Sales and Marketing

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.

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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.”

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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!

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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.

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GROW GREAT Becomes The Peer Advantage Podcast - THE PEER ADVANTAGE PODCAST #5001

The Peer Advantage | Some Myths, Misconceptions & False Notions

Most Small Owners Have No Idea What Peer Advantage Looks & Feels Like

And it’s not their fault.

I’m about to embark on showing you how professional peer advantage works. I’ve invited 3 business people to surround me and help me illustrate. Additionally, they’re going to help me with this pivot, making Bula Network a peer advantage company. Yes, I’m going to continue to do some small business coaching and consulting, but the focal point of the work is going to be to serve two (for now) groups of small business owners from around America.

Today’s video is a preface of what I’m about to show you. I want your questions. Email them to me: RandyCantrell [at] BulaNetwork [dot] com

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Battling Misery & Dread: Find Your Friends #5002

My Biggest Challenge Is Battling Misery

Business owners are almost always candid when I ask, “What’s THE big challenge facing you today?” Even though they’ve never talked with me before, it’s rare for a business owner to avoid engaging with me in an honest conversation about their life. For starters, within seconds they can spot two of my super powers: empathy and curiosity. It takes a bit longer for my other super powers to show up: intuition and communication. That last one is the most tenuous because these conversations are always on the phone and I have no history with this person. I’m weak at many things so I have to leverage these few super powers to the max. 😉

He’s a small business owner more than 1000 miles from me. We’ve only exchanged a couple of messages via Linkedin. He’s in an industry that intrigues me. That’s why I connect with him. My curiosity is elevated by the time we jump on the phone. Within 3 minutes I’ve asked him, “What’s THE biggest challenge you’ve got right now?” He doesn’t hesitate. He says, “Battling my misery.” I’ve heard this before, but not quite so boldly and candidly. I’m sad for him, but impressed with his honesty.

“Tell me about it,” I say. He spends the next few minutes telling me the various sources of his misery. None of them are extraordinary. They’re all too common among small business owners. Unfortunately, he’s stuck in his misery. It’s been lingering with him for too long. You can sense he’s tired of it.

He’s successful fought his way through cash flow, getting new customers, operational issues, personnel issues and all the other things that plague us. There are elements of those creating some of his misery, but mostly it’s more personal stuff. Marriage stuff. Head stuff. Heart stuff.

It’s no lie when I tell him, “I understand.” But I quickly follow that up with the big question, “What are you going to do about it?”

He gets quiet. I embrace the pause. I know it’s hard for him, but I also know it’s my opportunity to prove to him how much I care – and that I’m not calling to make a pitch on our first date. I’ve got a bigger picture in mind before I ever connected with him. I’m not about to change course now. Patience is another power I’ve got. It’s not quite up to super power status, but I’m still working on it.

After a few seconds of silence he says, “I don’t know. Battle through it I guess.”

I want to help him shift into a different gear – one that I know can serve him better. “What have you done that’s worked in the past?” I ask.

“Well, that’s just it,” he says. “The things that once worked don’t work now.”

Misery loves company because misery is lonely. Actually, that mantra, “Misery loves company” isn’t true. If by misery we mean complaining, whining and making excuses…then yes, misery does love company. We love to find people who will listen to us moan and groan. We enjoy telling people why something we did failed. Or why we didn’t follow through on something we said we’d do.

But when it comes to really honest, genuine misery and dread…we mostly deal with it in our own head. Small business owners often feel the burden of keeping it to themselves. Trying to figure things out alone. It’s easy to feel that we don’t need anybody helping us. We sure don’t want anybody trying to tell us what to do.

We proudly wear our “Happily Unemployable” t-shirt. Working for ourself is a big driver for us. Over time we’ve confused being an owner with going it alone.

Misery has no respect for anybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re a business owner, a creative, a scientist or a student. It doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur or a pro. Misery can afflict anybody. At any time. And it does. Bringing along a close pal, dread.

This business owner was in a bad place, Dreadland. He hated it, but wasn’t sure what he should or could do to escape. We’ve all been there. Sometimes just momentarily, other times longer. It’s like a bad losing streak. And our head doesn’t help us. All those things that got us success in the past now seem to be working against us. Like a professional athlete in a slump who tries harder and harder hoping that more effort will help…we can find ourselves pushing too hard, failing even more.

THE PEER ADVANTAGE is leveraging other business owners willing to help us through this misery.

Jim Rohn said, “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” Sadly, some of us are spending time with losers. Other people filled with their own misery and dread. People who lament who is in the White House. Others filled with industry gripes. Still others willing to blame the weather, competition or customers for their misery. It might be fun to chime in with them, but we know it doesn’t help us. Just ’cause it feels good doesn’t mean it’s good for us.

The universe isn’t against you. Or for you. It doesn’t care one way or the other. We have to figure our way out of it and into higher success. Pushing harder to go it alone isn’t the answer, but sometimes it’s all we know. That’s why we stick with it.

Every person I know filled with misery and dread is surrounded by people who enable it, foster it or at the least, tolerate it. Which is why the first thing you have to do when you find yourself steeped in misery and dread is to evaluate the people who surround you. Is your misery amplified by them? Do they contribute to make you feel good about being miserable? Do they agree with you on why you’re the victim of somebody or something? (And is that somebody or something always beyond your control?)

Your misery and dread have found company. That company is wrecking your life, professionally and personally.

Friends, But Not In The Traditional Sense

Business owners and CEOs are notorious for surrendering to a false notion about friends who can help them. They incorrectly believe that such friendships must be completely organic. That is, they happen in the wild…all on their own, without any effort. They think it’s like when we were in 4th grade and got close to a kid one street over, and over the summer we became good buddies. It just happened. We don’t remember how. It’s amazing how UN-strategic small business owners can be when it comes to finding friends who can help them be their best.

No wonder most small business owners don’t have a single person who can help them grow and improve. Some day never comes.

Ironic, isn’t it? We’ll be strategic about most things in our business except in forging friendships with people who can really serve us. But I’m not slamming anybody because how do we go about it? Who do we recruit? How do we know who will do a good job for us? You can see the difficulty…and the reason so few people have a close circle of people who can help them.

That’s precisely why I have pivoted my entire business and career to be a player in the peer advantage space serving small business owners. Because the need and the opportunity for exponential growth for small business owners is real. So few small business owners know and understand the opportunity. That’s my fuel. My energy. To give a few small business owners exposure to a quantum leap opportunity for business and personal growth by putting them in the company of other business owners equally determined to accomplish their desired outcomes.

It’s individual and personal. Some business owners want to grow much larger. Others want to sustain growth and develop a solid exit strategy. Small business owners are unique individuals with unique goals and objectives in life. Some are young. Some are older. Some are in high-tech and others are in tried-and-true spaces. That diversity empowers us to serve each other with varied points of view, resulting in powerful feedback fully capable of catapulting us to higher altitudes than we’ve ever experienced.

All three actions of effective business building – getting new customers, serving existing customers better and not going crazy in the process – are achieved more fully and faster when we surround ourselves with other business owners who will help us. The Peer Advantage is found only when you grab hold of the opportunity for yourself by allowing yourself to join forces with a small group of other business owners. Courage, candor and openness are the ingredients of those willing to elevate their businesses and their lives.

Misery is easy. Success is hard. But worth it.

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