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Learn to Win by Racing

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The Grand Canyon looks very different in person than it does on a map. Like the Grand

Canyon, there are some things that just have to be experienced firsthand vs reading a report or a survey to really accelerate learning. This year I started riding dirt bikes, and with my pro mountain biking background, I got hooked instantly. As soon as I found my ‘flow’ on the trails I wanted to start racing. But unlike mountain bike racing, there are many questions and much more complexity in the type of dirt bike racing that I wanted to do in the GNCC (Grand National Cross Country), Enduro, and Hare Scramble categories. These are 1.5 to 3 hour races in the woods. Not a big deal right? But how do you prepare for a race when you can’t pre-ride the course to really know what to expect in a very dangerous sport? Rather than train for months, I did the unthinkable and entered my first race last week after only having about 15 hours of ride time under my belt. Long story short, it was a great decision and a HUGE confidence booster.

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  1. Don’t get in over my head during the ride and sustain an injury
  2. Have fun
  3. Finish
  4. Get faster each lap (negative splits)
  5. Focus on form, not on speed
  6. It’s okay if the outcome of my first race is deciding that I don’t like dirt bike racing

In your business, what are some of the growth strategies that you are considering?

  • How can you accelerate learning to vet or test ideas?
  • What boundaries or rules can you artificially create for safety?
  • What planning cadence do you have in place for real time feedback?
  • What would a ‘win’ look like?

Back to the racing – I placed 5th, had negative splits, and my last lap time put me in the top three in my category. Nice! But what I learned was that my weak point was descending down steep hills and shifting gears while standing up. There is no way I could have predicted this as my top two things to focus on during my training rides. Looking at the topography map and the race start, I thought hill climbing was the focus. I had to experience the race firsthand in order to improve in the next one. The overall outcome was Read more

Your Team Craves Accountability

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Accountability is a very interesting topic. When engaged by the CEO, one of the top wish list items for the company to accomplish is the issue of No Accountability. My response to this is, “I bet within one week, your team will be asking for Accountability and they will resort to their own measures.” I usually get a funny look as the CEO nods yes, but in reality they are saying inside their heads: “That is impossible”… “Not my team.” Why is there this disconnect regarding Accountability between the CEO and the rest of the company?

When launching a new client, one of the first things we do is what we call ‘Innerviews.’ We Innerview select employees from the senior team, key players in the company, and anyone in particular that the CEO would like included. These Innerviews allow for the company to be seen through the employees’ lens. We are not simply interviewing the employee, but rather engaging with them on a peer-to-peer level and asking a few simple, yet powerful, questions. These Innerview questions include:

  1. Why did you start working here? Why are you still here?
  2. What frustrates you the most? Drives you crazy? Repetitive things?
  3. How would you rate teamwork from 1 (bad) to 10 (awesome)?
  4. How would you rate the morale/spirit of the company 1 to 10?
  5. How would you rate communication from 1 to 10?
  6. How would you rate leadership from 1 to 10? This is really a self-rating.

NOTE: Whatever the rating is above, I always ask what it would take to get it closer to a 10. This is where the REAL content I’m looking for comes from. Rather than complaining about teamwork, what would actually improve it?

The BIG Innerview questions are:

  1. If you were CEO for 90 days, what three things would you do?
  2. What are the ‘undiscussables?’ What is below the waterline that everyone knows about, but is not safe to talk about?

Notice the one question I did not ask is about Accountability. Accountability is the ‘red thread’ that links everything together during the Innerview. What tends to frustrate team members the most is the lack of Accountability and follow through by other team members. They can’t do their job right because other people are not doing their job right or following through on commitments. Basically, your employees are as frustrated as you are.

How can the issue of Accountability be resolved? You can start by including your team during your strategic and execution planning. Let them help finalize company goals and priorities vs just assigning them out. Let them work through the steps and tasks to make them happen. Let them decide who is accountable for each step. Give your team a chance to volunteer to own the company Race Plan by determining goals, priorities, and tasks… They will.

(Image: Unsplash / Pixabay)

Why Growth Initiatives Fail – Energy, Time, and Money

light-bulb-503881_1280I have taken a few months off from blogging to work on a book that will be published early summer called The Breakaway Move, Entrepreneurs’ Playbook on Crushing the Competition. After 23 years of entrepreneurial experience, founding several companies, and most recently serving as a business growth coach with hundreds of strategy/execution planning sessions under my belt, I have finally figured out the three main reasons why growth initiatives fail – and what to do about it.

Reason Number One: Not having the right kind of energy within the team that’s responsible and accountable to generate the desired result. What do I mean by this? I’m talking about not having clearly defined Core Values, Core Purpose, and the overarching Epic Win (10-year goal), as well as making sure the growth initiative accelerates the achievement of these principals. Understanding why, other than money and profit, you’re in business goes a long way in getting the team behind a project. Having the team emotionally connect to the project will help them navigate the inevitable setbacks along the way. Choosing projects that excite the team is powerful. How do they benefit personally?

Reason Number Two: The team underestimates how much time it will take to generate results. This can be within the management team, in how long departments actually need to meet their goals, or how long it takes vendors and partners to follow through. And for most entrepreneurial companies, it can mean not getting outside help soon enough to accelerate the learning required to drive results. Plus, an unhealthy team that operates without real trust does not get stuff done as fast as a team that trusts each other. These are below-the-waterline, team-related issues (that nobody talks about), but slow down everything.

Reason Number Three: Anything that takes team energy and time must generate a profit or it’s not worth doing. Just driving revenue is not a good idea, given our current economic stage. The challenge is money/profit usually becomes the number one driver for a growth initiative, and energy and time are second thought. And this is why things fail. The CEO (plus maybe someone else) was behind an idea, but everyone else (secretly) was not connected to it and (secretly) hoped this would just be another failed attempt at change. Companies like GE that have a formalized process to take projects to the Board of Directors for clearance don’t really have to worry about energy so much. But entrepreneurial growth companies absolutely do.

Starting a growth initiative often means you have some tough decisions to make. Say you’re trying to decide between opening a new office in a new market vs. combining two current products into something innovative and new. Assuming both will generate about the same financial results with great execution, which one gets the team excited? Which one gets you closer to your company’s Epic Win? What would be a Crushing Move on your competitors? Which one would just be really cool if you could do it? Which one would your team learn and grow from the most on a personal level? Professional level? Get the point? You can feel the energy build around the right choice by the questions alone.

Set a weekly or monthly cadence with your team NOW and start working through what projects or ideas are worth pursuing and start separating yourself from the pack … create your Breakaway Move!

(Image: Comfreak / Pixabay)

Owning Errors Makes You Faster

A lot of things can happen in a two-hour mountain bike race. Sometimes it feels like the competition AND the trail are both conspiring against you to keep you off the front. These are the days when you don’t get the result you want, you were not there to help a teammate pull through a tough section, or possibly you disappointed a sponsor.

It’s so easy to blame someone else for your own non-performance. “The person next to me slipped a pedal at the start and hit me.” “I was cut off going into the woods.” “My water bottle was not where it was supposed to be.” And the list goes on…

This happens in business, too, of course. And the REAL problem with this thinking is that nothing is learned when you blame others for your own poor result. This fundamental truth needs to be firmly integrated into everyday life of the business. It’s OK to mess up a call, make an accounting error once in a while. It’s not OK not to own it.

Creating an atmosphere in our business that is focused on learning, really out-learning the competition, is a BreakAway Move – a strategy that enables you to separate from the competition.

How to out-learn the competition

Here are some ways to create more learning opportunities in your business:

  1. Make an award out of it. Give out an award weekly to the person who make the biggest mistake and learned from it. Make sure to share that learning with the full team so they can avoid the same mistake.
  1. Make sure the leadership sets the example of how to acknowledge a mistake and what they learned. Employees need to feel safe in sharing information.
  1. Create an environment where one can share a mistake without being publicly reprimanded.
  1. Practice on yourself! Are you quick to blame others first?
  1. Become hyper-aware of people who have a pattern of blaming others for things not working right. Offer to help them discover the root cause and create a solution.

There is a saying in the mountain bike racing world and other competitive sports as well. You learn more in races where you lose vs. the races where you win. Over time, the racer who learns the most begins to win the most consistently.

(Image: Grace / Flickr)

How Will You Double Your Business?

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It’s getting cooler outside, leaves are falling, and it’s now Annual Planning season for your business. Interest rates have been low, unemployment rate is around 5%, and the economy has been growing slow and steady for the most part.

You have to ask, how long will this last? I can’t believe how much residential and commercial construction is going on around Charlotte, NC, these days. It looks like 2007-08 to me, and it almost feels like it too.

Every year I have a professional theme I like to deep-dive with my own business and with my coaching clients. This year it has been Core Customer and Buyer Personas. Last year it was getting Discretional Effort out of employees.

I’m going to get out front and announce it now: 2016 is going to be about creating a serious plan to double the business and get the Winning and BreakAway Moves in motion. The last thing I want to happen is to be stuck in the middle of the pack when the economy flatlines or slows down.

Take extra time this planning season to drill into the 3-5 year growth plans and ask your team these questions.

  • How long will it take to double revenue? Hint…. use the rule of 72. Take 72 and divide it by your estimated (or desired) annual growth rate. 33% is about 3 years (check the math).
  • How much revenue will come from your existing business lines and sales capacity?
  • What is the gap between how much you can grow without really changing anything and your target revenue number?
  • How will the operations side of the business need to change?
  • What are 3-5 Winning or BreakAway Moves that can generate that new revenue and profit?
  • What new capabilities will you need to acquire?
  • What new people, contacts, advisors, coaches, etc. will you need to leverage to accelerate, to get you there faster?
  • What components of the Winning and BreakAway Moves do you need to execute on in 2016 to get the proper momentum?

The purpose of the 3-5 year focus now is to get the momentum going strong in 2016 while you still have an economic tailwind. Get the plan moving, test your assumptions, engage the full team, name your plan to double. There are always a few companies in each sector that seem to defy gravity in slowing economies. Decide now this is going to be YOUR company.

(Image: skitterphoto.com)

Know Your Competition

Know Your Competition

As a professional mountain bike racer, I always know what my BreakAway Move™ is going to be before I start a race. This begins by knowing the course, things like: Where are the blind turns? How long and steep are the climbs? What are the technical sections like? Where are the good places to hydrate?
Next, I have to Know My Competition and think about what each racer’s strengths and weaknesses are. Who is in peak form? Who can really crush hill climbs? Who is wicked fast in the technical sections? Who is just really fast on this course?

Based on my data, I craft my BreakAway Move before the race and decide WHEN I’m going to drop the hammer and Crush the Competition! This is a HUGE mechanism for conserving energy andbike-race-446104_960_720 winning a race.

Your business works the exact same way. You need two to three BreakAway Moves you are always working on and it’s imperative that you Know Your Competition, whether you’re preparing for a race or a business deal. Here are 12.5 steps to start mapping out your competition to plan and execute your BreakAway Move.

How to map your competition

To get started, open a new spreadsheet on your computer and fill it out with the following 12.5 steps.

1. On the vertical axis (rows) write down all of your competitors and the companies that could be your competitors in the future.

Then fill in the horizontal axis (columns) for each competitor with the rest of these steps.

2. Write down as many attributes as you can think of that can describe your competition.

3. What core businesses are they in? Just your line of work, multiple lines of work? If multiple, what are they?

4. Who are their suppliers?

5. Who is their target market? Their Core Customer?

6. How are they funded?

7. What is their Brand Promise? Their differentiating activities in the market?

8. What space are they trying to own? Their geography?

9. Where are they stronger than you?

10. Where are they weaker than you?

11. Add links to their website(s) for quick reference.

12. What words or phrases are they trying to own?

12.5. What are THEIR BreakAway Moves??!!

Creating a great strategy to win begins by knowing your competition, and these 12.5 steps should get you started. You may think of other things to add to your spreadsheet — please let me know what you come up with.

Now create your plan and go after your Epic Win™!!!

(Image: jp26jp/ Pixabay)

6 Questions To Crush The Competition

In today’s globally connected and competitive business climate, it’s no longer enough to look at strategy on an annual basis. Nowadays, every single month executive teams need to integrate strategy development within the business planning rhythm.

The key to unlocking strategy is answering a powerful question that gets the team thinking in unique ways. But a common “stuck” in strategy development is figuring out the right question to achieve your Breakaway Move to crush your competition. Answers are easy; getting the question right can be harder. Here are 6 questions to ask your team during strategy brainstorming sessions that can unlock hidden value inside your business.

1. Where is the next battle going to be in your business?racing-car-373757_960_720

A good example is Facebook’s massive focus on mobile after they went public. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg’s daily question, “how are we going to leverage mobile,” became his, and his company’s, daily question. Clearly, it’s working.

2. What has been tried before, either by your company or by your competitors, but did not work?
There are so many variables that can make an initiative really stick vs. flat-out fail. Failure does not always mean the idea was not good. For example, it could have been the wrong person leading the charge, market conditions might be different, technology could streamline the process, global platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook could accelerate growth.

3. What two or three existing things in your business, things you are already doing, can you combine?
This is one of my favorites. Take two existing things and create something original. What product and service can you combine and create a unique new product, service or program?

4. When your company wins, what other companies are impacted in a positive way?
Think about what relationships you can create – or what product offerings could you integrate with – to expand your market faster by leveraging other people’s trust relationships? I looked at office space this week to handle our expansion. I could not help but think about all the other things signing a lease would trigger, things like construction, IT, phones, furniture, etc. Building relationships with those companies can result in more referrals to your business.

5. What is fragmented in your market, and how could you coordinate it?
Think about what Uber did for taxi services and what Airbnb did for housing rentals. What is messy, hard to do, clunky, expensive or frustrating in your market, and how could you fix it? What product, service or platform could you create?

6. What can you be the only option for in your space?
Think about what parts of your business operations are hard for someone else to reproduce or copy. For example, there are several business coaches in the Charlotte metro area. But only Insight CXO has a team in place that can help execute the business plan in three areas. The Promise – what makes your firm unique and what is the sales engine to generate revenue? The People – is your team healthy and aligned and do you have systems in place to hire and keep A Players? The Process – do you have core processes documented and measured to make them better, faster and cheaper… with less drama?

Remember that your competition is not asleep behind the wheel, so your team has to be looking through the windshield and down the road as far as possible. Try asking these 6 questions in your next monthly executive planning meeting, and see if you can figure out the strategy – the one that will give your business the boost to crush the competition.

Image: Jingoba / Pixabay

Scale Up Faster With A ‘Play To Win’ Mindset

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One of the most challenging phases for CEOs or executive teams who start a company is to break out of the startup mindset.

In an organization’s early stages, it’s all hands on deck and everyone is a generalist, wearing many hats.

The CEO is involved in every decision and every transaction. The realities of cash constraints, funding payroll, etc. – and the whirlwind of emotions tied to them – are hard-wired into the entrepreneur’s brain.

Then, over time as the company grows, two things happen.

First, the company reaches a ceiling of complexity – things get harder and not easier. Hiring more people feels more like an anchor than a sail.

Second, the startup mindset and the emotional imprints it creates turn the founder(s) into a bottleneck, or the constraining factor to growth.

To grow, the CEO and senior team must become hyper-aware of how their past experiences can be limiters on future plans – and commit to change. Reading Scaling Up by Verne Harnish is one of the best ways to learn how to punch through the ceiling of complexity and continue to grow in a fun, healthy and drama-free way. BUT, the tools don’t work unless the CEO and senior team 100% commit to a Play to Win mindset.

What does Play to Win mean? It means NOT playing not to lose, which is an entrepreneurial trap. It’s why so few companies make it past the $10,000,000 revenue mark. To escape the trap, the next time you are having a growth- or strategy-related discussion, ask yourself and your team: “Based on the plans we are discussing, are we Playing to Win or just playing not to lose?” You’ll be surprised how the conversation – and your plans – can change with that simple question.

5 ways to create a Play to Win mindset

  1. Be very intentional about including your team in strategic-level thinking and problem solving. It’s hard to Play to Win by yourself … you’ll need a team.
  1. Realize that you and your team might not have all the answers. Look outside the organization for help. Hire an expert, coach, consultant, trainer, join a peer group, etc. An expense-centric mindset limits access to information and learning. Most high-growth companies are investing in resources to make big leaps.
  1. Imagine yourself winning. As a professional mountain bike racer, I can’t achieve a podium finish without first believing I can and imagining it happen. I let myself experience the start- and the finish-line sprint. Only then can I plan my Breakaway Moves.
  1. Use the term “Play to Win” with your team. They’ll get it. It’s energizing. Everyone loves to be on a winning team.
  1. Create an enemy. Create a race. Create a finish line. Create competition. High-growth companies create plans to crush their competition. Flat-lined and slow-growth companies stop competing, stop getting upset when someone else wins.

Create a Play to Win mindset for you and your team, and get your company on the podium every time!

 

Image: Skeeze / Pixabay

Find Your Never-Ending Energy Source: Core Purpose

Nothing can grow without energy – not people, not animals, not plants, not businesses. Whether you’re an organism or an organization, if you don’t have enough fuel, your growth will be slow and stunted, your potential unreached.

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If your business is rapidly growing (or looking to do so), you need a powerful and renewable source of fuel to sustain that growth, to maintain the willpower to execute on your strategy, to empower the A-players who have the drive to make a positive difference, not just show up for a paycheck.

The strongest fuel you can find is one you can create on your own – your company’s Core Purpose. I like to say, “It’s where the batteries come from.” It’s the organization’s unique and never-ending energy source, its reason for being. It’s the guiding star that fuels you and enables you to make your Breakaway Move™ to beat the competition.

Costner Law, a Charlotte Business Journal #3 Fast 50 company in Charlotte, NC, is very clear about its Core Purpose: Making real estate transactions easy and simple. This Purpose drives Costner’s strategy, the kind of people they hire, the technology they use, the kind of clients they work with, the way they design their internal processes, and so on. As a result of being clear on their Purpose and doing things right, Costner is on track to becoming the largest real estate law firm in the southeast.

Define Your Purpose

If you don’t have a clearly defined purpose, a good place to start is by watching Simon Sinek’s TED Talk called The Golden Circle. It’s been downloaded more than 22 million times. But be forewarned, discovering your purpose is one of the most challenging strategy developments you will make. Not because it’s so hard, but because it’s so uncomfortable. Figuring out why your company exists becomes emotional and it engages the limbic part of the brain that does not have language. It’s where gut feelings come from. It’s why you might like one car over another, even though the other has clearly better specs. One just feels right to you … you just connect with it.

Ask Five Times

Another method is to start with a simple statement describing what your business does, then ask “why is that important” five times. Ask yourself and your leadership team: “why is that important? – why does that matter? – why is that important? – why does that matter? – why is that important?” This should reveal the organization’s Core Purpose. If you think you have gone too far, just back up one level. You’ll know when you got it right, because you will emotionally connect to it. It will feel right.

Reach for the Stars

Just like a star, Core Purpose is not something you can actually reach but is something that keeps you on the right path and constantly motivated. So, to find your never-ending energy source to sustain your journey, develop and leverage your Core Purpose, and set your course for the stars!

 

Image credit: Jason Boyle / Flickr
BreakAway

Crush the Competition with a Breakaway Move Strategy

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You may know that when I’m not helping clients as head of Insight CXO, I’m fueling my passion for competition and training as a professional mountain bike racer. I envision business much like a race – initially, all of the competitors are in a tight pack, looking to gain any advantage that will put one ahead of the others.

Eventually, a few of the competitors begin to pull away from the pack to form a break – they’ve found something that differentiates them from the majority – but those racers still stick together in the lead break. However, at some point, one of those competitors makes a Breakaway Move™ – a strategy that enables him or her to separate from the competition and win the race.

In business, the Breakaway Move is something that has the potential to double revenue in the next 3 to 5 years. In order to drive top-line revenue growth, your company needs to have two or three Breakaway Moves it’s always working on.

New York Times bestselling author and leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith famously wrote What Got You Here Will Not Get You There. To find out if that’s true for you, ask your leadership team:

Will your existing products, services and capabilities be enough to drive serious top-line growth well into the future?

To help answer that question, project out over the next five years how much revenue each of your products or services will generate. There is probably a gap between that number and your desired revenue in five years.

One way to define a Breakaway Move is to explain what it’s not. Simply doing more of the same is not a Breakaway Move. Changing operations to increase profit is not a Breakaway Move.

Rather, Breakaway Moves drive top-line revenue. Working on Breakaway Moves may generate ideas and initiatives to increase profit, but it’s good to be clear on what Breakaway Moves are so you don’t stop short of creating revenue-generating ideas.

Where do Breakaway Moves come from? First, they come from consistent Breakaway planning sessions that leave room for flexibility (since things rarely happen exactly as they’re planned). Second, they come from looking deep into the world of your Core Customers:

  • What are their pain points?
  • What are their unmet needs?
  • What are their jobs to be done?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What will help them reach their goals faster?
  • What solutions can you provide to solve their problems?

Breakaway Moves must have a place in your annual planning process, both to make them a priority for scaling your business and because they can help you build a healthier, cross-functional team. Working together on ways to double the business is exciting and can make the team feel like they can win.

Are you ready to create your own Breakaway Move? Insight CXO has created a free toolkit, “8 Steps To Your Breakaway Move,” a step-by-step guide to get your team invigorated and thinking in innovative ways about how to push ahead of the competition and win the race.