the “New Customer.” At Amazon senior executive meetings, Jeff Bezo's famously leaves one seat empty to represent the interests, wants, and needs of the customer.
Let’s speak to these customers as they are - for better or for worse entitled and empowered by endless inducements like detailed product specifications, price matching, and extensive, verified online reviews and testimonials.
And know that B2B customers too are fully conditioned with these expectations and that if we can't meet them, newer competitors will.
And we are going to recognize and accept that meeting these expectations will require us to offer far more Intrinsic Value with our products and services than we currently do.
This is especially true for service businesses - lawyers, accountants, web designers, consultants of all types - where much of the offering is “relational” and “perceived” and as such difficult to define and quantify.
Here is a quick and dirty way to do this quantifying and defining: Let’s benchmark the price, quality, and value of our offerings against that offered by “freelancers” in our industry for comparable services.
Yes, doing so is scary - think of fields like web and graphic design decimated by overseas freelancers providing good quality service outcomes at seeming impossibly low rates.
But look, compare, and benchmark we must.
And as we do, we need to make one big change and one big choice:
The Big Change: Ruthless cost reduction and vigilance is the way we must live and work today (brought to you by Amazon, among many others). Given the vicious and unrelenting pricing pressures from everywhere and always, we have to be able to at least partially get to price competitiveness through cost competitiveness. It is what it is.
The Big Choice: We need to accept that we can’t compete, like an Amazon does, in multiple markets with multiple offerings, at commodtized prices.
Rather, we need to pursue niche and / or premium offerings that are - again - at least partially protected from price and feature competition.
Now this is where it gets really hard - more often than not what this entails is an acceptance of reduced volume and horror of horrors turning away paying customers if they are lower margin and not part of a longer term sustainable and strategic plan.
A tough road for sure, but the competition is only going to get tougher as the years roll on. So give your business a gift this holiday season and put these critical changes into motion today.
To an Awesome Holiday Season for You and Yours!
Your brand is the unique design, sign, symbol, and/or words that create an image or impression of your product(s), service(s) and/or company.
A strong brand differentiates your product or service from your competitors, and is easily recognized by customers in your market.
Think about Starbucks...Their coffee is not the most affordable in the market, but their brand recognition and loyalty is off the charts. They have a wide-spread reputation for delicious, strong coffee that many people refuse to do without.
Disney is global mega brand. Show a child a black round circle with two round black ears and the screams of "Mickey, Mickey!" will leave you temporarily deaf. Not only is the image recognizable, but it's is associated with fun and happiness.
Developing a strong brand is important and can dramatically impact your success. Below are three surefire strategies you can use.
1. Create a New Product and Constantly Innovate it
Apple's introduction of the iPhone is a classic example of this strategy. While cell phones had been in the market for years, Apple introduced a new sleek design and took the cell phone into the realm of smart phones. Instead of just phone and camera, Apple popularized having music on your phone and later led in the development and release of mobile applications This strategy caused Nokia's market share to drop precipitously.
Not only did Apple innovate with the initial introduction of the iPhone, but the company keeps the product fresh by releasing updated models every 2 years or so.
Puma is also adapting this method by constantly introducing new sports products to the market. The company does this to continue building its reputation as the most desirable sport lifestyle brand.
By creating a new, unique product and constantly updating it, you will build a strong brand. And you will stay top-of-mind for customers since they will always be curious as to what they can expect from you next.
2. Using a New Campaign To Change a Brand's Image
As second branding strategy is to use a new marketing campaign to change your brand image. One example of this is the Dove soap campaign introducing "Real Beauty" in 2011. The concept is that women have real beauty and Dove can help them realize it.
This type of campaign can also be called "rebranding." You use an old product, repackage it, and possibly change its logo too. Your purpose is to change the product's identity and reputation in the view of consumers.
You can also use rebranding to overcome a period of poor publicity. For instance, if your company has been involved in public malpractice litigation, rebranding can help you get rid of negative connotations that may be hurting your sales.
Rebranding can be a powerful tool in helping you differentiate your product from competitors. Think of special stitching and serial numbers high-end purse manufacturers use to differentiate their products from cheaper knock-offs. When you make your product distinguishable, you can gain more customers.
Lastly, when your product has been in the market for a long time, curiosity and interest from customers may lessen. Rebranding can help you regain excitement in the market place and recapture market share. Intrigued customers want to try whatever is new in your product.
3. Advertise While Keeping Up with the Brand Value and Promise
Being seen on television and other advertising channels can do wonders for most products and services. Sometimes, despite being more expensive than other brands, consumers still buy products with which they are more familiar. This is true of the brand Tide. There are laundry detergents that are less expensive, but many customers still buy Tide. Because they hear about Tide frequently, it is top of mind when consumers are shopping.
Still, Tide has to keep up with its promise of being a great laundry detergent. If consumers experienced poor results, they wouldn't buy Tide again despite millions of dollars of advertising. The product must do what your advertising said it would.
It is also important to make sure your advertising, whether local or national, is reaching your target audience. Remember the Chrysler Pacifica? Its okay if you don't; they don't even make the Pacifica minivan anymore.
In 2004, despite warnings from their advertising consultants, Chrysler contracted Celine Dion for $10 million to promote the new Pacifica. The campaign was a disaster. The Pacifica appealed to young professionals, yet Celine Dion resonated with an older age group. The result? Nothing. Flat sales with millions of dollars out the driver's window. Know your target market!
Applying the Strategies
While many of the examples I used are from well known large companies, any business owner, even a one person operation can use the strategies listed above.
And importantly, you don't have to spend a fortune on this. With social media tools like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, you can create videos and photos that can spread your brand message quickly, inexpensively and with amazing effectiveness.
So focus on building your brand, because the right brand will bring in tons of new customers and dramatically increase the value of your company.
This weekend, the youth soccer team I coach suffered a heart-breaking loss in our league’s championship game. In addition to losing the game in its final moments, to add insult to injury, we did so on an incorrectly called penalty kick!
The loss was emotionally hard on our players, parents, and on me as the coach, as we all played back in our minds and in conversation how things could and should have gone differently and of the unfairness of sports where luck and circumstance often play outsized roles.
And while we all of course prefer winning to losing, losses - especially emotionally impactful ones and ones after we have practiced and played our absolute best and came up a bit short…
…well these kinds losses can be transformative.
Some of the reasons why are cliché, but real nonetheless – we learn that we are way more resilient than we think and that we can get "Off the mat and back into the ring" no matter how hard we have been knocked down.
But the “lesson from losing” that I like best is how it puts a cold and harsh spotlight on those areas where we need to improve if we are to win the next time out.
And boy-oh-boy, does this lesson apply to business or what?
Because in business, the losses always outnumber the wins.
In marketing, no matter the channel, the vast majority of our target audience doesn't respond (For e-mail, a 97% non-response rate is considered excellent).
The best salespeople lose two out of three of the deals they pitch and in some industries losing nine times out of ten is considered world-beating.
And once clients are secured, when the standard is as it should be of making them "raving fans" and "evangelists" of and for us, how often do most businesses win at that?
How about winning financially? How many business grow at a rate and profit to an amount as defined by plan? And sorry folks, if we we’re not doing this, then that’s called losing.
Yes, in business, losing is our constant companion.
Now, the most successful and effective entrepreneurs and executives I know are by no means so talented and brilliant that they just win all the time, as much as they are far better than their competition at learning from their losses.
They only take losing personally when it serves them to do so - to be so peeved by it that they commit to work more energetically and creatively to win the next time.
They “inspect” their losing - critically and analytically parsing it to its smallest detail, and then making the technical corrections to incrementally decrease its likelihood of doing so the next time out.
And they recognize the overriding importance of that next time.
Because businesses, like athletes, are not valued on the basis of their past performances - no matter how glorious they might have been - but on their future prospects.
And so yes, we should hate to lose. And grieve over it when we do.
But we should also laugh at it for what it really is: An irrelevant relic when it comes to pursuing and achieving our future success.
So the next time the breaks of the game and/or of the Board Room don't go your way, shed a tear or two for sure because it is normal and healthy to care.
But only shed a few and do it fast, because the next game, the next opportunity, the next pitch is just waiting for you to step up and hit out of the park.
It's a given these days that your business needs a website. And, if your website ranks at the top of the search engines for the right keywords, it could mean a ton of new customers and revenue for your business.
SEO or Search Engine Optimizing is the process of getting your website to rank as high as possible on your most important keywords. And when focusing on SEO, you should pay most attention to Google (rather than Yahoo or Bing, etc.) as Google currently has a 68% market share of all searches done in the United States.
And when optimizing, keep the following ten SEO tips in mind.
1. Social Media Optimization Helps SEO
Social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) can provide you with website traffic. It also impacts your rank in Google. Specifically, Google's ranking algorithm decides on your brand's social media value through the number of likes in Facebook, the comments and shares it gets, the number of Twitter followers, the number of tweets that states your brand or has your web link, and the number of people you have in your Google circles. So don't ignore social media.
2. Content Is Still King
The key here is for you to establish yourself as an expert in your niche by providing relevant and fresh information to your readers. You can also invite guest bloggers or hire content writers that can give your site vital information about your industry. The search engines are keen on whether your site provides quality information.
3. Do Guest Posting Properly
While guest posting (i.e., getting other experts to post their articles on your website) can be a great source information, be careful with backlinks. Backlinks are links from one site to another. Make sure you only link to high-integrity websites and blogs. So, if your guest poster wants to link to a "sketchy" website in their article, don't let them.
4. Diversifying Can Protect You
With Google Panda and Penguin penalizing websites for shady SEO techniques, one of the best things you can do is to diversify your SEO techniques. Consistently update your site with fresh and winning content while using diversified anchor texts and links. "Real" is the word here, real content and real links are rewarded by search engines.
5. Location-Based Searched Results Can Take You Higher
Search activities based on location boost your ranking as well. Location-based meta tags and descriptions can do wonders to your page rankings. How you are positioned in Google places can also help drive traffic to your website. This can be critical to your business if your sales depend on local customers.
6. On-Page Optimization Never Gets Out Of Style
Proper keyword selection, research, and testing are crucial in doing your on-page SEO. Tags and internal links should be done appropriately. As mentioned earlier, your content is the most determining factors in improving your rank. They key is to produce high quality content that appeals to your customer.
7. Videos And Infographics Are Cool Ways To Do SEO
Videos and infographics engage customers. So they stay longer and consume your content. As mentioned before, this is what the search engines want.
Also, videos, when posted on other sites (like YouTube) can drive traffic to your website (e.g., in the description under your video).
Finally, if your videos and infographics are good enough, other sites will link to them on your site, which will drive traffic and boost your rankings.
8. Press Releases Make The Town Talks About You
Well written press releases can build your brand and generate a lot of new links to your website and thus boost your rankings. There are many online sites that allow you to publish your press releases (the better ones do charge fees).
9. Usability And Significance Add Power
Ask yourself whether your site is providing your audience answers to their needs. Is your site offering quality information to web searchers and clients? Like any brand, establishing your brand's quality is recognized by search engines. Solving customers' problems makes your website more relevant.
10. Build And Maintain Strong Relationships
Your clients are your most important concern. Be creative and sincere in dealing with your clients and you will start building your brand empire. Have them experience your product and services in a personal way and you will find that making sales is easier and simpler with a strong following.
While search engine optimization is very important to driving traffic, always prioritize your brand. And create high-quality content. Old-school SEO experts may want to convince you to have hundreds of low quality articles proliferated around the web to boost your rankings. The new Google algorithms and market attitudes will punish this behavior.
In short, keep the quality of your content high and always pay attention to the needs of your customers, and your search engine rankings should continue to rise.
Suggested Resource: Want to learn my complete strategy for methodically maximizing your online traffic, leads, sales and profits? Then check out my Ultimate Internet Marketing System.
The most inspirational entrepreneurs and executives truly “have it all,” throughout their years and especially so during the holiday season.
They enjoy the blessings of the season that those that work hard in building and leading businesses so richly deserve….
…while developing a steely resolve and a solid plan to profit from the awesome opportunities and possibilities that the New Year is sure to bring.
Here are seven ideas on how to really have our cake and eat it too these next few weeks.
#7. Complete 2015. Before the New Year can truly be started, the old one needs to be closed out.
For sure, this often involves administrative, accounting, and other practical matters.
But it also means appreciating the accomplishments and the victories of the past 12 months, and fully mourning the things not done and the defeats.
Celebrations, in the form of holiday parties and travel and technology “sabbaticals” (Getting off the grid!) are great ways to do both. Quite simply, the benefits of taking the time to "sharpen the saw" through closure should not be underestimated.
#6. Stop the Beeps! Every year it gets more difficult to find the "Signals in the Noise" and distinguish frenetic activity from actual accomplishment.
The sometime melancholic end-of-year energy is tailor-made for taking stock, reconnecting with the mission and vision of one’s enterprise, and reflecting on where we wish to go in the New Year.
So like they say now at the movie theater before the start of every film, this holiday season when those never ending texts and e-mails hit, respond with a deep breath and say "It Can Wait."
5. Get Data. Reflection and a mission-focused mindset are great, but when combined with accurate business metrics and data-driven decision making, magic happens.
Proof of this will come to many of us in the next few weeks in the form of a little (or hopefully big!) brown box. From Amazon.com.
A company that has built an ecommerce empire nonpareil by combining an overriding mission on the needs and wants of the customer with an otherworldly command of its business data and analytics.
Be like them.
#4. Get Help. This is a golden age of advisory firms that help organizations of all types and sizes find and follow their best and most profitable paths.
The best advisors now combine the complementary aspects of the “CEO Whisperer” approach with the technology - enhanced strategic planning disciplines of traditional management consulting (McKinsey, Bain, BCG, et al).
Just like the best coaches help the best athletes run faster, so do great advisors help organizations succeed more and better than the competition.
#3. No False Choices! False choices are “logical fallacies that involve situations in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there are additional options.”
And for many entrepreneurs and executives around the holiday season, false choices abound.
Like business or family - very many of the most successful entrepreneurs and executives have more than enough time and energy for both.
Like ethics or winning - in this completely transparent Yelp, Reseller Ratings, BBB online world world of ours in the short term some folks may “get away with it” but in the long run only the ethical survive and win.
#2. Think Big!
"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work."
- Daniel Hudson Burnham
A fresh, open and inviting year is about to be left in all of our care.
Why not do something big and grand and great with it?
In so many ways, all great breakthroughs have, as their original seed, a childhood imagining.
Let's use this time of year to re-connect with the sense of awe and wonder of our youth.
And to dream about doing and being something far bigger than we have ever before.
#1. Focus on Opportunities NOT Problems. My favorite of Peter Drucker's Eight Practices of highly effective executives is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.
Focusing less on what we don't have and what we can't do, and more on what we can and will.
We live in the most magical, global business opportunities – filled time in human history.
Let's go out and grab them!
To an Awesome Holiday Season for You and Yours!
Shrouded in the drumbeat of negativity that passes as international business reporting these days has been the bursting growth in U.S. Service Exports – increasingly from U.S. startups and small businesses.
Contrary to the image of imports and exports being only “stuff” flowing in and out of places like the Port of Long Beach, last month the Census Bureau noted that services accounted for 32%, or $60.3 billion of total U.S. exports in August. And unlike our huge “hard goods” trade deficit, in the value of U.S. service exports is 47% greater than that of imports, and growing.
Business, professional, and technical services are now the fourth largest U.S. export category, and represent close to 15% of global commercial service exports, making America hands-down the world’s dominant service exporter.
Of many, let me flag three main drivers:
1. Purchasing Power Parity. Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) posits that with free-flowing markets wages and prices worldwide approach parity.
Protectionist types interpret this to mean that “our wages will get pushed down to “their” levels – or more viscerally, “if this keeps up we’ll all soon be making $2 dollars per hour.”
Well, let’s leave for now the huge economic fallacy of this thinking and concentrate on the fact that the narrowing of the relative wealth differential between the U.S. and the rest of the world has allowed for phenomena like a Ukranian manufacturing company hiring U.S. advisors to help them define strategic growth opportunities in Poland and Eastern Europe
2. U.S. Services are Increasingly Exportable. The drumbeat always goes on how “we here in the U.S. don’t “make anything.” Well, beyond the fact, that as I note in my “Made In China” post that very few Americans dream that their children will grow-up and work in a factory, we here in America “make” the most important stuff that has ever existed and we do it better than any society has ever done so.
That stuff? Ideas and Innovations. Strategies. Or more prosaically, Brands. Websites. Entertainments in all their wondrous forms – Movies, Video Games, Social Networks.
Even our favorite whipping boy industry – financial services – continues to bring us world-bettering innovations like Venture Philanthropy (i.e. applying market principles to solve the world’s humanitarian challenges), Super Angel Funds (overcoming the “outlier” or “Black Swan” conundrum of startup investing) and Crowdfunding (democratizing fund-raising and investing in ways never before even dreamed possible.)
3. We are all Transparent. Perhaps my favorite, namely that business best practices worldwide are visible and replicable to and for all. And the corollary, the really screwed-up and ineffective ways of doing things are totally transparent too.
From lists like the “Most Business Friendly” countries to California now having a portal where parents can see teacher’s ratings to the U.S. Senate studying Chinese Technocrats to the simple reality that the Internet makes it crystal-clear to all who is winning and losing in the world (see North Korea, Iran, etc.), transparency breeds competition which breeds innovation which breeds the cream rising.
And who, when it comes down to doing business right, is the richest cream, the sweetest soup?
It is, of course, U.S. startups and smaller and emerging companies.
And as they, like the U.S. economy as a whole, continue to become increasingly services-focused, the best of them will continue to profit handsomely from the world of selling opportunities growing all around them.
2016 is just 30 days away.
And if you want to make 2016 your best year ever, you need to start planning now. So come January 1st, you’ll be off to the races.
To help you succeed, I’m hosting a complimentary Webinar this Thursday, December 3rd at two times:
12pm Eastern / 9am Pacific - Register Here
8pm Eastern / 5pm Pacific - Register Here
The webinar is called "How to Make 2016 Your Best Year Ever!" and I’m hosting it with Growthink's co-Founder and President, Dave Lavinsky.
On the webinar you will learn:
• How to dramatically increase your sales and profits in 2016
• The precise way to figure out the best opportunities to pursue in 2016
• How to set your 2016 goals so they are attainable and lead to your long-term success
• My #1 tactic for ensuring your breakthrough success in 2016
• And much, much more!
You can expect to hear a positive, motivating message loaded with golden nuggets to make 2016 an incredible year.
Click below to save your spot:
12pm Eastern / 9am Pacific - Register Here
8pm Eastern / 5pm Pacific - Register Here
P.S. Whenever I host a Webinar, I get a lot of emails asking if there will be a replay. Right now I don’t have any plans to do a replay -- so my advice is to be on the Webinar LIVE!
Last week, in Austin I had the opportunity to participate in a 2 - day “Mastermind-type” meeting with a gathering of technology and Internet entrepreneurs and executives from around the globe.
It was an impressive group - leaders of companies with average sales of $8 million and competing and prospering in industries that run the gamut - from consumer products, to healthcare IT, to energy and entertainment, to mobile apps and wearable technologies, to real estate, and more.
To those who have never participated in a business mastermind, you don’t know what you’re missing! Originally conceived by legendary personal development guru Napoleon Hill, a Mastermind is a gathering of like-minded professionals that meet regularly and over time develop a productive, high-trust dynamic through which to attain breakthroughs of insight and accountability around and about strategic, tactical, and management challenges.
Mastermind groups, both generic ones as I attended in Austin, branded versions like Vistage and YPO, and informal versions as organized by trained facilitators, are where the hard, methodical work of entrepreneurial business - building and growth gets done.
The “table topic” for our meeting was best practices as to data-driven decision making and strategic planning.
It is obviously a very timely one - as Big Data and Business Intelligence (BI) tools and software are at the center of vast swaths of venture capital financings and strategic and managerial best practices for companies of all types and sizes.
We talked about how the companies getting the highest “BI ROI” connect the dots between their "old" and "new" school strategic planning and thinking.
They are old school (in the absolute best, non-pejorative sense of the term) in that they recognize that strategy…
…arrived at through Mastermind get-togethers, through board and advisory board meetings, through strategic planning processes led either internally or by an outside consultant - remains fundamental in attaining and maintaining long-term business success.
And they are new school in their leveraging the very many best-of-breed business application software as services to arrive at this strategy.
Tools like CapitalIQ, Sage, KISSmetrics, AWeber, SurveyMonkey, RingCentral, Campaign Monitor, Zoho, Marketo, CAKE, FuseDesk, Maropost, and Hubspot that automate and optimize traditionally laborious and repetitive business functions.
And, as they do, collect massive reams on the marketing, sales, operations, finance and managerial performance of a business.
And, as importantly, the technology has finally matured to where all of this collected data can be organized, analyzed, and benchmarked against comparable - but better performing - companies from around the globe.
This “New School” data wizardry, when combined with old school Masterminding, risk-taking, and a ton of hard work…
…is what allows companies to both run more day to day efficiently and profitably, and more in strategic alignment with their missions and long-term goals than ever before.