Planning on the 4th of July

I like to make posts around the Holidays that have at least something to do with the Holiday that we are having. In this case, next week is the 4th of July. For those that know me personally, they know I was raised near a little town called Schuylerville, New York. Back during the time of the American Revolution, it was known as Saratoga. For students of American History, my little home town is where Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne surrendered his Army. We used to play Little League Baseball on the Surrender Grounds. It was a huge turning point in the American Revolution and a study in what can go wrong in planning and execution of a plan.

The British Plan for that year was intended to be a 3 pronged attack in New York designed to separate the New England States from the rest of the Colonies. There was an attack down the Hudson River led by General Burgoyne. There was an attack eastward through the Mohawk River Valley by Barry St. Leger. Finally, there was to be a thrust North from New York by General Howe. First thing you should realize is that this plan was complex. The attacks were spread over 100s of miles of pure Wilderness. Communications and coordination between the forces involved would be very difficult if not impossible. That in itself is a downside to this kind of plan. Complexity across wide spread fronts is a good way to be defeated in detail.

The plan went well to start with the British taking Fort Ticonderoga without any challenge. But then things began to go downhill. The Americans turned back the force under St. Leger in August. They also took steps to make the route South difficult to travel. This cost the British Forces time and resources. To get back resources, the British attempted a raid on Bennington but were defeated by local militia. On top of that, General Howe had used the bulk of his forces to take Philadelphia and the remainder had not started North to meet Burgoyne in Albany.

Now if you are going to make a plan at least make an attempt to follow it. Howe’s failure to move North doomed the campaign to failure at that point. Without pressure from the South, the Americans were able to dispatch forces West to defeat St. Leger and then concentrate forces to stop Burgoyne. Even if Howe did not make it to Albany he could have tied down valuable troops by being active and in the field. So now we have bad communications, complex coordination and failure to follow the plan.

Burgoyne made the situation worse by not adapting his plan to the changed situation. He attempted to stay the course in light of so many negative facts and tried to make his way Southward. He was defeated about a week before what was his drop dead day to turn back. One thing to remember, this was a Wilderness Area and Winter was Coming. The Winter of 1777 was harsh (see Valley Forge) and that was normal during the middle of the Little Ice Age. It would have been hard to return north with Americans pursuing them at the time, so better to break off early and retreat. There was nothing to be gained by staying. You have to know when to change or abandon your plans if you are not getting the results you expect.

All of those failures in planning and execution led to the involvement of France into the Revolutionary War. The rest is History. Don’t let poor planning and execution lead to your downfall.
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

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Thoughts on Brexit

I was listening last night and today to all the commentators discussing Brexit. I then saw some highlights of a talk that President Obama gave today. He said that Brexit was a reaction to the challenges of Globalization. I think he is right. As I post now on my Youtube channel, I am working on a series called “Business in the Internet Age”. One of the themes that comes out of that is the global audience and how this impacts a business. Many small businesses can not see the tidal wave of Global Competition coming to them and are not ready when it is. There are some professions that simply are not viable as a stand alone business anymore. You can get similar quality online at a fraction of the cost. It can be greatly upsetting to find that the thing that you spent 20+ years doing just doesn’t cut it anymore. I can’t turn back time, but I work with them to re-describe their business in a way that is profitable again.

People in general don’t have the kind of help that I bring to business owners. Some of them have reacted by not looking into the future and thinking about what might happen. They let the world pass around them and can’t react when there are changes. They don’t like the changes as it upsets the status quo of their life. You can’t really blame them. What they have been doing to make their life better no longer works. They react and sometimes overreact. On top of that our confrontational style of looking at the events of the day have added to the burden that people have.

The unfortunate part is that this has become mixed with racism at many levels. But what I have found interesting is that two words have now taken on a negative connotation: Nationalism and Populism. The rise of Nationalism near the beginning of the 19th Century culminated in the end of the multi-cultural Empires of World War I. Wilson’s 14 points have extended this and it has been a balancing act for all of us. What is a minority that is expressing self-determination and what is a terrorist group? Populism has been that streak of politics that has been against the elites, taking the side of regular individuals. The negative comes about when people are fed lies by demagogues. Not so long ago those words were used in a positive light.

What can you do? Educate yourself. Look into the future and see what changes are coming at you. Investigate the positions of leaders who want you to think one way or another. Think critically about what anyone says. I like define myself as an Extreme Moderate taking Moderation to the Extreme. But each of you must find your own way. All I ever ask is that you remember that just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t automatically make them stupid or evil. If you start with honest disagreement, you can find that other’s poking at your views can lead to better clarity in what you think and how you got there. Nothing wrong with that.

Let me use one example of where it gets odd. Companies in the US sell a lot of product into the EU. When they do, they have to obey EU regulations that apply. So, any notion that this is a special barrier because you are part of the EU makes no sense – whether the UK is out of the EU or inside it. What this means to me is that not much is going to actually change right away. There will be some turmoil because the news cycle craves crisis, but for the average person it won’t actually mean very much in the short term. In the long term, there are always opportunities to redefine our path forward.

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

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How does Planning confuse people?

I have a number of clients that I am working with that struggle with Planning.  They express their challenges in different ways.  But the most obvious one is that they have not thought about what I am used to calling “The Win”.  The Win is the state when things have achieved success.  I ask some pretty simple questions like:

– How many customers will that take?

– Is your target market large enough?

– What is your pricing strategy?

I find the answers to these questions to be lacking almost all the time.  I know there is always a coaching saying to start with the end in mind, but the real notion is to figure out what the end means in absolute terms.  I would have revenues of $1M is one thing.  How many clients being charged what amount of money is the next level of detail. From there you can estimate what you would be able to sell for that amount of money.  If you are making a 3-year plan you will rightly conclude that any plan you make will be wrong.

So a lot of people stop because it will be wrong.  But the point of the details of the plan is not the actual result.  It is the magnitude of the change in what you are doing from where you are today.  I use our 2001 Business Plan from AFC as an example of this all the time.  We knew that to sell the company we needed a majority of our revenue coming from Tier 1 customers.  At the time, 80% of our revenue came from Tier 2 and Tier 3 customers.  Now, there is an added unspoken thought that needs to get added.  This is that the company is only valuable if the revenue and profits stay the same or grow and the customer mix changes.  The company at that time had about $350M in revenue.  That meant that we needed to grow our Tier 1 revenue from about $70M to about $150M or more than double our current number.

Stop and think about that.  Were we going to be able to double the market share of our existing products or would we need to introduce new products to fill that gap?  What kind of new products would we be in a good position to sell and what would our plan be?  Should we invent these products or buy companies who have these products?

You can see how questions just spawn from these simple analyses.  And that was a pretty simple starting point.  When you are asked to start with the end in mind, remember to think about the question to get to action steps.  The better your answers the more likely you are to achieve your vision!

Jim Sackman

Focal Point Business Coaching

Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

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Sonoma County: News and Notes

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I wanted to start this week by thanking my clients and friends at Insight Sign and Graphics with working with me to provide a new sign for Middletown to replace the one that was burned by the Lake County Fire.  It is great to work with people that give back to the community in the wake of a tragedy. The team at Insight Sign and Graphics worked with Boy Scout Troop 121 and the Middletown Rotary Club to get this project done.

Next, I wanted to say thank you for some local government goodness.  I went to the DMV yesterday to renew my license.  I had set up an appointment and was in and out in under 20 minutes.  That was pretty impressive.  When I was leaving, the receptionist at the desk was having to explain to a client why they couldn’t renew a Nevada Driver’s License in California.  Sigh.  Earlier this year I was sent a Jury Duty notice by the Federal Government to spend 1/2 of every day for 6 weeks on a trial.  Luckily, I did Jury Duty for Sonoma County in January.  I needed proof of this and so I sent an email to the Jury Duty folks.  The contact form said to expect and answer in 3 – 5 days.  Well, in about an hour I got an email back saying that they had forwarded it to the right people.  Those people called me an hour later and left me a voice mail telling me how I could print out proof and giving me the information I would need to do it.  Awesome work ladies and gents!

But mainly this week I wanted to talk about what is going on in the local Cannabis business.  With the City of Santa Rosa starting to license growing facilities, there has been a lot of interest.  This has led to a bit of a run on space where growing would be allowed.  I am a bit concerned that this adds to our dependence on agriculture (particular export agriculture) in the local economy.  I have been posting about the job and housing market interactions and agriculture does not generate a lot of high-paying jobs.  I grew up on a farm and I can tell you farmers don’t get rich.

The thing is there is likely to be a bubble around Cannabis prices.  As more states legalize products, there is likely to be an ongoing decline in prices.  That means that over time the value of the businesses created will decline.  There is some concern that people will build their business plans around the bubble prices and not create sustainable business models.  So before you jump in, think about the long-term possibilities.

Have a great day!

 

Jim Sackman

Focal Point Business CoachingFocal Point Business Coaching

Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

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Communications and Delegation

I really like to provide you all things as they come up regularly in my coaching sessions.  I know that if it is something I am running into more than once, then many of you may be running into the same issues.

Delegation creates one of these problems and it is associated with Communications.  There are already struggles with styles of Delegation, but this one has a lot to do with how well a team works.  So, this is not about Communications Styles nor is it about what kind of Delegation you are doing.  This is all about Listening.

Now, most coaches will teach people some form of Active Listening.  This is where you quiet your thoughts and try to absorb what the other party is telling you.  You provide follow-up questions and feedback on the information that you have received.  The question is what do you do while you are delegating an assignment.  Then I suggest a technique that I call Active Telling.

Let me use an example.  Many of us have had to deal with a Teenager that responds to all task assignments with, “Okay”.  The problem is that you know that the Teenager is actually only acknowledging that you spoke.  There is no semblance that they understood the assignment and agreed that they would do it.  That same thing happens all the time in work setting.  You ask someone to do something and they say, “Okay”.

What can you do at this point?  Well, some classic questions would be to ask things like:

“When can I expect you to be done?”

“How will I know that you are done?”

“How will you move the project to the next step?”

The entire point of these kinds of questions is to get the person talking about the assignment.  Once they are discussing the assignment with you, you will then have more robust feedback on whether they understood the task the way that you meant them to understand it.

Remember it is much better to make sure that a task is started the right way.  Nothing good can happen if a task is completed incorrectly.  Many of those mistakes come about because of incomplete communications.  Sometimes this seems time consuming but that only brings up the old adage, “You don’t have time to do it right, but you have time to do it twice.”

This is one of the reasons that experienced teams can be more productive.  Many routine tasks have a predefined pattern of interaction.  Even unfamiliar tasks can often be compared to past work to establish a baseline for action.  The team will have established roles and expectations for the team members.  All of this combines to make an experienced team more efficient than a new one.

So, help start team members down that path by using Active Telling!

Jim Sackman

Focal Point Business Coaching

Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

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Sonoma County: News and Notes

One of the things that I have noticed recently is a lack of folks to fill positions at the lower end of the wage scale. Everywhere that I look, I see places looking to hire. So, we now have a second pressure on our economy and they are at least partially linked. Housing prices and availability definitely lead to challenges with hiring entry and low level employees.

From the employees standpoint, they struggle to make enough money to live here in Sonoma County. Let’s take a look at the new minimum wage of $15 per hour. At best this leads to $860 per month to pay for housing. In Sonoma County, this equates to a room for rent. This means that there needs to be a lot of roommates or people living in family situations of some sort. If I go the other way around, $26 per hour is a much more reasonable rate for a person to be able afford an apartment in Sonoma County. In case you are curious, I am using a 33% spend on Housing and $1,500 a month for an apartment.

One of the problems is that our lack of building means that prices on rentals and occupancy is high. Perhaps in the future we can use the SMART train as part of the answer, but probably not until Phase 2. Housing prices decline as you move away from San Francisco, but long commutes make jobs untenable. The challenge that I see is that at the proposed prices even the SMART train may not be viable. If you are talking about $9.50 a trip, that equates to transport costs of about $570 a month. That is a lot of money and does cover any costs of getting to and from the train. It also only really works for 8 – 5 jobs and many of the lower end jobs work on a different schedule.

The long term solution for people at the low end of the pay scale is to make themselves more valuable. The best way to pursue that is education or training of some kind. There are plenty of positions available in Construction that could become a better career over time. But if you want something more immediate, consider Sales. Good Sales People are always valuable and Sales experience is transferable between markets.

If you are an employer, you can also use this to attract and retain better people. How can you set up their employment to help them to get to better jobs over time? Can you provide additional value without providing more take home pay? This is where training classes and apprenticeships can be of great value to attract and retain talent.
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!

 

 

Sales Training versus Donald Trump University

I was watching the news over the weekend and I listened with some horror to the way that the news folks reported on this story. There are some parts of it which are part of sales. There are some parts which are straight out of the 1950s. There are some parts that are just horrible. I don’t really care about the political parts of the story. I don’t care about the case involved in the story as well. I want to talk about this strictly from a Sales standpoint. I spend a lot of time talking to people about Sales and Training them to be better Salespeople. So many of them are turned off by Sales as a concept, that I have to start by showing them that Sales is important and moral.

Most people think of a Used Car Salesman. Somebody that is hard selling and manipulative. What I try to teach is that Sales really is showing people why they should buy products they already need from you instead of your competitors. Everyone I work with believes in what they do. So, they are simply helping people select the right product or service for them. Because of this, they won’t win every deal. But what they will win is having a reputation for being a trusted adviser in what they are selling.

Switching back to the Trump University stuff that I saw, I need to mention the one thing that is true. The process told the Trump University sales folks that Sales is an emotional process and to connect to the prospects emotions. The reality is that Sales IS an emotional process. This has been shown time and time again in studies. There is nothing that Trump or anyone else can change about that. Exploiting it unjustly is a separate issue.

The techniques beyond that were all about what is called Transactional Sales. ABC – Always Be Closing. There are few places where this is still left to any extent. Auto Sales is one of them. Most of the rest of the world has moved on to more Relationship Selling, and with good reason. The lowest cost Sale that can be made is the Sale to an existing customer. By using Transactional (and worse manipulative) Sales techniques, you have written off the lowest cost method of creating a Sale. The lowest cost new Sale comes from Referrals. Do you really think that the Trump University Sales Folks were going for Referrals? So if you encounter these techniques in the future, you need to question if the company is worth doing business with.

If you have questions about Modern and Moral Sales Techniques, just let me know. I am happy to help!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!