Love In Business

The biggest disease this day and age is that of people feeling unloved.–Author Unknown

 The software engineer put on Nirvana’s “In Utero” as he did every evening when he got home from work, took his gun out, loaded it, and tried to garner enough courage to put it in his mouth and squeeze the trigger.  This was a ritual he had played out every night or the past year.  While successful at work, he was miserable.  He felt no one cared about him as a person- he was just another programmer, doing what programmers did, living a solitary life with no friends.  Then one day, out of the blue, his boss sent him a personal e-mail- not related to code revisions, interface changes, or other work related items.  But one that expressed his thanks and sincere appreciation for the work he had accomplished in the time he had worked there, and how he was valuable to the team not as just a programmer, but as a person.  He told this employee that he was glad he knew him as a human being, not just as someone who typed away at his computer all day.  That night the software engineer went through his daily ritual of putting on Nirvana, loading his gun, and for the first time- he was scared that he might actually go through with it.  He sold the gun, and with the proceeds bought his boss a gift- and told him the story of how that simple gesture had saved his life. This story was related to Mark Deo and I on the small business hour this week by Tim Sanders, author of Love is the Killer App.  He is at the forefront of a new wave of business thinking- not one focused on numbers, but one focused on people.  His philosophy is that one must share three things in order to have a successful business relationship: knowledge, networks and compassion.   By doing so you can not only help your business, but you can help others as human beings, much as in the story above. How does one share their knowledge?  By staying informed reading about the latest trends in business reading about things that interest other people and then sharing that knowledge with people who are interested in it.  How do you know what you should be reading?  A great place to start is the list of books on our website  Tim Sanders also maintains a reading list on his web site at  Some publications that are excellent are business magazines such as Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Business Week, and Business 2.0.  By reading these books and publications you’re making yourself valuable as a walking library to people that you speak with.  This allows you to become a personal resource to others- someone who they can trust and count on for information.  This in turn makes you as a person more valuable. What do we mean by sharing your networks?  This is not some reference to computers and internet access- To share your networks you must take your personal contacts and instead of protecting them and hiding them in secrecy open them up to the world.  Share your contacts with others who might find them to be of use.  This can be a simple matter such as simply passing a phone number on to someone, or giving a referral.  Better still is personally introducing two people who can both gain some value from establishing a new relationship.  By doing so you become a business “matchmaker” of sorts- someone who helps others to achieve their goals through communication with people to which you introduce them.  How does someone show compassion in business?  It comes back to one of Dale Carnegie’s principles, “Become genuinely interested in other people.” Only by being interested in someone and showing that interest can you demonstrate that you care about them as people and not just as tangible resources.  People respond to being cared for- you never know how making a small gesture can profoundly impact someone’s life.  I encourage you to think of someone in your business life who you can show your love to this week.  Become genuinely interested in them as a person- not to try and gain something from them, but to find common ground you share.  Then discover what it is that interests them, and find some information about that topic that you can share with them.  Find someone in your network of contacts who also has interest in the same topics, and introduce the two.  You will be amazed at how that will endear you to both contacts, turning them from business relationships into personal friends.  I’d love to hear your success stories at  Have a great week! This Business Update was written by SBA Network Business Advisor Matthew Walker- for more information, please contact him at 310-320-8190 or

Interdependence Day

Small business represents more than 99 percent of all American employers, employs more than half of the American workforce, provides just a little less than half of this country’s sales, and represents 96 percent of all U.S. exporters. Yet fewer than 5% of all small businesses survive to see their fifth birthday.


Some say its due to a lack of knowledge, a missing skill-set or hyper-specialization. I agree that skills and knowledge are critical but sometimes I think this huge failure rate has a bit to do with overconfidence.

Let’s face it, making the transition from “employee” to “employer” is not as easy as it looks. As an employee we had it pretty good. The owners took all the risk. True, when business was good they bought themselves a new Mercedes but if business was bad, they took the hit and I still got my salary. I didn”t have to worry about workers comp, insurance, OSHA, labor laws, lawsuits, competition, soft-sales, rising expenses and a plethora of other issues.

As employees we were “dependent” on the owner to absorb the risk and compensate for any losses or downside. Some owners may feel this “dependence” translates to a form of employee entitlement. Yet the owner takes the risk and the owner enjoys the reward.

Many employees on the other hand have come to believe that they are owed more money, more health care, more retirement benefits-more of everything that is costly to the owner of a business. Business owners often feel as though they deserve to take as much out of their companies as they wish sometimes not fully funding initiatives which can create a difficult working environment for employees. How can this dichotomy be reconciled?

I think it is deeper than simply saying we all need to take responsibility. I think we need to change our mindset about independence and entitlement. And I think we need to teach our employees to think like owners. Some have gone so far as to actually make their employees owners.ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plans)

In 1994 United Airlines became the largest employee majority-owned enterprise in the United States, with various groups of employees mostly represented by unions – having purchased 55% of its stock in exchange for various concessions. The employees accepted pay cuts and made other concessions, but were also granted representation on the company’s board of directors. The case represents the potential of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), but not the full realization of that potential. It shows that an ESOP may be a necessary condition but certainly is not a sufficient condition for substantial changes in labor-management relations leading to improvements in company performance.

It requires more than just giving an employee some stock to get them to think like an owner. It all starts with the mindset of the owner themselves. For small businesses it is critical that they not allow overconfidence to overshadow their decision-making ability. This is the danger of becoming too independent.

Becoming Too Independent
Sure, I’m the first to admit that entrepreneurs have to make the move from dependence to independence. But Stephen Covey says in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, that entrepreneurs “must move from dependence to independence and ultimately to interdependence.”

If you are one of these small business owners you might be saying, “Hey isn’t it great? I’m finally independent! No more working for the MAN!”
But independence is not enough. In fact, that “independent attitude” may be the very reason that many small businesses fail. When we feel we have all the answers we disempower others not to mention the fact that we can alienate them. When we become “interdependent” we allow ourselves to be seen as vulnerable and let others into our personal space. We give them a “fine reputation to live up to” as Dale Carnegie said. And we motivate them to think on our behalf. This isn’t easy for hard-driving entrepreneurial types like me, but I have found that it is incredibly powerful.
Often times this opens the door for greater collaboration with other business partners as well. I’m talking about alliances with non-competitive organizations and affiliate relationships. I also find that when entrepreneurs mature to the level of “interdependent leaders” they are also open to receiving coaching and consultation.

Coaching Re-enforces Interdependence
Business coaching has become one of the most effective ways to bring about organizational improvement both for self-employed entrepreneurs as well as leaders of larger organizations. Coaching has proven that it produces results in a variety of forums. For example, Fast Company magazine reported in a recent article that nearly 40% of Fortune 500 companies retained coaches to improve their business performance. In addition a study by the Manchester Review stated that the output of executives involved in coaching programs averaged nearly 5.7 times higher than the initial investment. There is strong evidence showing that external coaches can add substantial value in building new skills, conceiving new strategies, making better decisions as well as building a culture of interdependence.

Growth for even the most successful organizations can be hindered by a resistance to change and an attitude of fierce independence. This can happen externally among customers as well as internally with employees. Business coaches help owners, managers and key team members to set specific goals and break them down into manageable pieces and to effectively collaborate. Coaches hold team members accountable but they also ensure that there is a high level of interdependence. 

Interdependence Breeds Attraction
In fact our Attract More Business Program incorporates an interdependent structure. Not only in the content that it provides but in the way the program is delivered. Every program includes a coaching element both in the form of our interactive email based “skill builders” as well as in the one-on-one tele-coaching that is included in every program. Now we’ve introduced the “Masters Version” of the Attract More Business Program which includes 12 weeks of one-on-one coaching as well as the 9CDs, 150 page manual and a complete evaluation of all of your marketing material.

I’d love to hear how you’ve become more interdependent in your organization. Email me at And remember to make Tuesday morning, “Interdependence Day.”

Have a great week!
I hope that this “Business Update” has been helpful in assisting you to improve the performance of your organization. For more information on how the Small Business Advisory Network assists companies in improving their performance, please feel free to contact us at 310-320-8190 or email 

Mark Deo


Rule #11 from my Rules of Attraction: Who we are is more important that what we do.

Last week we looked some of the intangible traits that define “who we are” or “who our company is.” We said the most critical are: Integrity, Vision, Enthusiasm, Selflessness and Identity. We spent some time examining the importance of genuine “Enthusiasm” and how it affects how we are perceived. Another trait that exemplifies who we are is “integrity.”

It has been said that our “character” is displayed by what we do when no one is looking. I believe that character is; “who we are – defined.” It is the values that we adhere to. Similarly the concept of “character” extends beyond a trait that defines a person’s temperament or disposition. What does character have to do with marketing, you may ask? I believe in this new era, character or “who we are” is more important than ever before in the marketing arena. In fact I would submit that character is far more important than what we actually do or say about our company, product or service. It is the evidence of our most persuasive claims. Who can deny that all types of products and services are becoming more homogeneous? Differentiating oneself is getting more and more difficult. Competition in every industry and profession is accelerating daily. Therefore “character” in many cases may be the deciding factor in attracting better clients, more committed team members and healthier relationships.

Integrity is at the core of our character or who we are. When we think of someone as having “integrity” we tend to think of them as being honest, loyal, fair-minded, trustworthy and respectful. Having integrity means that you do what you say you’re going to do, you try to do the RIGHT thing and you do it consistently.

When we think of the greatest military leaders of all time, we think of Patton, Eisenhower, and MacArthur. The name George C. Marshall has faded into the mist. Marshall, however, was the leader that made it possible for these men to dominate the history books. The fact is that Marshall was their boss! He was the Chief of Staff of the United States Armed Forces during World War II. He forfeited his chance to go down in history as the hero of the war and ultimately position himself as an almost certain a shoe-in for the White House top job. 

In late 1943, at the height of World War II, Marshall had convinced both President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill that the best way to turn the tide of the war was to plan a cross-channel attack on Germany via France. The only question was… Who would lead the operation? Roosevelt knew that Marshall wanted to be the commander of the D-Day invasion. It would virtually guarantee Marshall’s place in history. Yet just as Roosevelt knew that Marshall deserved this honor, he also was aware that the man was so humble he would never ask for the job. The President’s problem was that he felt that Marshall was more greatly needed as the high commander of the entire war effort than he was as leader of the D-Day invasion.

So what did the President do? Like any good politician he hedged his bet. He sent a message to Marshall telling him that if the general wanted the position then he just needed to ask for it. What was Marshall’s reply? He sent a one line message back to Roosevelt saying:

“I will serve wherever you order me, Mr. President.”

In the end, the Normandy invasion, a virtual guarantee of glory, slipped from the hands of Marshall into those of Eisenhower who used it to make his successful play for the Presidency. Marshall demonstrated his integrity by having the courage and conviction to make the “right decision” for the country. Marshall knew that in fact he WAS more greatly needed in the role of overseer for the entire war effort than he was as D-Day invasion commander. Later when asked why he made such a decision, he told the media, “The issue was just too great for personal feelings to be considered.”

This is the kind of integrity that creates attraction. While many of today’s business leaders are shifting blame, slamming competitors and whining about fair treatment, those with integrity are willing to tell the truth, make sacrifices, do the right thing and do it consistently. Imagine the reputation your company can build in a marketplace hungry for products, services, companies and people with integrity.

Failing to Fail

Are you doing the same things you did a year ago? Are you doing things the same WAY you did them a year ago? If so you’re bound to fail. Not that failure is bad mind you. The sooner you fail in fact, the better off you’ll be. So raise a glass with me and let’s toast all of our failures past, present and future! Ahhhh drink deep. Now wasn’t that thirst quenching? No?

Let’s face it, our culture doesn’t reward failure. We condemn it. Our condemnation is so prolific that most folks do whatever they can NOT to fail. They shudder to even speak of a failure to associates. They train themselves in fact to not even THINK about failing. It’s not an option! We walk around telling everyone who will listen to us about all of the great successful things we have accomplished in our lives. We have convinced ourselves that we must continue to succeed and more so, that we must become innovators.

Innovate or Die 
In fact innovation has become kind of a buzz-word in our society. We hear, “innovate or die.” What about “innovate AND die?” All the excitement about all things new has obscured the fact that most new ideas fail while most old ideas are still with us. With hundreds of breakfast cereals introduced every year how could it be that Cheerios and Wheaties still outsell them all? Why are Beanie Babies a faint memory yet Play-Doh is still a best seller? Evolution? Survival of the fittest? Maybe.Is there a way to combine innovation with proven methods? We’re all familiar with the old Rudyard Kipling quote: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way time after time and expecting a different result.” In this shrinking economy, it stands to reason that we need to do things differently. We all know we have to get creative, but how? How can we harness our creativity to create success rather than failure? Or better yet how can we train ourselves to endure our failures yet remain focused on the hope of a successful outcome?Not Creativity but Productivity 
The truth is that creativity is less about wild talent and more about productivity. To find a few ideas that work you need to try a lot that don’t. Successful people don’t have a higher success rate. They just do more and they do a range of DIFFERENT things. Research shows that the success of individual geniuses like Mozart, Shakespeare, Picasso, Einstein, and Darwin himself, is best understood from an evolutionary perspective, where excellence results from “a range of differences.” These famous creators generated a wider range of ideas and completed more products than their contemporaries. They also followed proven methods in order to accomplish them. They didn’t succeed at a higher rate than others. They simply did more. So they had both more successes and more failures.An Example 
A similar philosophy helps explain the success of Capital One, which has been called the most innovative credit-card company in the world. Just a few years ago, all credit cards were pretty much the same; you could have whatever you wanted as long it cost $20 per year and had an interest rate of 19.8 percent! Capital One has been the leader in offering thousands of different credit cards, with varying rates, and limits, which are targeted at people with different beliefs, hobbies, and affiliations: “They tinkered with credit lines, mileage awards, with the design of the cards, and with the color of the envelopes of their mailings. They tried different ways of retaining customers and pursuing deadbeats. Essentially they made Capital One an endless experiment.” The company tried about 45,000 experiments in the year 2000, for example. Capital One has succeeded by targeting smaller and smaller audiences for these experiments, like a “platinum MasterCard for middle-income hikers who drive Saturn automobiles.” Most of these ideas fail, but the constant experimentation with one variant after another, and constant learning, are big reasons why Capital One has over 30 million credit-card accounts.Repackaging the Old 
The other thing about innovation and creativity is that success is not usually the result of totally new ideas as it is the repackaging of old ideas in new ways, places and combinations. IDEO which is probably one of the most innovative companies in the world, has developed more than 4,000 products for firms in all kinds of industries. Their designers are constantly mixing and matching technologies to produce creative new solutions. One IDEO development group got the idea to create a “slit valve” for a bicycle water bottle out of a heart valve that was made for a medical products company. Henry David Thoreau said, “The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” When you look at your product or service offerings what do you see? What do your customers see? Better yet what should they see?Challenge Accepted Practices 
Often times ideas that are born from this kind of haphazard creativity are diametrically opposed to “accepted” practices. Entrepreneurs start new companies partly because they are purported to be more innovative, free from the pressures in established firms to follow ingrained precedents. Yet entrepreneurs can fall prey to ingrained habits just like managers in big firms. Don’t be afraid to challenge accepted practices. I’m not talking about a free-for-all but rather controlled experimentation in order to cultivate innovation. Some of the greatest inventions in the world were a result of an extra component here and there pieced together. Thomas Edison said, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”Here’s some advice that will help to promote creativity and innovation:

  1. Expose yourself to new ideas. Increase the variance of your available knowledge. Study other industries that face the kind of challenges you face.
  2. See old things in new ways. Don’t just get OUT of the box. Walk around it. Look at the top. Don’t be afraid to pick it up and look at the bottom.
  3. Break from the past. Stop talking about your past successes and hoping the history will repeat itself. We stand in a new place today a place we have never been and will never be again.
  4. Understand that creativity as all about productivity. Be willing to turn the focus to more rather than better at times.
  5. Embrace failures. Reward failures. Plan to fail – knowing that success in just one more failure away.
  6. Challenge accepted practices. Become a tinkerer.

Play with these ideas in your mind and experiment with a few in your company. Treat them like toys that you might buy to mess around with: Try to break them, try to take apart the pieces to see how they work, try to improve them, and mix them (or parts of them) with your other toys. I offer these ideas not as immutable truths, but as methods that have helped other companies produce beautiful and profitable mutations, and that just might help your company as well.


One of the rules of Attraction is: “Who we are is more important than what we do.”

There are a number of intangible traits that define “who we are” or “who our company is.” Some of the most critical are: Enthusiasm, Integrity, Vision, Selflessness and Identity. When the perception of these intangible’s are regarded highly in the minds of others, we automatically become more attractive regardless of the quality or value of our product or service. Of course it goes without saying that our product has to have some value and perform with a reasonable degree of performance. However far more important are these intangible traits. In this Business Update I want to address one of those intangibles… Enthusiasm.

People are drawn to a person or a company with genuine enthusiasm. It allows us the luxury of NOT needing to chase clients or forcefully pursue relationships. Those displaying authentic enthusiasm seem to be able to magnetically draw to themselves the right circumstances, relationships and resources.

While enthusiasm is an important component of attraction it must be REAL. There’s nothing worse than forced or phony enthusiasm. Nothing will turn people off faster. Today Emeril Lagasse is probably the best-known chef in America, if not the world. How did it happen? “Emeril’s vision and genuine enthusiasm has accounted for the phenomenal growth of the company,” says Eric Linquest, Emeril’s vice president, general manager. “We started the first restaurant with about 40 employees, and now we have 20 times that number. Believe me, Emeril has always known how to take advantage of every opportunity.” The charismatic Emeril has been delighting audiences for years with his unrestrained approach to the joy of cooking on the Food Network show, Emeril Live. Even the dullest cooking chores can be exciting to watch when — Bam! — Emeril adds his personality. There is no doubt that Emeril‘s enthusiasm is REAL! He does what he likes to do best — he gets his entire audience involved and excited about food and cooking. His bubbling enthusiasm is evident every time I watch him. Compare Emeril with other celebrity chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Nathalie Dupree and the late Julia Child and while they may have actually been “more accomplished” in the culinary arts, they were not nearly as compelling, interesting or attractive. Emeril is a great example of rule # 11 in action. Truly, who Emeril IS increases his level of attraction far more than what he DOES.

Sometimes it’s not so much what we say but “how” we say it. And no one says it like Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter. You get pumped-up just watching Steve wander through the bush talking about a beak-billed platypus. I had the pleasure of meeting Steve and I can tell you that his enthusiasm is not only real and genuine it was born out of experiences in his youth with all types of animals. 

His enthusiasm is born out of a genuine caring for the plight of the world’s wildlife. Irwin says his love affair with the beasts of the bush began on his sixth birthday when he received the birthday present that he always wanted – his very own scrub python! It was twelve feet long and while most other children were opening cans of pet food for their cats or dogs, Steve was out catching fish and hunting rodents to feed to his crocodiles and snakes. 

Sometimes Steve’s enthusiasm is a little over the top. Recently there was a worldwide outcry which accompanied the release of TV footage showing Irwin holding his infant son in one arm while feeding a chicken carcass to a twelve foot saltwater crocodile named Murray with the other hand. His reply: “I was in complete control of the croc.” 

Crikey! That was close.

There is not a moment that Steve isn’t displaying his enthusiasm for these animals. On camera or off he is literally on-fire for their way of life. Even the photo-stills that we see of Steve in print ads, product endorsements and on web sites show him with a surprised and shocked look on his face as he wrestles with a croc or holds a python at bay. Now that’s enthusiasm!

Over the years there have been many imitators of Irwin’s paradigm. One only needs to tune into the Animal Planet to see the numerous shows that have been patterned after the Crocodile Hunter. There is no doubt that genuine enthusiasm has its rewards. Queensland Premier Peter Beattie’s government nominated Irwin for Australian of the Year and he has built a billion dollar industry out of absolutely nothing. He has created a product that is literally – HIMSELF. It’s not so much what he does that has us sitting at the edge of our chair, it is WHO HE IS that engages us. Despite the controversy swirling around Irwin, he demonstrates the power of enthusiasm in creating positive and continuing attraction. 

My advice to everyone reading this is to think about what you can do to add just a little more enthusiasm to what you do. You don’t have to be Steve Irwin or act like Emeril but in your own way try to incite just a touch more passion in those you meet.

Also if you want o discover a way to actually LEARN enthusiasm come visit my Dale Carnegie Sales Advantage Class. I’ll be starting a class in Monrovia in July and in Long Beach in August. We will be practicing ways to live more enthusiastically and infecting others with genuine enthusiasm as well. For more info call Dale Carnegie at 562-427-1040.

Dream Big

Today there’s a lot of discussion about vision, mission and goals. In fact I see many companies investing loads of time, money and effort in coming up with their “mission statement.” Usually this is a few inspiring sentences that are placed on plaques to hang on the wall or printed on the back of business cards or put on the company web site. Yet I’ve got to say with few exceptions this often amounts to a big waste of time!

 The fact is few of these mission statements accomplish what they were intended to do. That is: “motivate employees to perform at a higher level.” Ironically, however, after a month or so not even the CEO, let alone the employees can even remember one word of the mission statement. So does this mean establishing a mission for your company is a useless task? Not necessarily. Yet in order to understand how to make mission planning a valuable tool we must first understand WHAT a “mission” is. In short a mission is a course of action that a company decides to pursue. It is the road they will travel in order to ensure they arrive at their ultimate destination. It is their plan for achieving their vision. A mission is not something we say, it is something we do. Leaders of companies often make the mistake of developing their mission in the wrong way. They try to figure out what their mission is before they decide WHERE it is they want to go. Imagine trying to do this when going on a trip. Can you really plan HOW you’re going to get somewhere if you don’t know WHERE it is you want to end up? Remember the Cheshire cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland? Alice came to a fork in the road and asked the cat for his help. “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice. “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. Isn’t the same true for us? As leaders we see our employees going in different directions or we’re just not able to maintain that consistent level of performance that others are achieving. Could it be because we are just a little unsure of precisely WHERE it is we want to get? Developing a mission is quite impossible until we establish a vision. A destination. We must be able to see it, feel it, smell it and taste it. This can NOT be accomplished by the employees or a consulting firm. While the vision should be shared by many, it MUST be totally owned by and burning in the heart of the leader of the company. Unless the CEO or UBC as I call them (Ultimate Big Cheese) is totally driven by their vision it will be meaningless in the arms of their employees. On the positive side however, I have noticed one thing that all great leaders seem to have in common. That is the ability to dream big dreams and create a powerful vision of the future. They seem to have the ability to imagine an ideal future well in advance of creating it. Your vision is an imaginary creation of the ideal life you would like to live, in every respect. You create it as an expression of the values you hold most dear. Brian Tracy says, “From the very day that you develop a clear vision for whom you are and where you are going in life, you begin to become a superior person, and soon you begin to accomplish superior results.” Here’s some advice on how you can develop vision for your company that will help to drive a sense of mission, improve performance and 1. Let your mind float freely – One of the great secrets of success is to “dream big dreams.” It is to let your mind float freely into the future and imagine that you have no limitations on what you can be, have or do. Imagine for the moment that you have all of the resources that you would ever need to achieve the highest goals to which you could ever aspire. Imagine you have all the time, money, people, contacts and intelligence that you could ask for to become everything that you could ever become. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have a dream,” and what followed was a vision that changed a nation. That famous speech is a dramatic example of the power that can be generated by a person who communicates a compelling vision of the future. 2. Create your ideal future – Make a dream list. Let yourself fantasize. What would you like to do? Where would you like to go? What would you like to accomplish? And most of all, what kind of a person would you like to become? Since you attract into your life people and situations that are in harmony with the person you really are, what kind of attributes and qualities would you like to develop in yourself so that you can life the very best life you can imagine, surrounded by the kind of people you would most enjoy? John F. Kennedy did not live to see the achievement of his vision for NASA, but he set it in motion when he said, “By the end of the decade, we will put a man on the moon.” That night, when the moon came out, we could all look out the window and imagine. And when it came time to appropriate the enormous funds necessary to accomplish this vision, Congress did not hesitate. Why? Because this vision spoke powerfully to values Americans held dear: America as a pioneer and America as world leader. 3. Create a “shared vision” – “ I like to recommend a practical exercise to develop your organizational vision. By following this plan you may be better assured that the vision statement that is developed is a shared vision. Plan an uninterrupted time to work on the vision with your most key team members. At this meeting, take an hour to explore your vision. Agree on a rough time frame, say five to ten years. Ask people to think about the following questions: How do you want your community to be different? What role do you want your organization to play in your community? What will success look like? Then ask each group to come up with a metaphor for your organization, and to draw a picture of success: “Our organization is like a mariachi band – all playing the same music together, or like a train – pulling important cargo and laying the track as we go,” The value of metaphors is that people get to stretch their minds and experiment with different ways of thinking about what success means to them. Finally, have everyone share their pictures of success with each other. One person should facilitate the discussion and help the group discuss what they mean and what they hope for. Look for areas of agreement, as well as different ideas that emerge. The goal is to find language and imagery that your organization’s members can relate to as their vision for success. 4. Caution: Do not try to write a vision statement with a group. (Groups are great for many things, but writing is not one of them!). Ask one or two people to try drafting a vision statement based on the group’s discussion, bring it back to the group, and revise it until you have something that your members can agree on and that your leaders share with enthusiasm. Only when you have a clear vision of the future that everyone is excited about can you begin working on the mission or path that you will take. Following this will be the goals or steps along the way. A clear vision will allow you as a leader to propel your company forward. It will make daily decision making far easier for every member of the organization. It will allow the organization to move initiatives forward with greater speed and agility. It will motivate a higher level of performance and commitment among your team. So don’t be afraid to DREAM BIG because no big thing was ever accomplished without some small person dreaming it first!


Do you worry about the future? Have trouble falling asleep? Do you have too many things to do and not enough time to do them?

 Tired of reading already? Listen to the audio file on this topic by clicking here. There isn’t a person alive who does not suffer from stress. Some people don’t even know they are suffering from stress because they don’t take the time to notice how they are feeling. Such people often feel overwhelmed, burned out, or stressed out much of the time, no matter whether they are at work or at home. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Only you can control how you feel, but you can’t do that unless you are aware of how you feel. Before I talk about what we can do to reduce stress it males some sense to look a little closer at what is and what isn’t stress. There are all kinds’ misconceptions about stress. Often people become so accustomed to stress that they become unaware of it. Many of us suffer the debilitating effects of stress even though we don’t feel tense. Stress can change the way you treat others or damage your body even in the absence of feelings of frustration or anxiety. Some people believe that stress is something which affects only those who have high-pressure lives. Many ordinary individuals experience the constant stress of worry, leading unfulfilled lives or of not being what they would like to be. Others believe that the only way to lower stress is to change your surroundings or to take medication. Changing your outlook on life is the most reliable and effective way of reducing stress. Stress comes from the way we perceive the world, not from the way the world really is. Stress is not really caused by events that happen to us. It is not events in themselves that cause our distress, but rather the views we take of events. Emotions have a will of their own and cannot be controlled. We can change our feelings by first changing our behavior or by changing our thinking. For example, getting some work done can keep us from worrying about it. Creating a new understanding of a situation can make it less threatening or stressful. Here are a few things we can do to lessen the stress in our lives and ultimately improve the performance of our business: 1. Learn to plan. Disorganization can breed stress. Having too many projects going simultaneously often leads to confusion, forgetfulness, and the sense that uncompleted projects are hanging over your head. When possible, take on projects one at a time and work on them until completed. 2.  Recognize and accept limits. Most of us set unreasonable and perfectionistic goals for ourselves. We can never be perfect, so we often have a sense of failure or inadequacy no matter how well we perform. Set achievable goals for yourself. 3.  Be a positive person. Avoid criticizing others. Learn to praise the things you like in others. Focus upon the good qualities those around you possess. Be sure to give yourself credit and appreciate your own good qualities, as well. 4. Learn to tolerate and forgive. Intolerance of others leads to frustration and anger. An attempt to really understand the way other people feel can make you more accepting of them. Accept and forgive yourself also. 5.  Get regular physical exercise. Check with your physician before beginning any exercise program. You will be more likely to stay with an exercise program if you choose one that you really enjoy rather than one that feels like pure hard work and drudgery. 6.  Talk out your troubles. Find a friend, member of the clergy, faculty member, counselor, or psycho-therapist you can be open with. Expressing your “bottled up” tension to a sympathetic ear can be incredibly helpful. Stress can negatively impact our personal performance as well as the performance of our business. But you don’t have to be a victim if you make a conscious choice to focus on your feelings and choose what to do with those feelings. You don’t have to react to stress; you can choose how to respond to it. For more information on this topic listen to the audio file “De-Stress” by clicking here. 
I hope that this “Business Update” has been helpful in assisting you to improve the performance of your organization. For more information on how the Small Business Advisory Network assists companies in improving their performance, please feel free to contact us at 310-320-8190 or email 

Mark Deo

Decisions, Decisions

It’s no wonder decision making is so difficult for people today. We’re inundated with overchoice.

I’m not a big cereal eater. In fact I rarely have cereal in the morning. I usually opt for egg whites and some turkey. But that has become a bit boring as you can imagine so this week I thought, what the heck I’ll try some cereal. I went to the local market to get some and told my wife I’d be right back. I was shocked at what confronted me: an entire isle filled with different types of cereal. How could there be so many different types of cereal? Why? For what reason?After staring open mouthed at the shelves filled with every type of cereal imaginable I thought, “OK I’ll just stick with Tony the Tiger.” You know the old standby, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. I became numb when I discovered that there are actually three different types of Frosted Flakes. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I realized I said aloud to the dismay of a fellow shopper. “Come on is this necessary?”After 15 minutes of weighing the nutritional daily allowance, fiber content and comparing the grams of NutraSweet, saccharine and fat for each, I opted for the box with the coolest looking cartoon and of course, the one with the prize (a throwback to my kindergarten days).Sound familiar? And its not just cereal, its everything! Why do we have so many choices? Because we are barraged with so much information that it makes every choice more difficult than ever before. And more time consuming. Companies must respond to information by making choices and ultimately decisions. Yet time after time they freeze. Too often their choice is INDECISION.Today making decisions is the most important skill for any entrepreneur and small business owner. Did I say SKILL? Is decision making really a skill? I think so. Can good decision making be learned? Yes! Decision making is a skill that can be acquired with practice.There are some basic precepts to good decision making. I say follow the six basic rules of good decision making:

  1. Get all the facts and weigh the assets and liabilities to each course
  2. Get professional advise and opinions
  3. Make decisions quickly
  4. Don’t make a habit out of reversing decisions
  5. Accept the risk, stress and conflict that comes with making decisions
  6. Make decisions that produce change

Why don’t people like to make decisions? Most would say they DO make decisions. But ask them if they make decisions quickly and they would say, NO WAY! This is true. Most people are conditioned AGAINST making decisions quickly. They associate making a fast decision with a bad decision. They delay and the opportunity slips away.Consider this… When you delay a decision you never have the same decision to make again because in this information-intensive culture, the facts are different the next day and the next week. But people often delude themselves into thinking that they can wait to make a decision and that nothing much will change. Time passes and so does the opportunity. Don’t get me wrong I’m not talking about making snap decisions. I’m talking about getting all the facts, weighing the assets and liabilities to each decision, getting professional advise and opinions and then making a decision.Good managers make decisions quickly and change slowly. We are all looking for the “risk-free” decision Let’s face it all decisions involve risk. Most people, unfortunately are risk adverse. We want to wait until “all the data” is in. We want the decision to gently rise to the top in an unmistakable fashion. The problem is that we will never get all the data in. The decision simply will not rise to the top. The data is changing from minute to minute. “All the data” is a concept like infinity. You can approach it but never get there. Risk can no longer be eliminated from the decision making process.Decision making needs to be redefined as an exercise of risk management. But how do you eliminate the stress that comes with change? You don’t! When you make a decision you create change. When change happens people go into stress. It is undeniable. Unfortunately, however, people view stress today as a negative feeling and try to eliminate it from their lives. What we should all be working on is not eliminating stress but coping with the stress that change produces. If you think about it people NEED to be in stress.We’ve all heard the stories about the poor guy that retires and within a month or two, he has a heart attack and dies or falls prey to depression. Why? Because he’s removed all of the stress from his life. He’s stopped changing, stopped being productive and consequently his lack of decisions, change and stress has cause a lack of meaning in his life.The opposite of stress is not comfort and health, it’s apathy and atrophy. Back in the old days when I was working for the man (or the woman in this case) I would often say to my boss, “Man, I’m stressed.” And in her infinite wisdom, good old Sue Schneider would tell me, “Mark stress is good, distress is bad.” Thanks Sue. Just look up the meaning of these words in the dictionary.Distress – pain, suffering affliction, state of trouble.Stress – mental or physical tension, urgency, a force that is exerted.Which sounds healthy? Look at the stress that comes with change as a catalyst for growth. What can we do if our decisions produce conflict? This is a natural course. Our tendency is to second guess our decisions and quickly reverse them if they produce conflict. Unfortunately most people begin to regret their decisions and take steps at reversing them rather than deal with the conflict. Indecisiveness destroys credibility! Employees attitudes become, “this too shall pass” and view our decisions as just a wave that will roll back to shore. They become cynical and see no reason to adapt to change. Don’t fall prey to this deadly sin.Deal with the conflict that decisions ultimately will cause and watch change occur around you. This is precisely what I focus on in my consulting practice… bringing about change within small businesses by helping management make better decisions. I help business owners and managers to make a habit out of making good decisions. I also try to fold this strategy into my classes and workshops.Give yourself every opportunity for success this year. Check out our web site for our next Entrepreneurial Workshop and get pre-registered. If nothing else I guarantee that it will be a great way to start the year with a positive first step.Those of you that have attended any of my classes know that they are energy packed and you walk out motivated and cranked-up!

Can a Corporate Culture Change?

This business update I want to respond to a few questions submitted on our blog. Both questions have to do with corporate culture. The questions posed were:

1. Why is the corporate culture so important?2. Can the culture be changed or does it simply evolve of its own volition?While there are some slight differences in definitions of corporate culture, most experts agree that it is the shared “taken-for-granted” assumptions, beliefs, values, expectations and rules that members of a work team or organization hold. This is essentially the guiding light for team interaction, expectations and decision making. The culture is revealed by studying the relationships of the members.Changing the corporate culture must emanate from the top. The leadership of an organization such as the CEO and the senior management team is the single most critical success factor in a culture change effort. Today corporate leaders have to invest significant amounts of time and energy into a culture change effort and they must personally live, and model the new cultural ethos. Members of the team CAN NOT change without the leadership first changing. Let me say that again: members of the team CAN NOT change without the leadership first changing. This is absolutely essential. In fact when leaders DO choose to “trade-up” their values and belief systems, change often magically occurs.But in order for the cultural change to take hold within the organization, the members must be re-educated on what is important to the future of the company and how to make decisions that are consistent with that purpose. Therefore the change effort must be accompanied by clear vision, mission and value statements in providing direction and behavioral guidelines for the new culture. Again these must go beyond words cast into a plaque that is hung on a wall. It must be evidenced by daily actions which fall in line with the values espoused.While working with companies to assist them in creating market growth we often find that the core issues of the company’s value systems must be addressed. In these cases we will often bring in our associates from Fifth Wave Leadership. They have worked with organizations large and small to affect cultural change quickly and effectively. In fact the CEO of this organization, Morrie Shechtman is someone who often works with the leadership of our clients assisting them in evaluating and implementing change from the top. Morrie has graciously allowed us to offer to those in our network a greatly reduced rate in working with CEOs and their team. If this is something that interests you please contact me and I will arrange to get you in touch with Morrie directly.Again, the corporate culture is critical to the growth and continued health of your organization. I urge you to invest your time and resources in discovering how you might create change and ensure growth and leadership in your industry.

Build A Healthy Corporate Culture

You’ve heard of the book, “Death of a Salesman.” This article is about the death of a family. What does that have to do with running a small business, you ask? I’ll get there in a moment. First, let me ask you a question: Is your business like a family?

I hear this all the time. “You know Mark our business is different, its just like a family.” I know business owners and managers say this to communicate something positive about their company’s culture. I think this is great! But I always smile when I hear this. I often want to ask, “Oh yea, what kind of family is it like?” But I don’t, because I’m practicing my Dale Carnegie principal of “letting the other person save face.” I smile because the relationships within a company CAN be just as screwed-up as the relationships within a family.For example, consider how favoritism can cripple the relationships within a family. It happens, you know. Its happening right now. The results are far reaching and dramatic when one sibling is treated differently from another. The favored sibling feels that they are not as obligated to perform at a specific level in order to gain a specific reward. Since they are favored they know from experience that they will not be held as accountable as the next sibling. The rules can be flexed for them. Everyone in the family knows this. Consequently there is resentment, anger, hostility and conflict. The unfavored sibling is no longer motivated to perform. No matter what they do, they can not live up to the admiration of the parent. This causes frustration and embarrassment. It can even result in vengeance and criminal activity in order to “get even.” The “I’ll show them” attitude.What makes favoritism so insidious is that it can be exercised in a very subtle manner. It may manifest itself in the WAY things are communicated. For example, imagine a circumstance where two siblings alternate weeks taking out the trash. When the unfavored sibling fails to take out the trash, the consequence may be for the parent to say, “I can’t even depend on you to take out the trash.” When the favored sibling fails to take out the trash, the consequence may be for the parent to say, “just make sure you get it done next week.” The favored sibling gets another chance, while the unfavored sibling’s wholesale capabilities have been diminished. This is rarely done in a purposeful way or even through subterfuge. It happens on a subconscious level. Before we know it the words are out and the damage is done.This works precisely the same way for a business organization. As owners and managers our goal is to induce greater teamwork, a more harmonious workplace and improved productivity. One of the most important factors in building teamwork is the leaders ability to implement what I call “equitable response.” Equitable response is the leaders ability to react to every team member in the same manner in any specified circumstance. In other words, their ability to treat people relatively the same under any given set of circumstances. For example, don’t allow one employee to arrive at work late because she lives further away or because she has to pick up the kids at school. Credibility is lost when owners and managers are inconsistent in rewards and punishments.Here’s what I counsel my clients to do:

  1. Consistently reward positive behavior and punish negative behavior. CONSISTENTLY!
  2. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated by employees.
  3. Don’t allow your personal opinions to influence the way you respond to team members. The fact that you may like or dislike them should NOT play a role in the reward/punishment process.
  4. Let the time you spend with team members become part of the reward. Conversely you should limit the time spent with those team members that fail to maintain performance. Tell them what is expected in no uncertain terms. No idle chit-chat.
  5. Model competent behavior. They will do as you do, NOT as you say.
  6. Provide consistent feedback and predictable consequences.
  7. Set realistic and clear expectations.

In my consulting practice, I rarely see these things consistently being done in small companies. Often times owners and managers have a whole set of rules which apply to different people in the organization at different times. This causes confusion, stifles communication, hinders teamwork and creates fear. It usually ends up with excessive turnover and even anarchy. Sadly the result is the death of a company family.Does this mean we shouldn’t attempt to replicate the family atmosphere in our companies? Certainly not! We should replicate the model of the healthy family where everyone knows what is expected of them and everyone is rewarded and punished with equanimity.I hope this helps you to learn some new ways to create a healthy corporate culture in your organization. If you are wondering what else you can do to implement a revolutionary change in your business, check out our web site at