Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

4 Musts to Build Trust As A Leader

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

As business leaders and owners we can get caught up in the day-to-day business performance and output. It is a consent balance with market shifts, client care and managing the day-to-day operations of the business. These are all necessary aspects of business life. The key to growing a business successfully is to continually lay a strong foundation while you keep stretching the business into new segments of your market. This growth requires a strong team of loyal and focused people who understand the vision and direction of the business. As the business leader your perspective and trust building skills will be the catalyst to maximizing your team’s performance.

It is said that leaders leave footprints for others to follow. When it comes to team trust building this belief has never been truer. How a leader conducts themselves with their business teams sets the pace for performance within the team. So how can you as a leader ensure that you are setting the correct expectation and conduct for your team? Here are 4 ways to increase the level of trust your team has in you, and in turn the level of trust your team will have with each other.

1. Always follow through with what you say. To many times we get busy with what is happening in our business and forget to follow-up on our promises. Our teams listen and hear everything we say and take it as an absolute. As leaders we must be conscious of what message we give to our teams and have integrity to follow through with what we say. Your people will lose confidence in you as a leader if they cannot count on the fact that what you say is consistent with your actions.

2. Be open with your teams and expect openness from the team. Being open with your team doesn’t mean you need to share every business secret. In all honesty sharing too much about the business can cause insecurity in your team and lower the team’s performance. Being open refers to sharing your vision for the business with your team members. Being open about the challenges the business may face and hearing out the team and their concerns. As a business leader your reality is your team’s perspective. You must be able to lay all beliefs on the table and discuss them openly. No concern or question is unimportant to your business.

3. Clearly state your decisions and stand by them. In the end as the business leader you will have to make decisions that may not be popular with your team. The important thing to remember is to be open with your team and let them know how your decision leads the business closer to its goals. Always triangulate your decisions to the ultimate vision and be clear on your intent to realize move the business in this direction. Even when decisions are not popular you will build massive trust and respect by having the personal strength to keep moving towards the goal.

4. Focus on your personal development along with you team. Often it is simpler to look at others as lacking ability or skill and claim that they are the barrier to advancement. In reality more often it is something we lack as leaders and we do not see it. This is where the openness with your team will be invaluable. Even as business leaders we will come to challenges in our businesses that we lack the experience, ability or skill, to move through it in an effective manner. By having an interdependent collaborative team you can better plan the development of yourself and team with the business vision in mind. As challenges arise you can look at yourself and your team to diagnose who will be best to tackle the challenge and what skills you and your team will need to keep the business moving forward.

Like any successful business initiative building higher levels of trust with your team requires a clear vision and a willingness to achieve the goal. Your personal vision for who you are and who you will be must be clear to you. A Leader must look to the performance of their team as a measure of their performance as a leader. These indicators are sometimes subtle, and given that we are prone to our owe bias can be missed. What we always are in charge of is the actions we take as leaders and the standard of conduct we hold ourselves to. By building a high level of trust as a leader you will have a team that can watch your blind spots and give you feedback to ensure you stay on the right track. It is often hard to hear this type of feedback but in the end this will lead you and your business to the success you desire.

The Best Social Enterprise Ideas

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Recently I met with the founder of a social enterprise. He reached out to me to discuss the upcoming re-launch of the organization’s website and the expansion of their work.

The call from the other social entrepreneur made me wonder about other great organizations. I know there are social entrepreneurs out there who are looking to kick-start a new venture.

As we quickly head toward the final quarter of 2014, we will soon once again collectively be looking at how to make a greater difference in the world. And so, in this article, I wanted to provide some of my thoughts on ideas that could help make our world a better place for everyone.

As a former executive in the shoe business, I was aligned professionally and personally with the fact that there are over 300 million children who do not own a pair of shoes, which makes it nearly impossible for them to attend school. So, when thinking about starting a social enterprise, it is important to believe and be committed to the mission and vision of the work to be done.

Here are some thoughts about what you might want to do if you are considering starting a social enterprise:

* Socially conscious online marketplace – working with artisans from around the world, your social enterprise can connect buyers with sellers with each other for a listing, commission or membership fee.

* Football or football – a child in poverty should still be able to play and a soccer ball or an American football where children need nothing else but the ball to play can be coupled with an education or community initiative. Connecting with local partners, a social entrepreneur can provide childhood memories, dreams and community building.

* Micro-lending – Kiva has done a great job in demonstrating how micro-lending can be done successfully, which includes a greater than 98% repayment rate. You can serve as a source for loans for people in developing nations, and increasingly in economically developed nations, for a nominal fee.

* Employment – individuals around the world are in need of jobs. When establishing a business, hiring people – including distributors and sellers – from under-served communities goes a long way toward helping someone, and his or her family, stand on their own feet.

* Food – despite the world’s abundance, there are people in developing nations and in countries like the United States who go to sleep hungry, including scores of millions of children. Developing a distribution channel for surplus food is a necessity in many communities.

* Eco-friendly products – we are making strides, but we have a long way to go in helping to restore balance to our environment. One of the ways to help the environment is to keep products from landfills such as shoes and plastics. Working to repurpose clothes, shoes and other products can provide goods for people in need, job opportunities and keep things from landfills.

* Books and Education – information is a new currency in today’s world and a recent report by UNESCO states that nearly 775 million adults still cannot read. As more economically developed countries increasing go digital, countless books are being destroyed or tossed. Many of these books can be prevented from reaching landfills and re-distributed to nations where children and adults need them.

Keys To Being A Successful Entrepeneur

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

In my career I have heard many theories as to what drives successful entrepreneurs. Do they have this sixth sense that others lack? Is it genetic or are they wired for success? To start to get to the answer I would like to tell you a bit about my life. For my entire life I have been surrounded by entrepreneurs. My father and uncle began a successful home restoration company over 25 years ago and is still growing today. My brother built one of the most integrated auto service companies in his industry. Several of my close friends also run and prosper their own businesses from your traditional bricks and mortar businesses, to highly integrated e-business offering products and services of all nature. So what is the driving force behind myself and all these people? What makes entrepreneurs different from everyone else?

Becoming a successful entrepreneur isn’t about finding the hottest market, or having the greatest intellect in your field. It’s not about the degree you obtained or the level of education you have. Others will tell you that successful people are lucky, or they had a special edge in life. I have heard it said that entrepreneurs keep going because if they don’t, they wouldn’t eat, or wouldn’t pay their bills. Being a successful entrepreneur isn’t about any of these rational beliefs. Being a successful entrepreneur is about having the passion and belief deep inside about what business you choose. A belief that nothing will keep you from the vision you have set for yourself.

I have recently been working with an entrepreneur who has a thriving men’s grooming lounge. This was the first of its kind in Ontario, Canada and has had rave reviews and attracted an exclusive clientele. Over the past three years he has had to overcome many obstacles to creating his vision and now his business is in the next phase of evolution. What is interesting is that he isn’t educated in business, and has never run a multi-million dollar company. He came from his industry as a barber and learned along the way. What is most important is he had a vision of what he wanted to offer to others. A feeling deep inside that he believed needed to come to life.

It is never easy to chase your passions in life. We believe that we are not the best at what we do and struggle with finding the perfect way to start. The biggest lesson an entrepreneur learns is that there is never a perfect way to succeed. The edge that they have is the knowledge that failing isn’t the barrier, the barrier is not being able to recover from failing. When times get tough, and the pressure is high, they go deep inside. Back to the core of why they are doing what they do. The ability to validate why they are on their path comes from deep within because they are doing what they were meant to do.

This unstoppable force is what keeps them going beyond any rational understanding or process. This ability is in each and every one of us, sitting and waiting to be unleashed. You can recognize it as a sense that there is more out there for you to do, or another way you can exist in the world. Whatever stage you are at in your life or business, there is always deeper potential to be accessed. You only need to ask and find the skills to connect with it.

The Right Business Plan

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

When writing your business plan, you must be clear about your intention for the plan and the audience for the plan. Not every plan is for everyone. By not taking the time to know who your audience is, you set yourself up for failure in your quest for funding or whatever else you have intended for your plan to accomplish.

There are 4 plans that address different agendas for the business owner or entrepreneur:

1. Concept Plan

2. Owner’s Manual

3. Lender’s Plan

4. Investor’s Plan

Let’s look at each one:

1. Concept Plan: This plan is a general overview of your business or potential idea for a business. I like to call it “the Blueprint” or “The Model”. The Concept Plan should answer two basic questions: 1) What does your business do?, and 2) How does your business make money?

2. Owner’s Manual: This type of plan deals with the operations of the business. Just like a car or appliance, your business should have an “owner’s manual”. If you look at franchises such as McDonald’s, SUBWAY or Wendy’s, each has a manual on how to operate the system. Your manual should be written in such a way that anyone who can read a STOP sign should be able to read and follow the directions of the manual and produce a consistently pleasant (or pleasantly consistent) result.

3. Lender’s Plan: This plan is designed for anyone seeking to borrow money to launch or expand a bank, be it a bank, credit union, microlender or the Small Business Administration ( A lender is looking to make the best decision in lending by “hedging bets”. A lender will not only look at the financial statements, but also look at the 4 C’s (character, capacity, capital, collateral) of a candidate’s credit.

4. Investor’s Plan: This plan is for the angel investor or venture capitalist (VC). The emphasis of the angel or VC is to find out not only how much equity will be received in the deal, but also factor the ROI. ROI stands for “return on investment” and “return of investment”. The return ON investment tells the investor how much s/he stands to make. The return OF investment tells the investor how quickly s/he can recoup the initial seed capital.

This article gives you the basics of how to sharpen your plan and write it with the target audience in mind. I recommend you seek out someone in your target audience to give you guidance in writing the business plan and understand what the target audience wants. This one thing can help you increase your chances of success in achieving your goal(s) for the business plan.

Unemployment Rate – Why It’s Important to Look Past the Numbers of the Unemployment Rate

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Looking Past the Numbers

More than ever before people need a way to get ahead. Following record highs in the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 in September the markets experience a slide in October. That didn’t stop economists from proclaiming, “The American economy is back.” Based on news that the international monetary fund believes the United States will have one of the fastest-growing advanced economies in 2015.

With inflation rates hovering around 2% there’s no sign the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates, and large corporations seem poised to take advantage of these favorable conditions. By most accounts, the economy seems to be in a great position to move forward. Why then, with all of that good news, aren’t more people upbeat about the economy?

Even when stock prices were soaring in September stock ownership was at an 18 year low. So while high stock prices seem encouraging, a strong market will for the most part only be helping those who are already well-off. For the average American the “little guy” and “gal” the great recession hasn’t been followed by a great recovery to match. And when you dig a little deeper into the numbers, you’ll see why more than ever before families are desperately looking for ways to get ahead.

Growing Disparity

In its September 2014 bulletin, the US Federal Reserve presented results from its survey of consumer finances which measures how consumer finances have changed over the previous three years. If you were in the top 10% of income earners in the United States, the news was tolerable. Your earnings went up 2% on average keeping up with inflation.

But for everyone else, and particularly the lower class, the news was far from encouraging “only families at the top of the income distribution saw widespread income gains between 2010 and 2013,” the Fed bulletin said “Overall median income fell 5% between 2010 and 2013 from $49,000-$46,700.”

Harvard business school drew a similar conclusion from the results of its alumni survey on US competitiveness, “Our report on the findings focuses on a troubling divergence in the American economy,”the authors wrote. “Large and midsize firms have rallied strongly from the great recession and highly skilled individuals are prospering. But middle and working-class citizens are struggling as are small businesses.” Even Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen in a speech last month pointed to “widening inequality “as one of her greatest concerns about the economy.

Though a person’s odds of getting ahead haven’t really changed in decades, the chasms across from poverty to wealth is getting wider and more daunting. People in the lower-class are running out of realistic options for making that leap.

-5% is how much the median US income fell from 2010 two 2013
+11% the percentage increase of those 55 and older who are staying in the workforce today compared with 1992
11.7% of US families own private businesses. The LOWEST percentage since 1989
63% is workforce participation. The lowest rate since the 70s.

Punching the Clock

You might have seen the news about the unemployment rate, which has normalized from 10% in 2009 to 5.9% in this Fall. But the story buried beneath the headlines is that the unemployment rate is dropping not because more people are employed, but because more people are choosing not to keep looking for work! The work force participation rate which measures the number of eligible people who are choosing to work, is now at the lowest it’s been since the 1970s at 62.8%. It gets even more interesting when you break down the demographics of who is and who isn’t working. You might think the lower numbers result from Baby Boomers taking early retirement, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The percentage of those 55 years and older who are still working has actually risen from 29.3% in January 1992 to 40.3%.

What Is Social Enterprise?

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

I found myself recently speaking with a lot of new people. One conversation stands out in particular, and it went a little like this:

“So, what do you do?”

“I am a social entrepreneur.”

“I’ve heard that bandied about. What does that really mean?”

And so I went into an explanation of social entrepreneurship, but because this person was a leader in the non-profit sector, I thought it might be important to write a post. Social entrepreneurs look to put an end to the intractable social challenges in society by using innovative approaches. They are able to meld the for-profit and non-profit sectors and extrapolate the best ideas, concepts and practices in order to work to improve society.

As in business ventures, social entrepreneurs may measure success in terms of profit and return, but their business model includes performance measurements on the impact of their work on society and, typically, they are looking to do this to scale. Social enterprise can be executed as a for-profit or charitable venture.

One of the most prominent modern social entrepreneurs is Grameen Bank, which was founded by Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus. Grameen Bank pioneered micro-credit and micro-financing in Bangladesh. Incredibly, the bank has provided $4.7 billion in loans to 4.4 million families who live in rural villages and are the poorest of the poor.

An example of a leading charitable social entrepreneurship is Ashoka. Ashoka’s mission supports social entrepreneurs who are seeking to be “changemakers”. Established leading companies – not looking to be left behind with regard to doing social good – such as Disney, Google, and Microsoft have all effectively incorporated social responsibility into their business models and for that, they are recognized as global leaders.

I have told this story repeatedly – when I saw the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, just like everyone else, I was shocked by the ferocity and devastation that occurred. I could not believe that over 230,000 people who were simply going about their day lost their lives. And, when I saw the television image of a single shoe washing ashore, I was overwhelmed with the thought that perhaps someone had been walking in that shoe before it was washed out to sea.

Did the person live?

I will never know the answer to that question, but it changed my life because I decided I was in a position to help people. As a professional in the shoe business, I knew how to procure shoes and send them to the people who needed them most.

There are hundreds of thousands of young and seasoned professionals who have decided that it is important to do business, but also tie those ventures to making a significant impact on the lives of people. For me, there is no reason anyone walking this earth should not have a pair of shoes. For others, it is making sure people have food or medicine. Still, for others, it is the legacy we will leave on the environment and future generations.

Social entrepreneurship is all about solutions. It is getting beyond the challenges and problems that exist and figuring out ways to make things happen for the better. More and more graduate schools are graduating social entrepreneurs, and I am looking forward to seeing people find opportunity not only for themselves, but others.