Sales and Marketing

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

That’s right. Returning to my roots and a simpler way to go. After all, the short way here to the website is GrowGreat.com. It’s a terrific URL because it’s short, simple and easy to remember. 

During the Holiday season, I engaged in a few conversations with friends about how I was craving a simpler life. In every way possible. Repeatedly I’d say, “I’m not interested in how many plates I can keep spinning. I’m looking to spin fewer plates that matter more.” I wound up writing on my whiteboard the title of today’s show, but it wasn’t a show title. It was a personal admonition – verbs. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.

I don’t know why I wrote it down 3 times in a row, except I assumed it was to reiterate it so I’d get it through my head that “THIS is my current ideal outcome.” And it is.

During the 4th quarter of last year – October through December – I had so many meetings where some semblance of that was the theme. Not because I directed the conversations in that direction, but the other person was so craving it in their professional and personal life. Younger folks. Older folks. Women. Men. Married. Single. It didn’t seem to matter. It was as though we were all seeking the same thing – a more basic, simple way of living. 

In early October it began with a conversation about leading direct reports. I asked, “How often do you get everybody together?” I didn’t mean because of Covid. And I didn’t mean in person, face-to-face. I meant it quite literally, “How often do you all spend time together?” This leader had about 6 direct reports. He said he tried to have a “staff meeting” (translation: getting his team together) once a month. 

I asked, “Is that frequently enough to suit you?”

He had a harder time answering that than I anticipated. It was as though he was trying to figure out how his answer might affect how I felt about it all. 😉 I remedied it by saying, “Makes no difference to me, I’m asking if it suits YOU? Maybe more importantly, does it suit THEM?”

“It probably should be more frequent, huh?” he answered. Well, he was really asking me for an opinion. 

As the conversation unfolded he realized how wrong it felt to him to not get together with these people more frequently. The more we focused on how once a month likely impacted his team of direct reports he muttered, “It’s so crazy and chaotic.” And there was the rub. Going crazy in the process of leading people. Going crazy in the process of managing the work. Craving simpler. Craving a more straightforward way of life. 

 “What’s stopping you?” I asked. “Where are the constraints?”

He rattled off a few things that consumed his time. Things he didn’t’ value much. Some of them beyond his control. Most of them well within his control. 

Eventually, he stopped and said, “I guess it’s on me.” 

We were off to the races working to figure this out for him. But both of us knew the answer was largely going to come down to one thing. Making up your mind. 

We mostly do what we make up our mind to do. Period. End of story. 

We mostly neglect getting done those things we’ve yet to make up our mind about. Period. End of story. 

Here I am, over 3 months later, sharing with you the profound, but simple truth that YOU can simplify your life. You can decide right now to change some things that may be driving you crazy. 

Like my title of this podcast – a podcast that I’ve been doing for years and years. But I’m no different than you. I can be prone to overthink it. Over do it. Slather on layer after layer of things and stuff. Most of which don’t matter. Until the weight of it all compels me to crave more and more basic, simple and straightforward. Like Mr. October. 

So during the Holidays I started jettisoning stuff. Including offers and things I was doing that I no longer wanted to do. Pursuits that may have been perfectly fine, but pursuits that didn’t matter as much to me. 

I asked Mr. October, “Describe how this complexity and chaos took over.” Turns out neither of us was very surprised. Like adding a coat of paint, he slathered on a color. It’d dry and he’d quickly open another can of metaphorical paint, different color. Slather it on. It’s dry and on he’d go. Turns out he was busy painting, but painting wasn’t what he wanted to be doing. Nor was it the thing he was best at. He didn’t start out to be this proverbial painter, but he wound up doing nothing but painting! 

I could relate. 

Simplify, simplify, simplify means doing the most important work – our best work – and letting go of the rest, to whatever degree we’re able. It means looking in the mirror to truthfully acknowledge what we’re doing – to see if we’re doing what we most want to be doing. And if we’re doing what we’re best at. 

Like that famous Einstein quote, “Fish don’t climb trees.” Sometimes we have to stop and ask ourselves, “Am I fish trying to climb trees?” Sometimes, like Mr. October, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Or trying to do. And that chaos and commotion result in driving us crazy. 

What would you like to quit? Right now. Today?

What would you like to give somebody to do? Something somebody could likely do much better than you? And something you hate doing?

What value are you leaving behind? For Mr. October, he decided that once a week he wanted to get his group of direct reports together to leverage their skills in helping each other. By the way, in the first announced “weekly” meeting he set the tone and reported the energy was “higher than I’ve seen in years.” Turns out the team was craving the same simplicity he was craving. 

As a leader, you’re a finite resource. I know you think you have infinite reserves, but you’re wrong. Keep it up and in time you’ll visit a doctor who may be able to convince you that this stress – the chaos and commotion of doing crazy – will kill you. But first, it’ll kill your organization, your business, your team and your effectiveness. 

Avoid all that. Let this year be the year you make up your mind to find your way to the basics of what really matters. Find those things that can really move the needle in a positive direction. It’s not about adding another coat of paint. It’s about getting the fit and finish fine enough to serve the purpose well. 

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


Simplify, Simplify, Simplify Read More »

Bula Business Builders- Helping Small Business Owners Hit The Trifecta

Bula Business Builders: Helping Small Business Owners Hit The Trifecta

Every night while sitting in the front of the TV I’d open a large accordion file where I kept manufacturers’ literature on high-fidelity stereo gear. The file was alphabetized with a slot for every letter. Advent speaker literature went into the A. Thorens turntables into the T slot. I started this habit while in junior high because I loved music and the gear used to play my favorite records. All this cool equipment was far beyond my means, but nightly I’d look at all the features and specs and dream. I’d visit stereo stores as often as possible to hear systems I could only dream about owning. Glorious! That’s what it was to sit down in a listening room to hear a record the way it should be heard. Full fidelity. I’d leave each store with whatever new product literature was missing from my growing collection. 

A passion for music and stereo gear propelled me to walk into a stereo store when I was 16. No selling experience. No real work experience except manual labor for my dad’s business, home construction. Stepping and fetching mostly and cleaning completed construction. Not exactly the kind of work that would make your heart rate increase, except due to exhaustion. 

Somehow I wound up in front of the owner of this stereo store – a store with four sound rooms, each armed with those 70s fixtures, sliding glass patio doors. Sitting in his office he began to grill me about products, including products his store didn’t carry. I quickly was able to answer all his questions, including the only one I still remember. “What do the model numbers of Marantz receivers represent?” No problem. I knew the answer, “Their wattage per channel.” He hired me right there. My first real job working for a small business owner. Straight commission. I was hooked.

In 2007 I formally began to serve small business owners. Years of being in the trenches of working to achieve the trifecta of business building compelled me to serve “my people.” People with whom I have more in common than probably any other segment of business people. Small business is close to my heart. Admittedly, I’m biased heavily in favor of the entrepreneur working hard to make a difference in their part of the world. 

In 1984 I was 27 years old. I was a couple of years into my first #1 leadership role running a business with $14M in annual revenue. The trifecta of business building became a reality sitting in my office one morning battling the issues of the day. As I pondered a variety of challenges that day I had a rare epiphany, all my challenges in running a small business could be distilled into three categories – the three things that were most important in operating a successful enterprise.

Getting new customers

Serving existing customers better

Not going crazy in the process


Nothing else mattered. I began to think of my business that way. Every action fits into one or more of the categories. From purchasing to merchandising, to cash flow management, to profit margins, to personnel, to operational efficiencies…you name it, I could instantly make it fit. 

Over the years as I encountered other operators of small businesses I learned that we shared similar frustrations and challenges. But I also learned that if I was going to achieve stellar results – I was never satisfied with being good…I wanted to be remarkable – I’d have to do something others weren’t doing. Perhaps I’d have to avoid doing what others were doing. Sometimes you have to be like Captain Kirk of Star Trek and go where nobody has gone before. Besides, it’s fun!

Helping small business owners is a passion. Coaching city government leaders is also a passion. These days, they’re more congruent than you may think because they’re both about high impact influence. I define leadership simply as influence and doing for others what they’re unable to do for themselves. And both small business operators and city government leaders must excel at that. Both have their own challenges and while the trifecta of business building isn’t exactly in play with city government, parts of it sure are – serving existing customers (citizens) better and not going crazy in the process. 

The work is completely relationship-based. It’s never transactional for me because I’m just not a transactional guy. I value transactions – people who decide to buy – but I’m not the guy able to take people’s money, deliver a product and service, then be done! Nothing bad about doing that, it’s just not what moves me most. What moves me most is seeing the story unfold – establishing an ongoing relationship of some sort. I’m not talking about becoming best friends or intruding into people’s lives, but I’m driven to make a positive difference, a difference I’d like to see as I watch clients and customers put in the hard work to grow, improve and change! Nothing is more rewarding. 

Getting New Customers

Every small business needs new customers in order to thrive. Horror stories abound of small (even mid-sized) businesses who relied too much on a single or few customers. A small candy manufacturer landed a major retailer. They threw a party and figured their future was secure. The initial purchase order for the big customer was the largest they’d ever had. A game changer! They ramped up production to meet the demands of their new customer, who paid them clockwork. Major investments were made in production equipment and additional shifts were hired to meet the demands. Explosive growth fueled their euphoria. 

By the third series of purchase orders, things changed. The big-box retailer told them how much they’d pay, a significantly lower price than before. It was pricing that put a serious cramp on the profit margins of the little manufacturer. What do you do? They felt they had no choice but to meet the demands of the higher price. By leaning too heavily on one customer, they put their entire company at risk. And the story didn’t end well for them. They neglected the first of the trifecta – you must continue to get new customers!

Serving Existing Customers Better

Few things are more valuable than building a solid customer base – a base of loyal, repeat customers. Small business owners quickly discover how much easier it is to get a customer to come back than to get a brand new customer. It costs less. It fuels more word-of-mouth. There are many benefits to serving existing customers better!

Give them something to talk about. Jeffrey Gitomer is famous for saying people can say one of three things about you: something good, something bad, or nothing. And it’s up to you what they say! He’s right. So why not give people something good to say about your business?

This part of the trifecta impacts operations, which translate not to just existing customers, but every facet of the enterprise. This is where businesses must focus on systems and processes that produce predictable results. Consistently. Without fail. 

Too often the exceptions are the rule for small businesses. It doesn’t have to be that way. If we’d approach our small businesses like airlines or fast-food chains, we need to figure out to deliver superior service every single time.

This is THE key to high performance – deciding it’s what you’ll do, and who you’ll become. Sounds simple I know, but it’s true. And simple. Not easy, but simple!

Think of the worst experiences you’d have as a customer. For many of us, it may have to do with a cell phone or TV service provider. Enormous companies with lots of resources. Companies that mostly choose to be transactional, not caring if you’re happy or not because they figure saving a dollar trumps making you happy. “We’re no worse than anybody else,” is an unofficial battle cry for such companies. 

Google the various reviews of companies and you’ll see page after page of horrible stories, stories of NOT serving existing customers well. Rather, treating paying customers poorly. And because they thrive anyway, they can be lulled into feeling good about themselves. Maybe they’ll survive. Maybe not. Deep pockets help insure feeling safe. Small business owners don’t have that luxury. And that’s a good thing. No, that’s a great thing. It’s why innovation happens in small businesses. And why patrons enjoy supporting small businesses. 

Comedian Steve Martin gave a famous answer to the question about how to become a famous comedian: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Let that be our mantra as small businesses. We want customers to become clients, repeat customers.

Not Go Crazy In The Process

This part of the trifecta may be the hardest to achieve, but it’s doable. Small business owners who have plenty of new customers and who are serving existing customers well may find themselves sacrificing their entire life. Too many small business owners have given up marriages, children, and health as they worked to make their company thrive. Worth it? Well, each person can decide for themselves, but I don’t think so. Our sanity, and our health and relationships matter!

It’s common to encounter small business operators who truly believe this leg of the trifecta may be impossible. That’s only because my favorite quote is in play…

Everything is hard until it’s easy.

Seeing things more clearly – or seeing things for the first time – requires hard work. But hard doesn’t mean impossible. Like going to the gym for the first time in years and using muscles that haven’t been pushed in a long time, it can make you sore. And tired. But if you’ll persist, strength will come. What began as hard will become easier. 

It pains me to see small business operators struggle in any of these three components of the business building trifecta, but this one is especially painful. The human toll on a small business operator, and the staff, and family, and friends is enormous. Financial rewards are worthwhile pursuits, but don’t be fooled into thinking they’re more valuable than the people you love – and the ones who you love. 

Can You Have It All?

No. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that every business owner can hit the trifecta. Most won’t, but many will. Some will figure it out by hit and miss (mostly miss). Others will hit on something at just the right time, fearful people will figure out they got lucky. Others will figure out that their accelerated growth is easily worth investing in some help – somebody who can help them figure things out more quickly. Somebody capable of helping them make the most of their resources while giving them more time and opportunities. 

You don’t have to have it all. You just want more of what you want and less of what you don’t. That IS possible. But you have to decide for yourself. You have to make up your mind about what you want and how determined you are to achieve your ideal outcome

Our work dubbed Bula Business Builders isn’t about us achieving our ideal outcome. It’s about YOU achieving your ideal outcome. Ideal outcomes change and that’s fine. When I was 35 I wanted a very different outcome than the one I want today. And the one I want today is different from the one I wanted just a year ago. Clarity of our ideal outcomes is important along every phase of our life. It’s a journey with an intent focus on the destination. We have places we want to reach in our lives and in our businesses. Like kids in the car moaning, “Are we there yet?” — we hope to enjoy the ride, but we’re headed to a destination that beckons us. We want what we want. Bula Business Builders is bent on helping you get to where you most want to go. And working feverishly to help you there faster!

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Bula Business Builders: Helping Small Business Owners Hit The Trifecta Read More »

TPA5037 - Putting Your Company In The Best Position For Success - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

TPA5037 – Putting Your Company In The Best Position For Success

TPA5037 - Putting Your Company In The Best Position For Success - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

As the owner you’re the #1. And you wouldn’t have it any other way.  But sometimes you don’t treat yourself like you’re the #1.

Every business owner has one basic – but very big – job: to obtain and deploy the necessary resources to make the company successful. That’s why you invest in the things you do. You believe they’ll garner a return. Some will get a big return. Others, not so much. Sometimes you have a pretty good idea of the return you’ll get on something. Other times you don’t, so you hope they’ll pan out like you want. 

As a young man I once overheard an owner tell a VP supplier who was critical of how he was doing things, “You know the difference between you and me? I’m betting with my money that I’m right.” I smiled. So true. That’s what we do as business owners. We bet on ourselves. We bet on our people. We bet on our ideas and our decisions.

Watch any episode of Shark Tank and you’ll see what the venture capital community has long understood – folks who make their living betting on businesses. They bet on the jockey, not the horse. That means the idea is sometimes far less important than the person behind it. 

In similar fashion, I’m betting on you and I’m asking for you to bet on yourself. As you’re considering all the resources at your disposal and how you can best deploy them, I have a big question. 

Are you an asset or a liability?

Are you an opportunity for the company, or a constraint – a limitation and restriction?

The truth is, you own the joint. And according to the SBA there are 99.7% of you out there – small business owners. And almost 90% of you employ fewer than 20 people. That’s a tremendously large group of people who represent a monumental economic impact on our communities and our country. 

You’re a resource. I’d argue that you are the most important resource in your organization by virtue of the fact that you own it, and you operate it. The buck stops with you in more ways than you may realize. 

When you hire a new employee I sure hope you don’t just welcome them, then leave them alone. I hope you provide some sort of onboarding and training. I hope you put them with more seasoned employees who can show them a thing or three. I hope you surround them with people and resources so they can succeed in their new job at your company. And even if you don’t always do those things as well as you know you’d like, you know you should. You know it’s the smart way to go to help your company move forward. 

I get it. Fires erupt. They foil your plans to do good – or better – work. Stuff happens, right? 

While stuff is happening you’re neglecting your biggest resource. While you’re busy putting out the fires that must be extinguished, you become just a bit more distracted from deploying the biggest resource that’s vital to your company’s success.


You take whatever time you want to look over the details of a lease agreement, or a purchase agreement for inventory, or in vetting a new employee. You pay attention to the things that you know can contribute to helping your company grow. You also know from experience that what I call the trifecta of business building encompasses all the work you do as a business builder and owner.

  1. Getting new customers
  2. Serving existing customers better
  3. Not going crazy in the process

It’s about sales. It’s about executing delivery of your products or services to the customers. It’s about the systems and processes necessary so much of the work can reliably happen on auto-pilot without you losing your mind. This is your life.

All this time and attention spent in important areas so your company can succeed. And grow. 

Yet the #1 resource is often overlooked and ignored. YOU. You investing in yourself, not for purely selfish reasons, but because like the sharks on TV, you’re betting on yourself (the jockey). You’re betting with your own money that you’re right. Well, are you right? Are you right in betting your money in all the resources you need except perhaps the most important one? YOURSELF?

Let me ask you a question…

When was the last time you achieved something really big all by yourself? Nobody helped at all. Nobody did one thing to support you. It’s was just all YOU. When?

Yeah, you and I both the answer. NEVER. 

You’re a smart person. You’re just doing all you know and it’s what you don’t know that can hurt you. I’m encouraging you to come over to the bright side of knowing something that you likely already knew — you owe it to yourself and your company to grow, improve and transform as a business owner. Nothing you can do will put your company in a better position for success. Because that’s how important you are to the company. That’s how important your decisions are. YOU impact every area of your company. And you love it. 

You just need to stop avoiding making the investment where it can most matter. You need to realize there is a better way.

Did you know there is an organization called Parents of Murdered Children? No, it’s not a group you want to be a member of, but if it describes you…you’re so thankful they exist. Where else are you going to get in a room with other people who understand your pain and your circumstances? Where else are you going to go where you don’t have to explain to others what’s happened to you? No where. It’s the safe, secure place you can go to gather with people who completely understand and get it. No explanations needed. Just candid, safe conversation where people can serve each other, support each other and help each other because the group has only one big goal — to help everybody through the pain.

You learned all this when you were a little kid. Your parents knew it. Who you hang around has an impact on your life. That’s why your parents didn’t want you hanging around the kids who misbehaved and got in trouble at school. They didn’t want you to join them. Somewhere along the way you outgrew that…you got too smart for your own good. And you forgot that. 

Now you’re a business owner and there just isn’t anybody *that* safe you can go to. Sure, you’ve got other friends who are also business owners. You’ve got an attorney. You’ve got a CPA. You may have a spouse. There’s a lot of explaining that’s required to just get them to kinda sorta understand your circumstance (it’s a big reason why so many business owners don’t rely on their spouse, because they say, “He/She just can’t relate”). And each of them have a relationship with you that can get in the way, for both of you. Friends don’t want to risk the friendship. Professionals don’t want to risk losing you as a client. Family don’t need the drama so it’s best to leave that alone!

Like other groups where the common denominator is that “we’re all in the same boat,” the peer advantage is practical. Little explanation needed (like Parents of Murdered Children). Everybody gets it. And when the group is small business owners nobody wants anybody telling them they should do this, or they shouldn’t do that…we mostly need to voice our opportunities and our concerns, then engage in a thoughtful, deep discussion so we can better see every angle before we make our own decision on what we’re going to do. 

When the room is private, confidential and safe — magic like that happens. Over time we become better at making decisions. We begin to see things we never saw before because other business owners are helping us see things from their viewpoint, which is often different than our own. Nobody is judging. Nobody is criticizing. People are talking, listening, understanding and seeing more clearly than ever before. Oh, and it feels terrific — it’s a big part of the 3rd leg of that trifecta (not going crazy in the process of owning and running our business). 

Mostly, it’s about finally deploying our biggest resource in the most powerful way to put our company in the best position for greater success. It’s about growing great.

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

TPA5037 – Putting Your Company In The Best Position For Success Read More »

TPA5034 – Grow Your Business: Managing The Changes By Improving Your Decision-Making

Business is summed up in the trifecta of business building: getting new customers, serving existing customers better and not going crazy in the process.

You’ve owned and operated your business for almost a decade now. Like most, those first years were touch ‘n go. Moments of exhilaration followed by periods of…well, near despair. You didn’t care. It was going to happen or you were going to die trying. It’s the commitment every founder experiences. The energy required to break away from earth’s orbit is immense. So it is with every business owner at the beginning. 

Thankfully, around year 4 you started feeling like this was going to actually work out. Success started being somewhat predictable. And new challenges started popping onto your calendar. Growing pains. 

Finding good employees. Training them. 

Generating more sales to feed the beast. Sales are in constant need of attention. If not sales themselves, margins! There’s always pressure, but you’ve just got to figure out new ways to generate predictable results. 

Operations challenges abound. Basic things like answering the phones promptly and correctly, to following through on customer service corrections. 

There are days where you feel like you’ve been in a 3-day knife fight. You feel bloodied, exhausted and you even catch yourself sometimes questioning the pain of it all. You know you’re not going to quit, but there are days where you start questioning your sanity. 

So it goes with the trifecta: getting new customers, serving existing customers better and not going crazy in the process. For years you’ve lived by the mantra, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” You’ve embraced that because mostly it’s true. Sure, you’ve got some really terrific people. You’ve also got some not so great people. And you’ve got some really solid outside people who serve you like your attorney and CPA. Your contact list has never been bigger, or broader. But the changes and growth (and the challenges) have somehow put you on the “Be Careful Island.” This is where every business owner finds themselves as the business grows, expands and gets increasingly more complicated. You’re the #1. You know what you know and you’ve got to be careful about who you talk with, and what you talk about. It sparks a feeling that’s more of a question, “Is there a better way?” So you wonder.

I don’t know any business owners who has felt differently. We only know what we know. It’s our experience. Each day we’re living our life, both real and imaged (in our head).

You’re smart. Experienced. Wise. There are some things you’ve known most of your life – since you were just a child. Friends matter. Acquaintances, too. Family certain matters. All these people in your life serve a vital role for you. They always have. There’s just this thing that has happened since forming your business. You’re living a different life. Marching to a different drummer as a business owner. Not everybody understands what you understand because they’re not experiencing the same thing. They struggle to relate. You struggle to help them relate. 

Mostly, your drive to grow your business hasn’t slowed. If anything, it’s amped up higher over time. What was once thought impossible in those early days is within reach today. And what might tomorrow be if we could only solve a few key issues? It’s exciting to think about.

Pressure builds. You’ve got more employees than you’ve ever had. Costs continue to rise. Margins are always under pressure. Just the other day you sat back in your chair lamenting that you’re putting out fires you thought you had already put out. They somehow continue to smolder and flame up again. Over and over. “Just once I’d like to fight a new fight,” you said to yourself. It seems the same things that vexed you yesterday are still vexing you today. 

You’re not ready for help because it’s in your DNA. You’re the Captain. This is your ship. You’re in charge. “If it is to be, it’s up to me!” Besides, only weaklings need help. But deep down you know that’s completely false. You learned it when you just a kid. The people around you make all the difference in the world. Except, now you’re lacking some really important people because your station in life is different today.

Let’s consider all the roles ascribed to people who may be able to help. These are merely definitions. There’s no judgment here because this is a judgment-free zone!

Mentor – an experienced and trusted adviser

Peer – a person who is similarly equal to another in some way (my definition as it pertains to The Peer Advantage)

Coach – one who instructs or trains

Consultant – one who gives professional advice or services

Advisorone who counsels

Confidant – a person with whom one shares a secret or private matter, trusting them not to repeat it to others

Friend – a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection

You’ve got people in your life who have filled one or more of these roles. You know their names. You know what value they delivered to your life. You may not have thought of them using these titles, but it’s not about the names as it is the functions. The service!

Daily leaders just like you face many decisions. The organization is waiting on you for the decision. Some are big, most aren’t. Some are critical, others seem almost insignificant. Doesn’t matter. They still need to be made. Because until a decision is made everything is on pause. Or stop. And business can’t grow if we’re paused or stopped. You can’t grow if you’re paused or stopped.

Change surrounds you. Remember the morning you got a text before you even left the house? You got blind-sided with an issue that wasn’t even on your calendar. Suddenly, the change dominates your day (maybe longer). Your daily life is like a commuter driving to work in a car that’s perfectly fine. Until he has a tire blow out. Tires weren’t on his mind. His tires were fine. Until they weren’t. Now, he’s shopping for tires and trying to figure out when and how to get this problem solved. This is your life. Except it’s much more complicated than buying a new tire. That decision is easy!

Change dominates every business and every market. As the leader, your ability to help your company navigate that change is crucial to your future. Yesterday’s success is something for which you’re thankful, but it’s not going to get you where you want to go. Ever present on your mind are your employees and customers. Many people are depending on you. Decisions have consequences. Or rewards. And some changes require decisions for which there are no “do over’s.” You must get it right or suffer significant pain.

This is where insight and deeper thought would really help you. So some quiet time. Asking hard questions of your direct reports. It’s all helpful. But is it enough? Maybe. Maybe not.

The best way to manage change is to manage your decision-making. How can you do that? There are many ways. I don’t suppose it’s a one-size-fits-all kind of a deal. But I do know there’s one resource that every single business person could benefit from – joining forces with other business owners who are all experiencing similar feelings, thoughts, and challenges. People with whom you can easily relate. People who understand what you’re going through and are committed to helping you — because they know you’ll do the same for them. 

From the foundation of our country U.S. Presidents have surrounded themselves with advisers capable of helping them see all the various sides of an issue. These advisers don’t make the decisions. That’s always resided with the President. As the #1 you are tasked with that responsibility and authority. 

President Washington had some pretty good company surrounding him. Names like Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams. Do you have any doubt that President Washington relied on these, and other men, to help him see things more clearly? To examine perspectives he may not have considered on his own? Every U.S. President has been and still is currently surrounded by people who provide insights, perspectives, differing viewpoints and other useful services in order to help him make better decisions. 

You’re not running a country, but your decisions are important. Their impact is big. You owe it to your company, yourself and everybody who is impacted by your decisions to grow, improve and transform so your business can grow great. U.S. Presidents have seemingly limitless resources to put people around them who they feel will best serve them, and our country. You’re at a disadvantage. Sorta. 

I’m going to introduce another phrase that incorporates one of those titles of people who serve us, The Peer Advantage. This is an important one because frankly, it encompasses each of those earlier roles or titles: mentor, peer, coach, consultant, adviser, confidant, and friend. The Peer Advantage is all of these roles wrapped up into one. When we seize an opportunity for The Peer Advantage we’re in a safe place where nothing we do or say will used against us. Where we can speak freely from our heart about what’s troubling us, or where we need help. Where we can brag about our successes and be given words of affirmation to fuel our confidence to even higher levels. Where we can learn and teach. Where we can listen and speak. Where we can be helped and help. Where we can sit side by side with people who get us and respect us. And people who deserve that from us, too. 

The outcome – the result – is perhaps the most powerful decision-making improvement tool ever. And it’s not based on technology or a fast computer. It’s not math or science-based. It’s not digital, it’s analog. It’s people helping people. It’s people willing to be served and willing to serve. It’s small. Intimate. Personal. POWERFUL. 

The Peer Advantage isn’t about people telling you what to do. It’s about people asking questions to help you figure out what’s best for you to do. It’s people pushing each other to achieve heights they may have never thought possible. 

You make many investments in your business. Maybe you buy merchandise. Sometimes you make a great buy that will garner extraordinary margins. They don’t come around nearly often enough, but when they do — you’re excited. Everything you do has a cost. And a return. Sometimes the return is negative. Things don’t always work out. 

The Peer Advantage has a cost/reward just like anything else. You’ve likely heard that adage about pointing the finger at somebody. When you do, you’ve got 3 more pointing back at yourself. That’s a 3:1 negative ROI. Well, The Peer Advantage is at the very least a 7:1 ROI because it consists of 7 business owners who are all committed to their growth and improvement. Like you, they want to make the best decisions possible as they navigate the changes in their industries and companies. Like you, they’re willing to let others help them see things more clearly by asking questions and sharing experiences. And like you, they’re also willing to provide that help to the others in the group. The Peer Advantage is likely the smartest room you’ll ever enter because the power is the collective. It’s the room. It’s the total group working jointing together to push their businesses to new levels of financial success. 

But honestly 7:1 is the bare minimum ROI. Have you ever made a decision that had a 6-figure outcome? How about a 7-figure outcome? Sure. It happens. What if a decision were impacted by a question you’d not considered? Or by a shared experience that was outside your own experience? What if you made a decision based on insights you hadn’t considered before – insights provided by somebody else (as Dr. Henry Cloud calls them, “The Power Of The Other”) – resulted in a 6-figure more favorable difference? Or a 7-figure more favorable difference? The ROI can (and often does) soar over time as the collective becomes tighter and better able to serve each other. It’s like that credit card company slogan, “Priceless.”

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

TPA5034 – Grow Your Business: Managing The Changes By Improving Your Decision-Making Read More »

TPA5032 – Small Business, Big Impact: The Power Of The Collective

The U.S. Small Business Administration defines a small business as “an organization with fewer than 500 employees.” The majority of small businesses employ fewer than 100 employees. One and two-person companies make up most small businesses in America. So it’s a very broad definition of “small business.” There’s an enormous difference in running a one-man freelancing operation versus a global 475-person organization yet both would technically be called “small business” based on the SBA’s definition. 

My personal definition is, in some ways, even looser. In other ways, more narrow. I focus on the just a few simple things that I have found more practical for my work in serving CEO’s and business owners. One, it’s got little to do with revenues and head counts. They’re important and there is a correlation between those things and the things I quantify most. How close is the CEO or owner to the generation of revenue? I don’t mean they actually do the selling, but they may help every now and again. How close is the CEO or owner to the actual work of the company? If the company manufactures a product or delivers a service, how involved is the CEO or owner? I consider a business small based mostly on those factors, not on the amount of revenues or the number of employees. My interest is in serving companies that have relatively flat org charts. 

Yes, companies with big revenues tend to have more employees and with that – more layers of management/leadership. However, in the digital age, that’s not necessarily so. For the past couple of decades, a single employee has been armed with sufficient technology to do the work of many. 

According to the SBA 99.7% of American companies are technically “small businesses.” Companies with fewer than 20 employees comprised 89.4% of all businesses. By every standard or measurement, small business dominates the business landscape. It’s been projected that by 2020 about 50% of the workforce will be freelancers. Dan Pink wrote of this in his 2001 book, Free Agent Nation: How Americans New Independent Workers Are Transforming the Way We Live

Small businesses may not get the headlines, but they have an enormous impact, both economically and practically. They represent individual and collective power, contribution and potential. This is evidenced by the fact that companies with fewer than 49 employees have been responsible for most of the employment growth, adding 44% of all new jobs

Small businesses have long learned the power of the collective. Their size has often compelled them to join forces in buying groups, marketing organization, and other cooperative organization so they can leverage their collective size and power. For example, the Nationwide Marketing Group is in the consumer electronics/home furnishings/major appliances retailing space. Here’s what they say about themselves on their website:

“Nationwide Marketing Group works beside thousands of appliance, furniture, electronics, specialty electronics, custom installation and rent to own dealers helping them grow their businesses and their bottom lines. With some 5,300 members, operating approximately 14,000 storefronts with estimated sales of $18.5 billion, Nationwide is North America’s largest buying and marketing organization. Industry veterans, heading Nationwide’s seven regional divisions, work to provide independent dealers with personalized service and local programming in every market they serve.”

No single member of that organization can possibly be as powerful as they can be together. By working together they’re able to leverage not only their buying power but their knowledge base. Like an antelope attempting to survive alone on the Serengeti, these retailers (5,300 of them) have learned their survival and “thrival” is enhanced by joining forces. Small doesn’t have to mean vulnerable to the market or competition. Nor does it have to mean weak. 

The sheer number of small businesses displays the passion, determination, and dedication of American business owners to solve problems, serve markets and make a difference where they operate. However, like a single ember left apart from the whole of the fire, small businesses can easily weaken and die. The passion can be extinguished. The practical reality of maintaining market viability can be tough. Even if your revenues are measured in the millions. Or tens of millions. About 30% of them will celebrate their 10th anniversary. 

I’m optimistic. Mostly, because I’m practical. And experienced at operating small businesses. I know the pain, the struggle and the euphoria of being tough to compete against. And mostly the joy of knowing the market (our customers) is enhanced by our presence. The question we can ask about our own lives applies to our small businesses, “Would they miss us if we were gone?” If they would, then you’re having a positive impact. 

How can that impact be bigger?

Small businesses individually have a big impact on their employees, customers, suppliers and the market. It may feel insignificant sometimes, but it’s not. The ripple effects are widespread and lasting. But it can be improved. There’s a bigger power source to tap into. Like the example of the retail marketing group, Nationwide, small business owners can join forces and find themselves experiencing the collective power that dwarfs anything they’ve ever known. 

Your parents knew the value and truth of the collective. That’s why they’d ask you where you going, and who with. Where you went was something they cared about, but maybe more importantly, they wanted to know who you’d be with. What is the collective going to be? 

Mom and dad didn’t want us going anywhere with the wrong people. They knew the power of influence. And they knew that the people we surrounded ourselves with could make a big difference in the outcome. The wrong kids would get us in trouble. The right kids could provide the right drivers, motivations, and outcomes. “Birds of a feather flock together,” and all that. Our folks wanted us to be part of a collective that would give us the best opportunity for success. And safety. 

Nothing has changed. Absolutely nothing. 

It’s like that popular book years ago by Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things. You likely learned life’s many important (and critical) lessons before you started first grade. The power of the collective is one of them. If our childhood playmates were important to our development (and they were), then why do we live as CEO’s and business owners unconcerned about the power of the collective in our lives? Have we forgotten what we learned in kindergarten? Has our life grown so hectic and complex that we’re neglecting the fundamental, but powerful resources that can help propel us forward?

Together We’re More Powerful Than We Are Alone

We take a bit of money and store it away into some investment account. By putting more money together with other money – even a small amount, over time that money enjoys the magic of compounding interest. Compounding isn’t limited to interest and money though. The power of the collective grows and is magnified over time. Hopefully, you experience that in your marriage and friendships. 

The power of the collective is all around us. When birds migrate we see it. When animals herd (or flock) together we see it. When individual players join a team we see it. When a singer/songwriter joins with other musicians we see it and hear it. When small businesses join forces we see it. Going it alone isn’t as efficient or effective as going it with somebody else, or a group. 

CEO’s and owners sometimes tend to think these things are true everywhere except in their careers. Maybe you think you must go it alone. WRONG.

So many misconceptions provoke faulty thinking. Those of us with that “captain” gene – the drive to lead and be in charge – are driven to think for ourselves. We are where we are because we’re basically unemployable, unable to work for others. That can drive us to an unnecessary loneliness. 

Consider that marketing group, Nationwide. Each dealer makes their own purchases. What may be a great buy for one dealer may be idle inventory for another. Just because you’re in the group doesn’t mean anybody is telling you what to buy (or do). The group simply provides you opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have. The ability to make purchases that are more cost-effective so profits can be increased. Buy it. Don’t buy it. It’s up to you. 

We learned this playing in the neighborhood. And on the school playground. 

Playmates and friends influenced us, but we made our own choices. “No, I don’t feel like playing baseball. Let’s do something else.” 

But we did learn something very important. Our contribution to the group and the group’s contribution to our life made all the difference. Sometimes it was obvious that the group wanted to play baseball. That made us want to play baseball. Because we knew the group needed us. And we knew that when the group played football, something we loved more than baseball, then we’d want the group to join us. You can’t really play baseball or football alone. Not if you want to really play and compete. Not if you want to have fun.

Play. Compete. Have fun.

You want that in your career and in your small business. We all want that. 

For years I’ve boiled down business activities into 3 things: 1) getting new customers, 2) serving existing customers better and 3) not going crazy in the process. By being part of a collective we can enhance all three of these. Truth is, by being in a collective we can reach brand new heights of success in all 3 areas. Otherwise, it’s very difficult. Not impossible, but far tougher than necessary. 

Examples Are Everywhere. Why Ignore Them?

All around us are examples of the power of the collective. We’ve witnessed it in our own lives. Yet, for some reason (many actually, although none are truly valid), we can refuse to deploy this most basic of powerful resources in our careers and lives. That seems even more ridiculous when you consider your role as the CEO or owner – to manage the wise deployment of resources in order to grow your business. 

Are you wisely deploying your resources? Not if you’re refusing to let others help you. Not if you’re refusing to surround yourself with other CEO’s and owners who can (and will happily) help you grow your company, your leadership, and your life. It’s time. Past time. Growth, improvement, and transformation won’t happen by accident. Nor will they come to those who halt or delay. The rewards go to the bold, courageous doers. 

Be well. Do better!

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

TPA5032 – Small Business, Big Impact: The Power Of The Collective Read More »

CEO, Owner, Founder: Those Are Your Roles, But They're Not Entirely Who You Are - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

CEO, Owner, Founder: Those Are Your Roles, But They’re Not Entirely Who You Are

CEO, Owner, Founder: Those Are Your Roles, But They're Not Entirely Who You Are - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

Bernard (Bernie) started his company in 1989. He’ll readily tell you that it wasn’t easy. Many years were spent feeling “more married” to the business than his wife, Ruth. Ruth confirms it. But they managed to endure the hardships, long hours and mad scrambles to make payroll. By 1993 the business was generating a few million dollars in gross revenue. Bernie and Ruth weren’t yet earning the kind of the money they had hoped, but they persisted. By 1996, seven years in, they felt they were escaping the gravitational pull of failure that snatches so many business start-up’s. 

Bernie was always proud to tell people he was the President of his own company. Entrepreneurship wasn’t something he applied to himself. Instead, he was just a business owner and that moniker was glorious enough to suit him. 

Over time the company has experienced up’s and downs – often influenced by the economy. Not unlike many small businesses. Bernie figures he’s experienced just about everything in the 25 plus years he’s been running his own company. Thankful that he’s been successful, and able to achieve a high income, he and Ruth have raised three children. Their youngest is due to graduate from college this year. 

Bernie sits with the calm confidence of a seasoned warrior. I know that look. It’s a look I see sometimes when I look in the mirror, or when somebody takes my picture unexpectedly while sitting in a meeting. We’re not rookies. The street fighting skills of building a business have weathered us, but not worn us completely out. Yet. 

He laments a truth we both know and understand. There’s more to him than his business. Very few people – other than his family – know him outside the context of his business. He remembers a time before he started his company. “I was a nobody,” he says. But he doesn’t quite mean that. Not literally. He goes on to talk of his circle of business acquaintances – he calls them “friends” out of habit. But they’re not friends in the traditional sense, or in the ideal sense. That is, they’re not people with whom he can shell it down. As he puts it, “I can really be myself.” 

It sparks conversation about how as business leaders – business owners – we’re not entirely the roles or titles we wear. He wears the title, President. You may wear the title, CEO. Or, Founder. Or, Owner. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you understand it’s just one aspect – admittedly, a very large aspect perhaps – of who you really are. 

Bernie isn’t a President to Ruth. Or to his children. But he confesses that to most everybody else, that’s exactly who he is. There’s a sadness in his eyes as he speaks. “Some days I feel like I’m just another asset or resource of the company,” he says. “It can be easy to stop feeling human almost.”

Human. Being human.

Feelings. Emotions. Fears. Concerns. Sadness. Joy. Dread. Anticipation. 

These are human. We don’t speak in those terms when we’re “doing business.” We should. Because business is human. Businesses are operated, led and managed by humans. Businesses provide products and services to other humans. It’s all human, but we avoid the humanity of it all. Too often.

Are you a CEO, President, Founder, Owner who sometimes (maybe often) feels that way? Do you find yourself feeling isolated, unable to find people with whom you can be human? 

I’m in a phase of my own career – after spending over 30 plus years leading businesses – where I’m vigorously pursuing helping business owners and leaders find greater significance and higher levels of achievement. No, it’s not always easy because growth, improvement, and transformation demand asking hard questions. They need collaborators who care enough about us to serve us. People with whom we can be vulnerable without fear that what we say, or do will be used against us. Surrounded by people who won’t judge us, but instead will offer us their insights and experiences to help us decide for ourselves. Not people who will tell us what we should do, or people who want to live our lives for us. Instead, people who understand us and want us to reach new heights — and want us to help them do the same. A reciprocal relationship unlike any we may have ever had before. 

That’s my work. It’s where I began investing, to prepare for 2018 and the establishment of THE PEER ADVANTAGE

The “pitch” is simple, but powerful. 

Seven business owners from around the United States. Any industry. Any location. Any revenue level. People who are driven to grow as people (and yes, owners driven to grow their businesses, too). It’s about people joining forces a few times each month to push themselves individually and collectively. People willing and capable of being vulnerable with one another knowing that’s where the real value is found – in being human with each other! 

There’s no selling to this. As much sales DNA as I have, I’m the anti-sales guy in this effort because experience has taught me that people see the value in challenging their own growth, or they don’t. Those who don’t aren’t fit for the task. Honestly, nor are they the kind of business with whom I want to associate or serve. 

Learn more by going here. Complete the “application” without obligation because it’s merely an application to spark a conversation where we can find out more about each other. Together we can decide if this is something that’s right for either of us. It has to be right for both of us! Because we’re all in this together! I look forward to meeting you and finding out more about you and your company.

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

CEO, Owner, Founder: Those Are Your Roles, But They’re Not Entirely Who You Are Read More »

Scroll to Top