“The only people who don’t want to hear from me are the people I’m paid to talk to.”

I was speaking virtually to a group of salespeople recently and you could see their demeanor change as they came to this realization.

Like most companies, theirs looked to hire extroverts – the “High I’s” on the DISC assessment – that would be comfortable talking to new people. This can be a great strategy, but it comes with a potential problem.

That is, the people who like to talk to other people are usually the same people who really, really want everyone to like them.

In modern business, there is no shortage of people vying for our attention. We have bosses and co-workers, customers and suppliers, and so much more.

They’re calling us, leaving voicemails, sending text messages, tweets and direct messages, pings and dings on any number of social media platforms (that all of these salespeople are told they need to be on, right?).

Those who have a need to be liked feel a need to constantly reply to anyone and everyone who asks for a piece of their time. Because each individual response makes someone happy – thus making the responder happy.

But for salespeople, like the ones I was speaking to, there is one group of people who are not asking for their attention – prospects.

That’s when the salesperson said, “The only people who don’t want to hear from me are the people I’m paid to talk to.”

That’s why time management is such a big deal for salespeople. But it’s more than the ability to manage time. It’s the ability to get yourself to do the stuff you know you need to do but don’t want to.

That’s why author Nir Eyal, says that a better term for time management is pain management.

So, how do you manage your pain? It’s a process of knowing your goals, determining the highest value tasks to help you reach those goals and the using your calendar to prioritize those tasks.

It’s that simple.

And that hard.

It’s one of the things we do all through our process of working with companies as they go through our 4D Transformation Method. We help them prioritize their time so that they can spend it on the things that make their highest value contribution to the company.

But we spend the most time on it when we’re documenting the sales process and helping their sales team prospect for new business.

You can learn more about that fourth and final step in our process by watching this video:

If you are an owner-operator who wants to improve the results of your service-based business, I might be able to help you. Just take this short assessment and book a strategy session with me.

I’d love to help you stop avoiding your prospects and growing from the inside out.

Start with WHY

When we started FiveFour in early 2018, the vision of the founders was to teach everyone what had made our individual businesses successful: a remarkable customer experience.

But what we discovered is that, with our customers, most needed a step before that. They needed to start with WHY.

I was reminded of this while listening to Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Sinek writes:

It all starts with clarity. You have to know why you do what you do. If people don’t buy what you do, the buy why you do it, so it follows that if you don’t know why you do what you do, how will anyone else?  If the leader of an organization can’t clearly articulate why they organization exists in terms beyond it’s products or services, then how does he expect the employees to know why to come to work?

If a team doesn’t know WHY it’s important to have a great experience for their customers, teaching them WHAT to do has far less of an impact.

That’s why the Define the Culture is the first of the four steps in my 4D Transformation Method and Design the Experience is the second. We have to start with WHY.

Sinek perfectly describes the type of business we most frequently deal with:

When organizations are small, WHAT they do and WHY they do it are in close parallel. Born out of the personality of the founder, it is relatively easy for early employees to “get it.“ Clarity of why is understood because the source of passion is near – in fact it’s physically comes to work every day. In most small businesses all the employees are all crammed into the same room and socialize together. Simply being around a charismatic founder allows that feeling of being a part of something special to flourish.

But, as Sinek writes, For companies of any size, success is the greatest challenge. When businesses grow and employees are no longer around the leader all day, every day, the WHY can get fuzzy and disengagement creeps in.

The answer is almost always to rearticulate the WHY. Sinek writes:

Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention…the WHY from every individual or organization comes from the past. It is born out of the upbringing or experience of an individual or small group.

And in our experience, that rediscovered WHY always includes something that was done for the customer, which perfectly sets the stage for focusing on customer experience.

How’s the WHY of your business? Has it gotten a little fuzzy? Take my assessment to find out and then chat with me about how to rediscover your WHY.

“We have three cultures”

I was talking to the CEO of a bank with more than a dozen branches when he said, “We don’t have a culture at our bank. We have three cultures and which one you encounter depends on which branch you’re at.”

What’s more, the CEO said, “You can tell when you’re in a branch that doesn’t have a healthy culture. You can just feel it.”

This is more common than you might think. It’s easy to maintain a cohesive culture when you’re a small team at a single location. But growth can change all of that in a hurry, especially when growth leads to multiple locations.

That geographic distance doesn’t make it impossible to maintain a healthy culture – far from it. But it does make it more challenging.

There are three things that CEO could have done to create a consistent, healthy culture. You can do them to.

  1. Be really clear about what you want your culture to be. What are you trying to accomplish? What are the expected behaviors? What is out-of-bounds? Defining your culture is the first step.
  2. Have a consistent communication plan. The leader must talk about the culture until they’re sick of talking about it…and then talk about it some more. They must be what Pat Lencioni calls the CRO: Chief Reminding Officer.
  3. Get regular feedback from the front lines. Your communication on culture (or anything for that matter) can’t be one way.

Without taking these steps, you’re leaving the culture up to each individual manager of each individual location (or team, division, etc.) and multiple cultures is the inevitable outcome.

That’s one of the issues I help owner-operators solve in the first step of my 4D Transformation Method, Define the Culture. I explain it in this video:

Have you left your culture up to chance – or to each employee’s interpretation? Can you feel an unhealthy culture in part’s of your organization?

The first step for you might be just getting a handle on the state of your culture. Let me help you with our free assessment. Take a few minutes, answer a few questions and then jump on a call with me to strategize ways to improve your culture.

Do it before it doesn’t feel good walking into one of your offices.

“Nobody else knows how to sell!”

That’s what one of my clients said to me when we were talking about his business development strategy.

This owner-operator had been CEO of his business for multiple decades but was frustrated that sales always seemed to depend on him.

He’d spent years on what I call the “sales/fulfillment teeter-totter.” When they were running short on cash, this very capable and charismatic CEO went out into the market and generated a bunch of new business.

But because he was out selling and not fulfilling, things broke down back in the business and customer complaints grew. That drew him back into the day-to-day operations of the business…and away from sales. Which made them run short of cash and, well, you get the idea. That’s the “sales/fulfillment teeter-totter.”

This CEO had a very clear sales process…that only existed between his ears. He had never taken the time to document it so that anyone else he hired could execute it with similarly predictable results.

Drive Results is the fourth step in my proprietary 4D Transformation method. It’s fourth because we don’t want to dump a bunch of new sales into a fulfillment system that isn’t ready for them. That’s a recipe for more customer complaints as your existing customers get less attention and new customers get off on the wrong foot.

But with a defined culture, a remarkable customer experience and a culture of continuous improvement, he was now ready for a business development strategy that would generate predictable, repeatable results for his business.

Here’s what we are doing, primarily pulling years worth of information out of the CEO’s head and updating it with the most effective, modern techniques:

  1. Identified their ideal customer. They had several kinds of customers, but one clear category who paid them for their expertise. We designed the rest of the process around that customer.
  2. Created a lead generation strategy with repeatable activities and the metrics the business development team would be accountable to perform.
  3. Compiled a sales tool kit of case studies, testimonials, email templates, call scripts, differentiators and power statements that would connect with their ideal customer. This business had a history of delivering value for clients, but hadn’t put it together for use in their sales process.
  4. Documented their five-step sales process based on the training we did with their leadership team. Those five steps are the same ones you’ll see in most sales systems for service-based businesses: Introduction, Assessment, Demonstration, Close, Follow-Up. We listed the questions to be asked at each stage, the actions to perform to move the process forward and how to answer objections earlier in the process so they don’t cause problems at the end.
  5. Customized training for their team. The last step is to create the virtual, interactive training that will allow anyone on the team to learn and perform these steps with predictable results, whether they’ve been with the company 30 years or 30 days.

I talk more about how we help our clients Drive Results in the fourth phase of our one-year immersive training with them in this video:

If you are an owner-operator and you’re on the “sales/fulfillment teeter-totter” of your service-based business, I might be able to help you Drive Results. To find out, just take this short assessment and book a strategy call with me at the end.

All you have to lose is an hour of your time. But you could be the one thing that gets you growing your business again. Growing from the inside out.

“Early on, my culture was rock solid.”

That was what this former CEO said when I shared my 4D Transformation Method with him recently.

“Up until we had about 35 people,” he said, “everyone was on the same page. I never had to let anyone go because the few times we didn’t hire the right person, the culture quickly pushed them out when it became clear they weren’t a fit.”

But the rapid growth that followed the early success led to the need for more people, which led to hastier hiring decisions and team members who weren’t aligned with the company values.

To make matters worse, as a company grows, the newest people are typically the furthest removed from the leadership and have the least opportunity to soak in the founding culture.

Because this owner operator never took the time to document their culture and didn’t have a plan to maintain it, they lost the thing that most directly contributed to their success.

Then, a market downturn came, things unraveled quickly, and the company didn’t survive.

I could hear the remorse in this former CEO as he talked about his business. “We had such a good thing,” he said. “The market had never seen anything like it.”

It didn’t have to be that way. That’s what my 4D Transformation Method is designed to address. Culture is the first of the four phases and I talk more about it in this video:

If you’re operating a growing business and feel like your culture isn’t what it used to be, don’t wait too long like this CEO did.

The first step is easy. Just take my assessment to see if we can help you define your culture and get your business growing from the inside out. At the end of the assessment, you’ll have the opportunity to book a video call with me to learn the next steps. Steps that – if you take them – will get you growing from the inside out.

Does this vision statement mean anything to anyone else?

That was the question asked by the leadership team of one of my clients this week as we were discussing their vision.

They just had the best year in the company’s 30-year history, but they’re hungry for more. Why? Because they have a big vision that hasn’t yet been fully realized.

But they’re not sure if their current vision statement accurately communicates that big vision. They’re not sure if it’s recruiting anyone to their cause.

And that, after all, is the purpose of a vision statement. Because the only vision that doesn’t require the help of others to achieve it is a small one.

A good vision statement must memorable and motivational if its going to serve its function as a memory-enhancing device that points to your broader vision.

That’s why their question was such a good one. That’s exactly the question that you should ask about your vision statement. But then, be careful how you answer. You might be tempted to go with your gut instinct (I think it connects), or personal preference (It means something to me!), but this is too important to leave to either method. You must ask the right questions of the right people to know if it connects.

Only then will you know for certain whether you need to craft something more memorable and motivational to point to your vision.

Why spend all of this time on vision statements? On defining the culture of your business? You already have monthly revenue targets…quarterly rocks…wildly important goals. Why not just focus on those? I talk about that – and why defining the culture is the first step in my 4D Transformation Method in this video:

Does your vision mean anything to anyone else? Are you living it? Instead of guessing, would you like to assess the culture of your business? Just take our assessment and then book a free strategy session with me. It’s the first step to get your business growing from the inside out.

Should we slow down?

That was the question posed by the leadership of a highly successful business that I recently started consulting with. 

They had recently come through a period of rapid growth. 

And that growth exposed some missing systems. A few client engagements had gone off the rails. Salespeople were chasing the wrong deals. 

And the leadership team was spending a lot of time putting out fires. We’ve all been there. 

The fires started the way fires do. Not enough clarity. Lack of accountability. Poor communication brought on by different behavioral styles. 

They were particularly disturbed by the misfires with clients. The business had exploded because of what they accomplished for their customers. They took pride in their customer experience. 

It was in that context that the question surfaced, “Should we slow down?” 

They wanted to know if a pause – to let systems and people catch up – was a good idea. 

I understand where that question comes from. Many of the owner-operators I work with run back and forth between sales and fulfillment.  

Revenue’s down? Go sell.  

Sales growth hurts the customer experience? Jump into fulfillment. 

Business starts to feel like a teeter-totter. In that environment, a slowdown can sound like a great idea. 

In some circumstances, a pause may be necessary. But I don’t believe you have to stop growing to build your systems. 

It’s what I call, ‘Growing from the inside out.’ 

It starts with the culture. That’s what I talked about last week in this video.  

When a business is small, everyone can pick up the culture just by hanging around the leadersThat closeness disappears once the business starts rapidly expanding. That’s when maintaining culture requires a new level of intention. 

After the culture, the next thing you must get right to grow from the inside out is the customer experience. 

Again, when a business is small, and the owner-operator is highly involved with every customer, you can grow without defining every step of the fulfillment process. 

But without that defined process, the customer experience will suffer once you grow beyond the leader’s capacity to be involved in every step. 

Growth from the inside out requires a world-class customer experience. That’s what I talk about in this video: 

What’s the experience like for those who do business with you? Find out by taking my customer experience assessment. At the end, you’ll be able to book a strategy session with me where we will discuss the results of your assessment and the biggest opportunities for improvement. 

Your customer experience may be great today, but if that’s because you’re involved in every interaction, it will become a barrier to growth. Position your business for growth from the inside out by taking this assessment today. 

Coherence

Rick was kind enough to send me a copy of his excellent book, Coherence, at a time that we were exploring a partnership. Coherence is such a rich way to think about marketing and Rick employs the word masterfully. In a world of so much formulaic communication, Rick issues a clarion call to the truth that comes through coherence.

Anyone in higher education should read this book, but anyone outside education (like me) can still benefit. My favorite section was the three Satellites that any organization can use to build a coherent communication plan. I recognized much that I have already incorporated in our approach to defining the culture of the organizations we work with and picked up a couple of new tips.

This updated edition was written early in the COVID-19 pandemic and has some useful thoughts for how Rick’s constituents can respond. Now that we’re nearly a year into the pandemic, it’s easy to see that he was right: there will be no return to normal. And in the new normal, one expects that Coherence will be even more important.

Don’t let your vision get blurry

Culture.

Think about that word for a moment. We put a lot of stock in that word, from world politics to your back door.

Yet, it’s unspecific. When it comes to your culture — that collection of relationships and policies and rules and habits and norms that are your business — we need more guidance.

What is your culture and how do you define it?

At FiveFour, we think it starts with a basic idea. What is your vision? What is that big idea that defines who you are and who you hope to be? If you can’t express a vision in a concise phrase, how can you expect your employees to understand it?

That’s just one of the aspects of your business we’ll explore in our Experience Gap Analysis, which you can take here.

We find that as companies grow, the early passion and vision of the founders frequently gets blurred. It’s no longer being communicated to the teammates on the front lines. Communication is filtered through layers of management. The byproduct is often disengaged employees, disgruntled customers and stalled growth.

Culture is where we started with A&B Business Solutions, an equipment, service and supply company that has grown to 120 employees spread over 15 locations in five midwestern states. They wanted to improve employee engagement and customer loyalty.

FiveFour was the ideal partner to achieve those goals, says Amanda Odegaard, the company’s vice president of operations and human resources.

“FiveFour’s partnership in defining our culture and communicating our message throughout the organization was superb. It is refreshing to see the results with clear expectations in how we work together and with our customers.”

Improving communication has improved the employee connection to the vision and goals of A&B Business.

“The shift of the attitude of the people internally, I would say has been the biggest change,” says Odegaard. “With that change in attitude there are more positive conversations happening. That’s the biggest transformation that has occurred and that’s across the company not just in small groups.”

The great companies in our world have great vision statements.

Apple: Make a dent in the universe.

Coca Cola: Refresh the world.

Instagram: Capture and Share the World’s Moments.

It’s tempting to say, they’re just a few words. But it’s the intention behind them, the drive and the desire that make them great. They are guiding statements that transcend goals and quarterly reports and keep purpose in focus.

And this is important: They are succinct. You can remember them.

Our vision at FiveFour is, “The Battle for Better Business.”

We live it every day. Because business is a battle. Somebody is always trying to tempt your customers and cut your market share. To win the battle, you must have great troops. These are the people who will go into that battle with you every day and give their best.

That’s a culture of success.

Which brings us back to the word again – the amorphous culture.

Maybe this is true, it’s up to you to define it. We helped A&B Business and we would love to see if we can help you. The first step is to take our assessment and find out.

Note: this is the second of five posts talking about what we do at FiveFour. You can read the first one here. Stay tuned for the other three.

What is FiveFour?

One of the most frequent questions I get about my new(ish) company, FiveFour is: What is FiveFour? We’re launching a new email series to answer that question, so I thought I would share it here.

FiveFour specializes in transforming businesses.

Which raises the obvious next question: “What kind of transformation are we talking about?”

Let me explain:

We help successful companies that have seen their growth start to stall or not go as fast as they would like it to. Companies who have started to see a few more disengaged employees and disgruntled customers than they are comfortable with. You know, those problems they didn’t have to worry about when the were small, and the leader wasn’t far removed from every team meeting and every customer interaction.

But you can’t just go back to the way you were doing things before. You’re a different business now and you need to create remarkable experiences for the team and the customers you have today. You need to transform your team and customer experience. That is the transformation we’re talking about.

Business today is far more than just its products and services. Increasingly, successful companies understand that their customers are looking for more than things. People value connection and personalization. We want to spend our time – and our money – on experiences, not things.

The businesses that figure this out are the ones we recommend to our family and friends. The ones we return to again and again.

Isn’t that what you want for your business? The unmatchable value of raving fans.

It isn’t easy or simple.

At FiveFour, that’s what we do.

We guide companies as they transform their culture into one committed to customer success. We get your team re-engaged so that they better engage with your customers. We get you back to growing again.

If you want to learn how your business can transform into an organization focused on customer success, sign up for our email list to ensure you don’t miss any of our important communications.

What we’re talking about takes reflection, assessment, adjustment and commitment, but only if you want to drive measurable results.

Think of us as the guides along your journey of business transformation.

P.S.: Get fresh perspective on your business with our Experience Gap Analysis. This deep dive into your employee and customer experience includes a 45-minute presentation of opportunities from one of our transformational guides. This service is normally $1,000 but are making it available to you at no charge as an introduction to FiveFour.

P.S.S: You’re probably wondering about our company name. In antiquity, the Quinquatrus (or “FiveFour”) was a celebration of the Spring Equinox – of new life and the birth of a new season of growth. The five-day celebration began with one day of festival, followed by four days of gladiator battle in the arena. This model – one-part preparation, four parts hard work – is the guiding idea behind FiveFour. We are the one day of preparation – getting you ready for the “hard work” that awaits you in the business arena.