Why is the monkey on your back?

Recently we were in a client’s executive meeting where everything was going smoothly. People were engaged and contributing. After a while it was time to assign tasks and responsibilities for the various issues identified. That went pretty well, too, until one particularly challenging item was on the table. Rather than assign this, the leader volunteered to take the responsibility for it himself. You could feel the sense of relief everyone else in the room felt. They were off the hook on that one.

We call this taking the monkey. You’re familiar with the concept of having a monkey on your back? Well, this is the same thing.

Continue reading “Why is the monkey on your back?”

Sellability: Is this a goal for your company?

Imagine that your first-born graduates from college and as a gift you give him your prized 1967 Shelby Ford Mustang. Your heavily indebted child takes it on the road, but after a few miles, the engine starts smoking. The mechanic takes one look under the hood and declares that the engine needs a rebuild.

You thought you were giving your child an incredible asset, but instead it’s an expensive liability he can’t afford to keep, and nor can he sell it without feeling guilty.

You may be planning to pass your business on to your kids or let your young managers buy into your company over time. These are both admirable exit options, but if your business is too dependent on you, and it hasn’t been tuned up to run without you, you may be passing along a jalopy.

The sellability of your company is a gift and is just one of the four reasons why building a sellable business should be your most important goal, regardless of when you plan to push the eject button.  It should also be a hidden goal.

If you’re like most owners, you have a profit goal you want to hit. You may also have a top-line revenue number that’s important to you. While those goals are important, there is another objective that may have an even bigger payoff: building a sellable business.

But what if you don’t want to sell? That’s irrelevant. Here are the other three reasons why building a sellable business should be your most important goal, regardless of when you plan to push the eject button:

  1. Freedom.
  2. Fun.
  3. Financial freedom.

Freedom goes back to the “you-proofing” concept.  Making your company less dependent on you means that you actually have an enterprise that stands alone and gives you the freedom to step away or look at it differently.

Running a business should be fun–thinking and acting strategically, solving problems for your clients and customers and working on your business rather than in your business.  Passing on the drudgery of your business to someone else in your organization is part of making your company sellable.

By creating a sellable business, you shape and mold your enterprise into something that is not unlike a financial portfolio.  It is an asset working  for you rather than you working for it.

Keep in mind these things take time.  but patience and persistence and doing the work are all a part of successful business. Remember, it is a goal.



Is Your Company “You Proof?”

We’ve all had a client or prospect “disappear”on us on occasion. Happens all the time and it sends us into all kinds of internal scenarios trying to figure out what happened.

I couldn’t reach a new contact recently and began to wonder what happened to him. Maybe he was no longer interested in what we had been discussing. Maybe something was going on in his business that had changed his priorities.

Well, you get the point. When a client or prospect drops off the world, you begin to wonder what happened and what you can do to pick things back up.

Then, after two weeks, I get a call from him apologizing for being out of communication since he had been on a two-week fishing excursion with his buddies. He quickly moved from a worry to being a hero.

Question: “Can you go fishing for two weeks? Maybe take your family on a two week vacation?” If not, why not?

“You-proofing” your business has enormous benefits. It will allow you to create a company and have a life. Your business will be free to scale up because it is no longer dependent on you, its bottleneck. Best of all, it will be worth a lot more to a buyer whenever you are ready to sell. With that thought in mind, here are a five ways to get your business to run without you:

  1. Give your employees a stake in the outcome by creating an ownership culture inside your company.
  2. Create an environment of inclusion.  Ask your employees often, “what would you do if you ran the company?”
  3. Prioritize your company’s offerings by which ones require the least of your attention.  That is, revise your selling priorities towards things that sell best without you.
  4. Fire yourself as the company’s chief rainmaker by creating automated customers.
  5. Write an instruction manual on how to run your company.

Some owners focus on growing their profits, while others are obsessed with sales goals. By  making it your primary goal to set up your business so that it can thrive and grow without you, you ultimately will increase the value of your company and make life more enjoyable.

A business not dependent on its owner is the ultimate asset to own. It allows you complete control over your time so that you can choose the projects you get involved in and the vacations you take. When it comes to getting out, a business independent of its owner is worth a lot more than an owner-dependent company.



Leader, Manager, Disruptor – Where Do You Put Yourself?

A few years back we worked with two different companies with two very different management styles that were affecting the business.  Unfortunately, we were brought in when things were already bad.

The one style I will call the “Resident Terrorist.”

The other I will call “Many Hats.”

The Resident Terrorist (RT) demands significant change from the employees.  As change was implemented with employee input, RT would come in and demand the use of previously ineffective processes undoing what the team thought would work in favor of RT’s known approach.

Many Hats (MH) had a command and control style.  All the decisions had to go through MH even if MH was not available.

Fear existed at both organizations.

You can imagine the outcomes.

Entrepreneurs who create their business from the ground up know every aspect of daily operations and how to do it all.  Some have the relationship with every customer even though there are other employees involved.  Can you ever relax if you are the focal point?  Can you create lasting value if you are the only decision maker?

Recently I went to lunch with a friend nearing retirement.  He knows he must let go.  He said he has a plan in place to transfer customer control to his sales leader.  This was explained to me while he took customer calls and texts during the lunch.

  • Leaders figure out how to empower their team to excel.
  • Managers do just that – manage.
  • Disruptors are managers on steroids.

All of us want to believe we can be leaders.  That means trusting your team.  Part of that is knowing their skills and mindset.

Are they on the bus, with the right people and are they in the right seats?

We have been through this.  Maybe you have been, too.

Call us. We know how to help.


The Culture Balloon and Your Company’s Value

In our work with companies, we talk about culture.  A lot. And we always get asked, “What does that mean? Culture?” and “Why is culture important when it comes to the value of my company?”

The standard elements for valuing a company are the following:

  1. Financial performance
  2. Revenue projections and potential
  3. Cash flow and cash position
  4. Market position
  5. Reputation with customers and vendors
  6. Ability to operate independent of any one person, vendor, or client
  7. How dependent is the company on you and your contribution?

These are all common elements that we work on with you. But the real secret sauce lies in your company culture. Let me give you an analogy.

Let’s compare two companies with different cultures. All else being the same – equal size, equal market position, and so on. All things equal except this thing we identify as “culture.”

When you walk into one company, it’s like walking into a room full of balloons. All the balloons are filled with helium and are floating on the ceiling. When you want to address the staff, you’re looking up at them and trying to keep their enthusiasm from getting the best of them. You’ll have to grab the strings and pull them down to talk directly to them. Then you let go of the string and they float back up to that higher level. Keep the windows closed!

The other company is full of balloons too; but, when you walk in, all the balloons are inflated but with just regular air. They’re all there but resting on the floor. When you want to address them, you’ll be looking down at them and probably having to kick them up into the air, catch them, talk to them and then when you let go, they’ll just drift back down to the floor and wait for you to come back and kick them up again. Don’t worry about the windows.

Are you picturing this? In the second company, you can probably implement a program that will be like running thru the room kicking all the balloons and getting them up in the air but as soon as you end the program they’re all going back down to the floor. In the first company, you’ve got so much enthusiasm, you’re all going home everyday thrilled at what you’ve accomplished. (and talking like Mickey Mouse.)

Between those two companies, which do you think would have a higher value to anyone that walked in the door?

Get my drift?

Culture is important! Especially in this new age where the millennials are starving for careers with companies that “care.” Care about their community, the society, and the employees. Treating them as individuals, not as time cards in the slots on the wall. But, don’t fool yourself. Even our older employees have a deep need to find value in their work. They, too, want to work at a company and with people who “want to be there.”

Ok, I hope this makes sense to you. Go either kick the balloons up or grab some strings. Your culture. Your value.

If you need help kicking all the balloons up in the air, don’t call us. If you need help in making the changes necessary to create the company helium, by all means, call us. It will most certainly increase the value of your company.



Getting Results Not Just the Answer

Chose your preferred action by an employee:

  1. I hit the ball over the net and I’m now waiting for them to hit it back.
  2. I hit the ball over the net and then followed after it to see if I could get it back.

Let’s word it this way to make my object lesson more clear:

  1. I emailed the client; but, they haven’t gotten back with me yet.
  2. I emailed the client and followed up with a call to see if I could answer any question they might have.

If you’re a successful leader, you are always training your people to be following answer 2. If you’re working for the government, your employer has the reputation of always following answer 1.

I call this “communication ping pong” and nothing drives me more crazy!

Another twist of this is an old story of the wise old farmer and his two sons:

An old farmer had become so old that he could no longer work his farm and determined he would have to hand it down to one of his sons. So, he brought his two sons together and announced that he would be willing the farm over to the youngest son.

The older son was obviously furious and demanded his father change his mind.

The father listened quietly to his older son’s protest and then quietly said, “Okay. You’ll need to prove yourself first. We need additional stock. So, go to the neighbor’s farm and see if they have any cows for sale.”

The older son left to do this and when he returned he reported, “Father the neighbor has 5 cows for sale.”

The father graciously thanked the older son for his report and then turned to the younger son and tasked him with the same job, “go to the neighbor and inquire if they have any cows for sale.”

The younger son returned a short time later and reported, “Father, the neighbor has 5 cows for sale and they want $500 for each. If we want more, though, he could be convinced to sell us more and for $50 less each. He can deliver them to us as early as tomorrow. But, if we can wait about a week, he will have a shipment of younger cows that we would surely get longer service from.”

The father, thanked the son and then turned to the older son and said, “That’s why your brother is getting the farm.”

What’s the lesson here? Initiative. Looking past the basics and doing more than what is asked. Getting results not just the answer. Following through and making something happen not waiting for someone to respond.

What about you? Are you surrounded by the folks that hit the ball over the net and wait? Or people who follow the ball over the net and get answers and results?

Tell us your stories. We’d love to hear what’s working for you.



The bulls are firmly in control, but the bears are making a ruckus: will we be ready when things change?

Our economy has given us some great rewards in the last few years. North Texas has experienced phenomenal growth for several years now:

  • Many large companies have moved here.
  • For every one of them, 10 or more supporting businesses have moved here too.
  • And don’t forget the housing market plus all the infrastructure to support all the new arrivals.

It’s not just been a bull market, but a roaring bull market and it looks to still have some healthy life still ahead.

On a broader basis, stock market volatility has returned:

  • We have had several years of consistent upward movement.
  • Investors seem to have reached that point where they are expecting a correction and get a little jittery.
  • The market drops quickly on news and then rebounds as bulls continue to buy the dip.

The overall market is still positive.


While there is really no reason for concern just yet, there is something lurking that we should all pay attention to carefully.

That something is interest rates.

  • The Fed is signaling more short-term interest increases on top of the ones they have already put in place.
  • They will also be selling debt sitting on their balance sheet into the market.

All of this will affect borrowing costs.  Not just for our own businesses but for our primary customers and their customers.

Let’s take an example.

North Texas is in a building boom.

Those buildings (projects) have a timeline to completion which could run a few years.

Lots of different companies provide goods and services to these projects: companies like general contractors, architects, engineering firms, electrical, plumbing and construction contractors, material suppliers, and related trades and suppliers.

These companies employ a lot of people who buy goods and services from other businesses.  Many business sectors benefit.

All projects rely on financing.

Companies in this supply chain use leverage (debt) too.  Increases in interest rates which is the cost of debt translates to less funds available for other purposes.

As interest rates rise the number of projects will likely decrease because the economics won’t work as well.  Some projects already scheduled could be delayed or scrapped. With fewer projects in the mix there will be greater competition for the remainder creating downward pressure on the price of services as well as a build-up in inventories.

Those with higher debt service and the least free cash flow will begin cutting costs, delaying payments, laying off employees or filing the big “B.”

Then the ripple effect begins.

There will fewer people to buy certain types of goods and services causing a slowdown in other business sectors.  We all know the process.

Today everyone’s boat is floating high with the tide.  It’s easy to make money.  The real test of leadership is being prepared for adversity–that “what if” you don’t really want to think about – and how you perform when it comes.  The cycles of 2000-2001, 2007-2009 and 2011 and the precursors are repeatable (I can go much further back but that’s giving away age).

We are enjoying the good times, will we be prepared when that changes? :

  • Can you reduce debt and what you think your borrowing needs are or will be?
  • Can you improve your accounts receivable collection time with your top customers by even a few days?
  • Do you have the right customers or should you amp up marketing?
  • Do you have the right people and processes in place inside your company and as partners?

We can get away with much while things are good.  It seems it is also a good time to fine tune.  What do you think? Sure would like to hear your views.


Do You Need It “Fixed” or Do You Want It “Changed”?

Are you at that inflection point that you need to break out of your current business doldrums? Then our challenge to you is:

Are you ready to accomplish real change, or do you simply want to keep fixing things?

Let’s say you have a leak in your kitchen sink and you want it fixed quickly because it could be causing damage. What if, on the other hand, you wanted to improve its usability and functionality, you chose to completely remodel your kitchen?

Fixing the sink merely puts things back where they were so you can continue doing what you’ve always done.

Remodeling your kitchen improves the comfort of your house, its value, and your enjoyment of it.

That’s the big difference between fixing and changing.

The first issue requires a qualified individual, like a plumber. A plumber is going to come out with his trusty tools, spend a couple of hours fixing the problem using his “best trade practices” and then hand you a bill. Voila, you’ve got a fixed sink. Everything’s back to the way it was. Quick and relatively pain free.

Remodeling the kitchen, though, is a whole different ball game. It will not be done with one phone call. Again, you start with a specialist, like an architect or designer, to determine what you want to achieve. They help define the look, the work flow, the appliances, colors, textures, the lighting.  And, oh, what’s the new sink like? Then, after all that planning, your next call is to another specialist, like a general contractor, who brings in all of the trades (and all of their tools) and transforms your tired old kitchen into a completely new and exciting environment, ready to meet your dreams for the future. That transformation took a team.

So, when we ask you: do you want it fixed or changed – we are pushing you on this significant issue.

Do you want just the quick fix, then carry on as you always have? Or are you ready to change your company into what you’ve been dreaming about?

Do you want a business fixer? Or do you want a whole team that’s going to take your company blazing into the future with change?

It’s going to take some changes. You ready?


A Testimonial: Kevin Wallace, AIA

Recently, my colleague, Kevin Wallace, provided this testimonial for me.


If you’re anything like me, you have a problem with consultants. They are a dime a dozen. They come in and tell you what you already know, suggest what you should do or could do to make it better, and then collect a check while you’re left with an expensive report – and still no one to execute it.

Fortunately, this is not Dave’s approach.  Just the opposite, in fact.

If you’re not ready to execute your strategic plan, you can expect him to fire you – not the other way around. So, if you’re ready to be held accountable to the strategy and actions necessary to achieve your next major leap in business, then hire Dave.

If you are ready to actually change and really grow and develop your business then hire Dave. He will help you lay out your plan for success and, more importantly, hold you accountable to the actions and changes necessary to achieve your plan. Dave’s too experienced to waste your time or his.

If you want success and are truly prepared to change and are looking for a partner willing to demand it of you, then engaging Dave is a great investment of both your time and money.

Kevin L Wallace

The Simplest Customer Service Trick in the Book

I really don’t mean to over simplify this, but customer service is really simple. And the number one trick is the one so many of us overlook.

It’s returning a phone call.

To restate it, always take your customer’s incoming phone call.  If you can’t, then always return it as soon as possible.

We are constantly interviewing our clients’ customers and vendors as part of our services. This gives us an unpolished view of our client so that we can get the most street-level picture of how the market views our client. Good, bad, or indifferent; warts or beauty marks.  Every blemish.

On a recent assignment I had an unexpected and unsolicited opportunity to interview a client’s customer. I was having lunch with an associate when he informed me that he was a customer of my client. He bragged on the quality of the work and the level of expertise that everyone there showed. But – and this was a big “but” to him–they were horrible at returning phone calls. After inquiring why that stood out so much for him, he explained his reasoning.

First, a little background: they, both my client and my associate, are in a project-focused businesses where time lines and benchmarks are critical. That means there needs to be constant back-and-forth communication about progress and status of various elements of a project.

My associate, while glowing in his compliments about my client as to his abilities, he was extremely frustrated to the point of considering discontinuing any future work because he just simply didn’t hear back from him when he called. Note that he didn’t say “he got bad service or production or bad results.” He just didn’t get timely information. And many times all it would have taken would have been a call back to say, “I’m still working on it, everything is going ok, but I don’t have any changes to report.”

Simple, right? Well, if it’s so simple, why do I find this to be a common complaint? I haven’t done any real scientific or serious analysis on this, but my practical experience informs me that this is really prevalent across all businesses.

Let me just leave you with this challenge. Return your phone calls, even when you have nothing to report. If you don’t have time for a full conversation, then send an email saying you got the phone call, there’s nothing new to report, and you’ll be calling back shortly–and then do just that.

Hey, this stuff really is simple!  Remember that old line about “90 percent of success is showing up?” This is a variation on “showing up.”