Boot Camp Spotlight: 3 Questions with Jim Gilmore

We sat down recently with Jim Gilmore, who will lead our Sept. 20 Business Growth Boot Camp, to talk about how the simple act of improving your observational skills can help your business grow.

Inspired by Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats method, Jim Gilmore has created a unique and useful tool to help enhance your observational skills. His “Six Looking Glasses” provide a set of skills to master the way we look at the world around us.

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    These include the ability to:

    • Survey and scan to see the big picture;
    • compare and contrast to overcome personal bias;
    • spot significance in any scene;
    • scrutinize numerous details;
    • uncover potential opportunities; and
    • see what’s in the mind’s eye


    In advance of Gilmore’s upcoming Business Growth Boot Camp session on Sept. 20 (Looking with Fresh New Eyes—A How-to Workshop to Improve Your Observational Skills), we sat down with Gilmore to learn a little more about this process and how the simple act of awareness can contribute to business growth.  

    RELATED: Register for Gilmore’s Business Growth Boot Camp

    1. What’s one thing attendees of the Boot Camp will walk away with, and how can they apply that lesson to their business?

    All who attend will learn to use a new tool, called the Six Looking Glasses. It represents a simple, practical method for anyone to improve their observational skills. Why is this important?  It's important because all innovation begins with observation.  Participants in the Boot Camp will come away equipped as better observers—better able to identify key customer behaviors (and their unfulfilled needs), recognize operational issues (to avoid them becoming pitfalls), detect industry trends (before others see the same), and perceive broader cultural shifts (that may bear against any business strategy).

    2. A lot of business owners, small business owners in particular, have so much on their plate day to day that they might feel it’s difficult to just stop and observe. What’s the best way to manage the myriad of daily tasks you have to manage and take a higher level observational view of what’s going on around the business?

    Actually, the Six Looking Glasses should prove a time-saver. Many executives and managers find themselves struggling to keep ahead of the daily grind precisely because they have not stopped to simply see the time-saving opportunities that exist to be seen—if only one looked!  Stephen Covey once urged managers to focus on the important over the urgent. I'd augment that by saying observation is the most important means by which to minimize the seemingly urgent, so one's organization can focus solely on what truly drives success.

    3. Once you have taken the time to stop and look around, then what? How do you take the observational data you’ve taken in and translate that to something tangible you can apply to your business?

    That is indeed the issue, now isn't it? I propose this simple process: Look, Think, Act. To take any action without first thinking is foolish. And to do any thinking without first looking is frivolous. It all begins with looking. But better observation does not automatically translate into wise action. One has to still do rigorous managerial thinking. But sometimes one says to oneself, "Why didn't I think of that?"—too often in reaction to a competitor's action or some customer shift in behavior. And the answer: Because you were not looking!

    If you would like to learn more and register for the Observational Skills Bootcamp, click here.

    Next up: Build a Billion-Dollar Business in 5 Steps

    Build a Billion-Dollar Business in 5 Steps

    Throughout 2018, Mind Your Business will be reviewing the highlights of the 2017 BizConCLE event hosted by COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership. Today’s article focuses on the lessons small business owners can learn from the startup success of CoverMyMeds. Read the other stories in this series here.

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    In January 2017, CoverMyMeds achieved what every startup company dreams of: a billion-dollar valuation and sale to a major corporation.

    Funny thing is, Ted Frank, the CFO of CoverMyMeds, never really thought of the company as a startup. Rather, he and his partners viewed operated the business as a company with a long-term future instead of as a startup simply trying to survive from one round of funding to the next.


    Operating with a sound, long-term business plan in mind was just one of the lessons that Frank, one of the keynote speakers at the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s and COSE’s BizConCLE event, imparted to those in attendance. In fact, Frank laid out a five-step plan that small- and mid-sized businesses can easily adopt that could put them on the same unicorn trajectory that CoverMyMeds has been on.

    Step one: Focus on your distribution channel

    Frank said the reason most startups fail is because their distribution channel is either misaligned or not economically viable. How do you make it viable? You enlist the help of your customers to help you grow.

    It’s critical that businesses understand that their success is linked to that of the business and that your value to them increases as the business scales.

    Step two: Your operating model is not an afterthought

    Too many businesses believe they can bolt on their operating plan after they get funding. That’s a precarious line of thinking, particularly in the Midwest where private equity can be difficult to source and you can’t raise $300 million to build a company as some Silicon Valley firms might be able to do.

    Instead, businesses in this region need to rely on great economics to succeed. And you get to those great economics by being innovative in the way you approach your business and distribution model. When you have these great economics, Frank said, it makes it easier to win because revenue becomes more of a focus instead of costs. And it’s not that profit is unimportant. It’s just that profit is baked into the business model.

    Step three: Win through people

    At the end of the day, the success or failure of a business is linked to the people who comprise the business. Give these employees something to be excited about, Frank said. The focus on revenue, as described above, can create opportunities for rapid growth where staffers can find opportunities to work in emerging areas of the organization.

    Senior leadership should also target specific “star” employees and “connectors” in the marketplace you’re engaged in. These people will help you recruit other Rockstar employees.

    And create an environment that is not restrictive (think one-page explanations of company policies) and encourages instead of punishes risk-taking. You want your employees to feel like they’re a part of something and these are just two ways of accomplishing that, he said.

    Step four: Don’t rely on fundraising

    One of Frank’s favorite sayings is that business owners should be focused on building a company, not a startup. As such, the business has to be one that is sustainable and does not live or die based on the availability of angel investors. If you’re focused on just surviving from the “A” round of capital raising, to the “B” round to the “C” round, etc., you’re not focused on building a company.

    Put another way, if you’re raising money because you need money, you’ve already lost. Don’t worry about your exit strategy. Worry about how your business is going to help people—while also making some money along the way.

    Step five: Set big goals

    Don’t be afraid of setting big, hairy, audacious goals. Again, if your company is all about offense, you’re going to attract valuable heavy-hitter job candidates who want to help you do amazing things.

    BizConCLE is just one example of the many educational events hosted by the Greater Cleveland Partnership and COSE each year to help give the business community the knowledge they need to make their business a success. Check out this list of upcoming events to find one that’s right for you.
    Next up: Cascading and Communication

    Cascading and Communication

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    Next up: Cascading and Communication

    Cascading and Communication

    There’s a great visual metaphor for business related to the concept of cascading. The idea is that you can conceive of your company as a waterfall in which the decisions that are made at each level affect the decisions made as you go down the waterfall into the pool. You can imagine that the decisions made at the top of the waterfall are quite strategic. 

    There’s a great visual metaphor for business related to the concept of cascading. The idea is that you can conceive of your company as a waterfall in which the decisions that are made at each level affect the decisions made as you go down the waterfall into the pool. You can imagine that the decisions made at the top of the waterfall are quite strategic. 

    Let’s say you’re a visionary and decide to start your own company. Given that decision, you might ask these eight questions.

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    1. What are the business’ core values?
    2. What is the business’ core focus?
    3. What is the 10-year target?
    4. What is our marketing strategy?
    5. What is our three-year picture?
    6. What is our one-year plan?
    7. What are our quarterly rocks?
    8. What are our issues and challenges?

    The questions are strategic in nature, and the decisions made further down the waterfall are guided by your answers to these questions. Suppose you decide you will win by manufacturing organic chocolate with superior new product development capabilities. These choices will impact the decisions made throughout the organization:  hiring, sales, marketing, purchasing, operations, product mix, customer service and so on. The employees at these various levels then make decisions within the confines of your upstream decisions. 

    At each level of our expanding waterfall, more and more people are involved in the decision-making, and our choices become more tactical and operational in nature, with everyone working to achieve your vision. 

    One of the tools your team should use to ensure you are achieving strategic goals is a leadership scorecard.  Your leadership team should meet weekly to monitor progress against goals, and identify and solve issues as a healthy, functional, cohesive team. 

    Deeper into your organization, scorecards and meetings can be used as well, but the measurables on the scorecards need to be more operational and focus on the activities and issues the associates in these departments can impact.  For example, no. of new product introductions, no. of face to face sales calls, no. of qualified prospects, wasted dollars, quality of service, on-time delivery percentage, no. of cases shipped, order accuracy, etc.

    The company’s senior leaders must work to create an environment where those accountable to them understand their rationale for making certain decisions.  This requires open and honest two-way communication, always keeping in mind the greater good of the organization.   

    For more information, download our free eBook, “Achieve Your Vision”.  For more information please visit our website at  Be sure to attend my workshop at this year's Small Business Convention on Friday, Oct. 24 at 10:15 a.m. on the topic, “Are you Running Your Business or Is Your Business Running You?”

    Meet Alex

    Alex Freytag, partner at ProfitWorks LLC, helps business owners get what they want from their businesses.  In 1996, he co-founded and built the training and coaching firm to help entrepreneurial leadership teams achieve their vision, traction and healthy and to teach financial literacy to employees.  In addition to his training and coaching work, Alex spreads his mission and message by speaking to audiences of all types.

    Next up: Cheryl & Co. Founder Shares Her Entrepreneurial Story and Advice

    Cheryl & Co. Founder Shares Her Entrepreneurial Story and Advice

    Cheryl Krueger, cookie, gourmet dessert, and gift basket retailer extraordinaire, will share her entrepreneurial insights as the featured speaker at COSE’s next think spot event. We recently had the opportunity to ask Krueger a few questions about how she got her start, her advice for entrepreneurs starting out today and what to expect at her upcoming think spot appearance.  

    Cheryl Krueger, cookie, gourmet dessert, and gift basket retailer extraordinaire, will share her entrepreneurial insights as the featured speaker at COSE’s next think spot event. We recently had the opportunity to ask Krueger a few questions about how she got her start, her advice for entrepreneurs starting out today and what to expect at her upcoming think spot appearance. 

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    What will you speak about at the COSE ThinkSpot event?


    My talk will cover several topics and I have some great stories to share with the COSE audience. I’ll talk about the journey of Cheryl & Co., how I got started and the obstacles I overcame. In the beginning, I was undercapitalized like most entrepreneurs. I was also a single female in the ‘80s looking for capital for a cookie business!  It was hard to get financing. 

    I’ll talk about the structure of a business. Owners often just think about taking their product to market without thinking about the structure of the business. Should it be retail only, corporate sales, wholesale, catalog sales, should I sell to QVC? Should we outsource, centralize production, etc.? It’s important to understand that opportunity often brings more challenges. You have to decide how many areas you can be an expert at.

    I will also talk about vision. My definition of vision is the ability to see the invisible and do the impossible. The invisible is the ability to see the potential of a product.  Entrepreneurs get it – they see the world a little bit differently. Often times the category already exist, they just find a way to deliver a product or service it in a different way – a way that saves the customer time, solves a problem, or offers a convenience.

    Customer service is also one of my favorite topics. I’m a great believer in customer service and I was a fanatic about looking at our customer retention rate at Cheryl & Co. Because really there is no sense of taking all the time and energy to find a new customer just to let them slip out the back door. I always say if you don’t take care of your customers someone else will.

    What the best business advice you ever got?

    I’ve been fortunate to have had several great mentors along the way who have shared their wisdom. During a particularly tough time, one gentleman who spent time in a concentration camp and had escaped Nazi Germany, simply told me to never give up. It really struck home and I needed to hear that at the time.

    Another mentor extolled the importance of cash flow; the old Cash is King adage. He told me that just because you’re profitable doesn’t mean you have cash on hand. Making sure you pay your bills and never running out of cash is critical. Both seem obvious now, but I believe you get pearls of wisdom when you need them.

    What advice do you have for entrepreneurs starting out today?

    Entrepreneurship is not for everybody. It’s a lot more than luck. It takes perseverance and a lot of sacrifice. You can get immersed in your vision and making your dream come true and that can affect your personal life and relationships. It’s important to always have great optimism and surround yourself with others that have that same optimism and a realistic awareness of what it takes to be successful.

    See Cheryl at think spot on Thursday, May 21, 2015, 5 - 8:30 pm at Windows on the River. Register now at

    Next up: Create a Millennial-Minded Workplace Culture

    Create a Millennial-Minded Workplace Culture

    When you walk in an organization today, have you noticed any changes in the work culture? I’m talking about things such as casual attire; pets at work; flex hours; relaxed atmosphere with space encouraging conversation; standup desks; ergonomic ball chairs; managers who coach instead of boss; and more. If you’re a millennial, this is considered status quo. But for the rest us, right before our eyes we are seeing an evolving work culture with new values, behaviors, beliefs and work spaces. With more frequency now, Gallup and many high-powered consultants are providing ideas on how organizations should adjust the work culture for millennials (ages 20-36) to produce high-impact performance.

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    I agree companies need to adapt to millennials’ values. However, I also believe millennial ideas reach across generations and are truly beneficial to all employees. Gallup recently published a list of changes shown below, from what was important at work in the past to what millennials value today and in the future.

    Past Today and Future
    My Paycheck My Purpose
    My Satisfaction My Development
    My Boss My Coach
    My Annual Review My Ongoing Conversations
    My Weaknesses My Strengths
    My Job My Life

    This is a tremendous list to consider for your organization. It speaks to the future of all our workplaces. Today’s list of ideas represents the direction we are headed—toward a cultural focus on employee wellbeing. The new generation of workplace health emphasizes wellbeing of the total person—mind and body. It is not to pamper employees, it is to empower and motivate them to be their best and thrive, which is great for business. Top talent today expects to work in a healthy environment that goes beyond physical wellness and supports both physical and mental health. Examples of mental health include activities that promote career wellbeing to enhance meaning and purpose in their job; intellectual wellbeing to further their growth and development; social wellbeing to build solid relationships with their co-workers, managers and community; and emotional wellbeing to present stress reduction techniques or financial issues.

    Today’s shift in work culture is real, in large and small organizations. We are seeing award-winning organizations infusing wellbeing into the culture because it’s a proven driver of performance for millennials and employees of all ages. The description of workplace wellbeing, according to the National Wellness Institute includes a combination of five key areas: occupational, intellectual, social, emotional, and physical wellbeing. 

    Signs that the wellbeing movement is more than a trend is highlighted by many leaders and organizations. Tom Ciccotti, executive VP of the Chicago Wellness Research Institute spoke in 2015 about the future of the industry. He said the “total employee wellbeing” concept is taking hold in corporate America to empower and enrich the way employees work and live. Similarly, the National Wellness Institute had the theme of their 2016 corporate conference as “sustainable change … to usher in a new era of wellness—one that shines the light on true whole-person wellbeing.”

    Gallup research shows the link between wellbeing and performance, reporting wellbeing initiatives raise engagement and productivity and lower absenteeism and turnover. The lower turnover statistic is especially significant with 50 million millennials in the workforce who leave jobs faster than ever before. Organizations implementing wellbeing strategies will help increase employee engagement, retain employees and attract first-rate people.

    Take a look at your culture. Are most employees engaged and productive? Or would it help for your leadership to apply new cultural changes to strengthen your company? A great way to assess your work environment is with a brief employee engagement survey. If employee engagement is high, chances are you already foster wellbeing and a vital culture. If engagement is low, it might be time to discuss new cultural strategies to reenergize employees and help them thrive. When employees of all ages are engaged and healthy in their overall work lives, they are more committed, give more effort and are much more likely stay.

    Sunny K. Lurie, PhD. is CEO of Advanced Performance, Inc, a firm that helps organizations maximize employee engagement, motivation and performance by promoting organizational wellbeing. Questions about promoting high-impact performance and wellbeing? Email Sunny at: