Standard of Care

For several years many small business owners have asked me the same questions:

“How can I grow my business without significant capital investment?”

“What can I do to stabilize the trends in my business?”

“How can I out-market my competition in the midst of price erosion?”

“How can I maintain a consistent level of revenue to ensure a consistent level of profit?”

“Why are my people loyal one day and turncoat the next?”

“What can I do to motivate my staff to invest more time and effort in effectively selling or delivering my product or service?”

“How can I eliminate excuses and inspire commitment?”Because these are the most frequently asked questions, I have invested considerable time and effort in seeking out the EXPERTS and learning their methods in dealing with these challenges.I have made it my mission to vigorously study the masters in management, sales and marketing. The philosophy that I espouse is an amalgamation of what I have learned DIRECTLY from the leaders in business, such as: Tom Peters, Jack Welsh, Stephen Covey, Peter Drucker, Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, Jay Abraham, Tony Robins, Morris Shechtman and many others. I have found that while these business gurus have different approaches, they all seem to agree on six absolutes of successful business management in the 21st Century:1. We are entering an age of uncertainty, expanding knowledge and unrelenting change.
For these reasons, what worked in the past will no longer work in the future. Even the most successful companies must commit to continuous improvement. Uncomfortable introspection must become a habit – -a willingness to eliminate dysfunctional behaviors, and a determination to model a culture that can tolerate unpredictability, uncertainty and vulnerability. Old methods must be torn down and new paradigms constructed.2. “WHO we are” is far more important than WHAT we do.
The increase in knowledge and change has created an “Intra-personal Revolution.” Individual performance and quality of life will reach new heights by focusing on the internal frontier within each person. A good product or service is no longer adequate. We must leverage relationships and personal values to gain cooperation and market share. Leaders must first change BEFORE they can expect their team-members to change.3. Business leadership will be rendered impotent without deep commitment to a pre-defined, consistent value set.
This focus allows organizations to clarify and act on core values, which will ultimately serve to create a tangible and unified culture. Corporate mission or vision statements will be useless without clearly articulated and non-negotiable boundaries that are enforced and protected. Values without boundaries are merely platitudes. There also must be value consistency between decisions. Strong leaders never have two sets of values to choose from. It is more important to make “value-consistent decisions” than it is to make the “politically correct” decisions.4. Accountability must precede profitability.
Accountability does not exist outside of a relationship. People must be accountable to “someone.” No one can be accountable to himself or herself. This will produce conflict and confrontation but that is not bad. On the contrary conflict avoidance must be eliminated. In fact confrontation is the highest expression of love. Leaders must move from “taking care OF their people” to “caring FOR their people.” In this new culture to demand less from our employees is as unfair to them as it is to our customers and ourselves. There will be no consistent profitability without accountability.5. Peak performance must replace adequacy.
Mediocrity, which has become the standard of performance, must become intolerable. Successful leaders should set expectations high enough so they are just barely within reach. They should demand greater effort, invest more time “inspecting” performance and be willing to confront damaging behaviors and attitudes. This will inspire individual growth. Companies cannot grow unless the people in them grow first.6. Companies must become “learning organizations.”
Leaders and their employees who develop the capacity for self-analysis and adaptive learning will have a remarkable competitive advantage. They will win the battle for mind-share and market-share. This includes quantitative as well as analysis both for internal as well as external elements of the business. When the people within the organization resist learning in place of simply performing job functions, stagnation begins.I have seen what can happen when these six absolutes are satisfied…. Businesses become stable, client loyalty improves, revenue and profits grow, employee turnover drops, new initiatives can be launched quickly and effectively, market differentiation occurs, employees give not out of obedience but out of discretionary effort and there is cooperative, harmonious teamwork. People go BEYOND what is expected of them.This is not a dream. It can be a reality. I have seen it with my own eyes. It is important to understand that this is NOT exclusive to my consulting practice. I know several consultants, like myself, who employ similar tactics with similar positive results. You see, in business, as in medicine there is a new standard of care. It is a standard that focuses on preventative maintenance and improving health rather than merely treating symptoms and constantly fixing aches and pains.But as in medicine, the patient must believe they need to become healthier in order to accept treatment. You may be making money, but this is not the only measure of health. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your sales erratic – up one or two months then down for the next few months
  • Are profits unstable or is there a lack of natural growth in the business?
  • Is there a high employee turnover rate?
  • Is there political infighting, blame shifting or a lack of accountability among your employees?
  • Is there an absence of discipline or self-centered attitudes?
  • Have dysfunctional behaviors like dishonesty, insubordination or emotional outbursts occurred in the workplace during the last six months?

If any of these symptoms are present in your business, its time to think about making some core changes to your business culture. These changes begin with the ability to cope with the unrelenting daily change in our economy. They are an outgrowth of our ability to change ourselves first BEFORE expecting others to change. They are interwoven with our commitment to a pre-defined, consistent value set. And they are an example of our ability to hold others accountable for peak performance rather than just mediocrity.

At the SBA Network we like to say that we influence decisions, improve performance and inspire change. Let us know how we might be able to assist you to inspire change in your organization.

Negligent Hiring

Nearly every small business operator dreams of expanding his or her business. This usually entails getting more business, becoming a leader in your market and ultimately hiring more people. Yet in today’s litigious business environment, hiring more team members means exposing yourself to greater risk. Every time we turn around there is another law passed that requires employers to perform greater and greater due diligence with regard to human resource issues.

For example, did you know that an employer can be held liable for the negligent hiring or retention of an employee?

What is Negligent Hiring?

Employers have an obligation to protect their employees and third parties from the “foreseeable” acts of an employee, and employers can be held liable for facts that are known or “should have been known” regarding an employee’s character or job-related experience. 

Negligent hiring occurs when a company fails to contact their employee’s former employers, check references and does not conduct a criminal background check prior to hiring the employee. According to a recent study performed by a leading Human Resources publication, more than 16,000 threats are made in the workplace every workday and 13 people die because of workplace violence each week.

Negligent hiring is based on the principal that employers have an obligation to protect their employees and clients from injury caused by their employees. Liability for negligent hiring can be imposed on an employer, if the employer is aware, has reason to believe the employee is unfit, or fails to use “reasonable care” to verify the employees unfitness for duty, prior to hiring the employee, and an individual sustains injury as a result of the employer’s negligence. 

The employer is presumed not to have been negligent for hiring an employee if, prior to hiring the employee, the employer conducted or retained a qualified employment background screening company, to perform a background check on the prospective employee and the background check did not reveal any information that reasonably demonstrated the unsuitability of the prospective employee for the specific work to be performed or for employment in general. It is important that employers perform their due diligence by conducting background checks on every employee hired, regardless of the size their workforce. No employer is immune from a lawsuit resulting form negligent hiring practices. 

George Ramos, CEO
Employers Choice Online

My thanks to George Ramos, CEO of Employers Choice Online for writing the above article and helping all of us to understand our responsibilities as employers. provides Employment Background Screening Services to employers of every size and industry throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and abroad. If you are considering hiring someone, I urge you to contact George at Employers Choice Online or call toll free at (800) 424-7011. A small investment in performing a background check can protect your company from risk as well as ensure the safety of your employees. 

12 Step Business Growth Plan

Running a small business requires having the right knowledge and applying self discipline on a daily basis. For this reason I have prepared what I call the “12 Step Business Growth Plan.” Like the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step plan, it is the core of what we need to do to keep us focused on proven management practices. I recommend that my students, listeners and clients print them and post them in their work area to review daily while planning for the next days activities.

1. Set Specific GoalsGoals must be specific. Saying that you’re going to get more customers is not good enough. How many? By when? What type of customers? These are the kind of questions you need to be asking yourself. Put your goals in writing. More than 90% of people that write down specific, realistic, deadline oriented goals actually achieve their goals! Finally, visualize yourself in the future. Most people think in pictures. As you begin to right down your vision place yourself in the future and make it seem real. You will be amazed at the results.2. Seek Out ChangeLet’s face it change is the only constant. The longer you “do what you’ve always done,” the harder it will be to do something different. It is ideas that bring change about in our world. Nearly every great invention, system or model was born from the idea of a lone entrepreneur. Psychologists are now saying that creativity is a “learned trait.” Experiment with creative ways of doing things. Don’t just settle for the “easy way.” Do this daily and watch your creativity grow and your business soar!3. Focus on BrandingBranding is not merely for the BIG players. Entrepreneurs and small business owners can also differentiate themselves with this kind of branding strategy. In fact it is even MORE important for smaller organizations to set themselves apart, particularly if they are competing with the BIG GUYS! Remember, your customer’s perceptions of WHO you are is all that matters to them. Often times your reputation is wrapped up in what advertising guru, Bill Bernbach called the Unique Selling Proposition (USP). What sets you apart from the crowd? What do you do that no one else does? This is far more important than the quality or price of your product or service. Everything that we do or say both internally and externally should revolve around this.4. Be an Influencer NOT a SalespersonOur goal is not to SELL our customers but rather to influence them. When we SELL them, they move away from us because they are fearful of being coerced into making the wrong decision. Ask more questions. Find out what’s important to them. Find a way to get them to look up to you. We must earn the right to influence customers by aligning ourselves with them in a way that sets us apart as a friend, advisor and confidant. Then we will become the ONLY solution to their needs.5. Speak in Terms of the Customers InterestAs the great master of human relations, Dale Carnegie said, “[we must] speak in terms of the other person’s interest.” The reason people are running away from you is that you are trying to TAKE. Be willing to give. “What can I give?,” you ask? If nothing else, give them an education. That’s right EDUCATE your prospect and you will create a customer for life! Ask plenty of questions. Show that you really care. You will learn more, build stronger relationships and get more business. Oh yeah, you’ll have more fun too.6. Develop a Practical Sales and Marketing PlanA sales and marketing plan creates the kind of attention you need to get in front of the right type of organizations. It is what attracts people to you! A good sales and marketing plan implemented cost effectively, efficiently, and consistently, will eliminate the need for “cold calls!” Your marketing plan should also include a sales plan. There’s no other sure way to guage the financial growth and progress of your business. You need a realistic map for where the sales will come from, how they’ll come and from whom.7. Know Your CustomersChanges in your customers’ preferences and your competitors’ products and services can leave you in the dust unless you get to know your customers well. What is it that they are looking for today? What will they likely want in the future? What are their buying patterns? How can you be a resource for them even if you don’t have the right products or services for them right now?8. Manage Your Cash DailyOnly cash flow can keep a company alive. No matter how impressive your company’s profits might be, if you run out of cash, it’s over! Learn the importance of aligning performance measurement goals to gross margin. Learn about various pricing strategies, contribution margins and how to stay on top of your cash position every minute of the day if necessary.9. Be a LeaderJack Welch, CEO of G.E. loved the small business model so much his first step in turning around G.E. was to break up the giant into 350 smaller companies. He told Business Week Magazine, ” Most small companies are simple informal and grow on good ideas. Think small,” he said. Understand your role as the leader of your organization is to inspire, simplify processes, drive the company toward their vision, spread the gospel and admit your mistakes, and keep things ever moving forward.10. Get HelpGet an advisory board or a mentor! Sound crazy for a small operation? It’s not! The board can be family members that you trust, or even friends. Ask them to be your board of directors and review your business plans and results with them. Having someone to bounce ideas off and get an objective opinion is critical.11. Communicate ClearlyYou might be the key to everything BUT you cannot DO everything and grow at the same time. Even modest success can overwhelm you unless you hire the right staff and delegate responsibility. Good communication skills are the key to winning strong relationships. Learn to listen in an active way. Stop thinking about what you are going to say next and put the focus back on the customer.12. Don’t Give Up!Some of the most successful entrepreneurs failed several times before doing extremely well. So, if you’re failing, fail. And fail fast. And learn. And try again, with your newly found wisdom. Do NOT give up. In a recession such as we are experiencing today, only the persistent will thrive!