4 Leadership Lessons from BizConCLE

From enhancing customer retention to what sets transformational entrepreneurs apart, BizConCLE 2017 was filled with useful takeaways and lessons that small- and medium-sized businesses can use to build their business. In case you missed it, check out the below for recaps of the four impactful keynotes that took place during the show. Learn more about BizConCLE and how it can help your company by clicking here.

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  • Next up: 4 Ways to Be a Better Leader

    4 Ways to Be a Better Leader

    What traits do you think of when you consider what makes for an effective leader? During a recent Small Business Boot Camp session, Jeff Nischwitz of The Nischwitz group took a deep dive into the qualities all leaders share, and how those characteristics can help a small business—and its staff—thrive. Below are X takeaways from the presentation.

    What traits do you think of when you consider what makes for an effective leader? During a recent Small Business Boot Camp session, Jeff Nischwitz of The Nischwitz group took a deep dive into the qualities all leaders share, and how those characteristics can help a small business—and its staff—thrive. Below are X takeaways from the presentation.

    1. Know Yourself

    Entrepreneurs need to understand what kind of leader they are striving to be. And as part of that discovery, should ask themselves three questions:

    • What kind of leader am I committed to becoming?
    • Am I willing to let go of how things have always been done?
    • Can I tolerate living outside of my comfort zone?

    2. What Not to Do

    Leadership is not bullying. It is not about being disengaged. What is it about, then? Continue reading …

    3. Be Accountable

    A leader has to have the trust of their staff. Being accountable is one way to build trust, but what are the others? Try being human:

    • Ask for feedback.
    • Admit mistakes.
    • Be honest if you don’t know the answer to something.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
    • Allow staff the freedom to challenge perceptions.
    • Understand the ‘3 I’s of Leadership.’ 

    4. Be Conscious

    Remember back in the second item that talk about being disengaged? A Gallup Survey found that 70% of employees are not engaged with their work and employer. The steps outlined above will go a long way toward helping eliminate a leader’s blind spots and increase team engagement. It’s important that leaders take a “conscious” leadership position, that is, be aware of not only the needs of their staff but also to honor their staff’s perception of their leadership. And if you want to know more about conscious leadership, check out Nischwitz’ book: “Unmask: Let Go of Who You’re Supposed to Be & Unleash Your True Leader.

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  • Next up: 4 Ways to Be a Winning Entrepreneur

    4 Ways to Be a Winning Entrepreneur

    There are many characteristics that differentiate winners from non-winners. See if you have what it takes to be a winner in all that you do.

    We all want to be winners, right? Here are some traits to keep in mind when it comes to the difference between winners and non-winners.

    Winners are usually people who set goals (realistically and with a measure of "stretch"), make commitments and, in the long run, keep them. Non-winners usually set goals (unrealistic and "safe"), duck commitments and, in the long run, fail to meet them.

    Non-winners look for the easy way out. They believe others "owe" them a living. They externalize their failures—rationalizing away their own failings. They hide their not­OKness behind braggadocio and plastic extroversion. When encountering the slightest obstacle, they become immobilized. If they can move at all, they choose the path of least resistance, then wonder why this choice leaves them dead-ended most of the time.

    Winning vs. non-winning traits

    The following characteristics can be found within non-winners:

    Non-winner Trait No. 1: Being I-centered, amateurish and unable to plan any further than today.

    Non-winner Trait No. 2: Not being able to think on their own—being a poll taker. Non-winners might ask "How am I doing?" to other people repeatedly. 

    Non-winner Trait No. 3: Needing constant validation, which never comes.

    Non-winners are the antithesis of everything winners stand for. The following characteristics can be commonly found within winners.

    Winner Trait No. 1: Working for what they have instead of depending on others to take care of their needs.

    Winner Trait No. 2: Accepting responsibility for their behavior. 

    Winner Trait No. 3: Being confident instead of cocky. 

    Winner Trait No. 4: Expecting to face obstacles and roadblocks, but not allowing these temporary setbacks to alter their

    course.

    Seeking success and overcoming obstacles

    Winners can see the future—they are true magicians. How can they foresee the future when non-winners cannot? Because they make the future. Winners are goal setters and goal achievers. When faced with an obstacle or roadblock, winners lie down by the side of the road and try to figure out how they got there (which non-winners do), they don’t hold up their hands and yell, "Take me out coach, it's too tough here!" (which is the non-winner's favorite one-liner). Winners take action, check their plan of action to see if they had anticipated the problem and already made provisions for its solution. If not, winner deal with the obstacle and continue to move forward or around it.

    Non-winners seek escape from pain, while winners seek the achievement of happiness. Non-winners exist for the sake of avoiding punishment, while winners exist for the sake of earning rewards. Non-winners spend their sales career belly-aching and externalizing failures. Winners chart their course, cover it with unswerving determination, and achieve the success they rightfully deserve.

    Everyone, including you, is a winner. You possess the will to determine if you will win today, or if you will "non­ winner" it. Careful how you choose, as it will shape your choice tomorrow—and the next day. The secret to becoming a winner is to win a little bit every day in all that you do.

    Tom Scully is sales consultant and owner of a Sandler Training franchise in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

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  • Next up: 5 Guidelines for Strong Business Partnerships

    5 Guidelines for Strong Business Partnerships

    We are all familiar with Individual transactions where you want to obtain the greatest value or lowest price with little or no expectation of repeating the transaction (e.g. buying a car, acquiring a key piece of machinery or equipment for your business). In these cases, it is simply a function of which party can demand and get the best outcome from their own perspective. Since it is a one-time transaction, there is typically less opportunity for building upon it for longer-term mutual benefit.

    Establishing or modifying a business relationship or partnership generally will be a different situation. In these cases, both parties are seeking value and return from the partnership that often is expected or desired over a long period of time and therefore is based on mutual trust. While it is a trite and perhaps overused phrase, both parties likely expect the relationship to be a long-term “win-win” situation.  

    Guidelines for a Strong Business Relationship or Partnership

    I have negotiated numerous business relationships of various sizes, some of which were successful and some were not. Combining these experiences has led me to apply these guidelines that help lead to strong partnerships.

    Guideline No. 1: Pick your partners carefully. Character and trust are the most important assets in a business partnership. Seek out organizations and people you are excited to do business with. The key to any good business relationship is to think strategically about the relationship and understand individual and shared goals. Before lawyers get involved, make sure you talk openly about business goals for both parties. Getting the business goals in writing can help make sure you enter the legal phase of creating a contract with a solid, mutually understood business case.

    Here are four tips to keep in mind when it comes to picking partners.

    Picking Partners Tip No. 1: Ask lots of questions to get a deep understanding of the other side’s strategies, needs, operations, etc. Ask questions even if you think that you know the answers. Listen carefully to the answers, what they say, the way they say it and their body language. Identify what brings their emotions up and down. You can present your stand according to your findings and be sensitive to their needs and requests.

    Picking Partners Tip No. 2: Be authentic and as open and transparent as possible or is practical with your own strategies, needs, operations, etc. Some people might approach a negotiation looking to gain an advantage by concealing information. While you may achieve a desired result in the short term, you run the risk of tarnishing your reputation, as well as increasing the odds that the deal can go bad. Share your reasoning and intentions in the discussions to help make it clear that you are a straight shooter who deals in good faith. You are more likely to disarm the other side’s defenses and improve the odds of a productive, long-term business partnership.

    Picking Partners Tip No. 3: Learn as much as possible about the role and benefit of the business relationship for the person or people you are dealing with. As the relationship progresses to initiation and especially through the course of the arrangement, find ways to expand your reach into the other organization by meeting and talking with people at various levels to better understand how all parties benefit. A phrase to frame this way of thinking is to seek to be “high, wide and deep” in your relationships with business partners, especially if it is a large organization. This reduces the chances that changes in management or company strategy will significantly detour the relationship.

    Picking Partners Tip No. 4: Take an appropriate amount of time to build the trust in a potential long-term relationship. If you are feeling uncomfortably heavy pressure to give an answer early in the process of developing or negotiating the relationship, I have found it is best to just say “No.”  Perhaps you can come back to the table at some point in the future, but the timing has to be and feel right for both parties.

    Guideline No. 2: Play for the long term by ensuring balance in the overall outcome (better known as “win/win”). The goal should be to forge a plan that creates solid benefits for all parties, not just big benefits for one side. Gaining the knowledge noted above will improve your ability to seek the positive outcomes for the other party and find the balance desired. This also leads to a stronger foundation to motivate a positive working relationship once the deal is done. At the same time, it is important to be ready to decide if and when there is not enough balance for either party. An imbalance of outcomes will likely lead to a short-term relationship and starting over with a new partner is more costly than continuing a fruitful and productive relationship.

    Guideline No. 3: Get on the “same side of the table.”  Be very clear about the work that is expected upon delivery and each company’s role in getting it there. Define roles precisely so they have no messy gray area. Make sure the exact product, service or process is explained and the infrastructure to support and update that product is part of this definition.

    Guideline No. 4: Create a deal for the other side that you would like to have for yourself. As you enter the contractual aspect of the relationship, it is easy to think about all the positive things that can happen in the relationship. It can be equally important to think through when, where and how things can go awry and end in a bad outcome. Look for ways to incorporate provisions in the contract that consider these potential outcomes and include ways to address or handle them should they arise. One way to think about this phase of the process is to “write the divorce settlement before the marriage.” 

    Guideline No. 5: Create a plan for evaluation. As part of your negotiation, you should make an effort to agree upon how to evaluate the performance of both parties after the deal is done. Agreeing to measure the success of the relationship is a way to improve the likelihood that performance standards, payment terms, and other rules and expectations are met. This sort of rigorous follow-through ensures that everyone’s expectations are aligned and makes conversations about the relationship following the deal’s closure more objective and generally easier.    

    A business relationship or partnership can yield great potential if approached and developed effectively.   Hopefully these thoughts serve as a guide in your business pursuits, large or small. 

    Bob Nicolay retired following a 25-year career at Progressive Insurance having had success in senior-level general management roles. During his career, he also held similar roles with small-l to mid-sized privately-held companies. He currently maintains a consulting practice advising and guiding senior leaders with financial services clients in developing and executing product, distribution/sales, marketing and operational strategies resulting in revenue and profit growth. He can be reached at Rnicolayconsulting@gmail.com or 440-213-3381.

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  • Next up: 5 Lessons to Learn from the Cleveland Indians' Success

    5 Lessons to Learn from the Cleveland Indians' Success

    The Cleveland Indians experienced a historic run of success in 2017. It didn't happen by accident. Here are five lessons businesses can learn from the Indians and apply to their own operations.

    As we begin the 2017 Major League Baseball Playoffs, the Cleveland Indians are the favorites to take home their first World Series title since 1948. This season has been impressive, especially since the team could have experienced a letdown following a heartbreaking Game 7 loss in the 2016 World Series.

    The 2017 season has been historic. Beginning on Aug. 24, Cleveland went on a 22-game winning streak, the longest in Major League history. It is the second longest unbeaten streak behind the 1916 New York Giants who had a 26-game unbeaten streak, which included a tie. The Indians will enter the postseason with the most prolific strikeout pitching staff in baseball history, more than 1,550 strikeouts and a 3.9 strikeout-to-walk rate, both records.

    So how did the Indians get so good? It all comes down to the team, a collection of individuals who work as one to accomplish their goals. There are several foundational elements of a winning team, and the Cleveland Indians are a perfect example of how to put these elements into action.

    But this doesn’t just apply to professional baseball. There are lessons for business, too. Here are five traits of the 2017 Cleveland Indians team that can be applied to your organization.

    Trait No. 1: A shared vision. The Cleveland Indians have a clear vision for 2017. The ownership, management and players all have expressed the same ultimate goal for the team—to win the World Series. This doesn’t mean that it will happen. A vision isn’t guaranteed. However, it does mean that all team members are focused on the same end state. The best teams develop a clear vision, ensure alignment of all team members, and continually reinforce the organization’s vision through both words and actions.

    Trait No. 2: Clearly-defined roles. From starting pitchers to the bullpen, all players understand what their roles are as part of the pitching staff. The same goes for the position players. Winning teams create clearly-defined roles for everyone, and make sure that all team members understand what they are accountable for and how they are being evaluated.

    Trait No. 3: Highly-skilled talent. From Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to All-Star position players such as Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, there is no shortage of talent on the Indians. To build a team of talented players, management was tasked with determining the needed skills for the team and securing players who matched up with those skills. The team also used analytics to evaluate talent before signing them. Finally, ownership gave resources such as money to attract high-level talent. For many organizations, the ability to secure talent is the most important factor to success. Just like the Indians, your organization should identify the skills you need, develop a thorough process to evaluate candidates who match those skills and create a compelling value proposition that attracts talented people to join the team.

    Trait No. 4: A strive for greatness. Many sports teams have talented players, but most of those teams don’t achieve the level of success of the 2017 Cleveland Indians. A key to Cleveland’s success is that the players are reaching for greatness. They are motivated to be better every day. They work hard at their craft. They aren’t satisfied until they reach their full potential. The tone of “strive for greatness” is something that permeates from the top down and through every person on the team. Successful teams in any organization have people who are not only talented, but also motivated to be their best.

    Trait No. 5: Strong leadership. Many people believe that Terry “Tito” Francona is the best manager in baseball. Not only does he know baseball, but he possesses other traits that lead to the team’s success. What Francona does best is managing his players. He does it by talking to them. "Tito is the total package," star relief pitcher Andrew Miller told cleveland.com. "It's his ability to communicate with anybody. It doesn't matter if it's a pitcher or position player, he has the ability to put players in a position to succeed.” All winning teams, whether in sports or business, should have strong leadership that motivates, communicates and puts their team in the best position to be successful.  

    Because the Cleveland Indians possess these five traits, it’s not surprising that they have built a winning culture that permeates throughout the organization. The 2017 Indians are an easy team to root for. They are a collection of players who believe in each other, have strong leadership and strive to be excellent. A team that is built with these characteristics is much better positioned to achieve success than a team that does not possess these crucial qualities.

    Nevin Bansal is the president and CEO of Outreach Promotional Solutions.

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  • Next up: 5 Simple Phone Tactics to Overhaul Your Image

    5 Simple Phone Tactics to Overhaul Your Image

    Have we gotten too casual on the phone? Are we being lazy when communicating with clients or prospective clients? Don’t just phone it in—or maybe you can! Give your image a facelift by taking these quick and easy actions toward improved phone communication.

    Most small businesses facing the challenge of improving their image in the marketplace are staring at major investments of time and money. Properly planned and launched, those investments can earn significant positive results.

    But what about the rest of us with similar needs but no deep pockets to pull all that off? Are we doomed to endure the mediocre or amateurish image we’ve created by what we’ve done or not done since we started our businesses?

    Not to worry. Here are five simple and easy phone tactics to overhaul your image. So easy you can phone them in. They require no investment—only some creativity and effort. Start small and simple. See how many you can add to your small business tool kit and start using them immediately.

    Simple and easy tactic No. 1: Personalize you voice mail greeting

    Most small businesses use a voice mail greeting when they can’t answer incoming calls. This message might be the first impression a prospect or new customer gets of the company’s style and values. And it might reinforce those impressions with repeat callers. Listen to your voice mail greeting like a caller would. How do you feel about the business and the people running it? Do you want to do business with them?

    What kind of impressions does this recorded message cast?

    “Your call is being forwarded to an automated voice messaging system … 475 338-0298 is not available … “           

    Probably not favorable. More like lazy, dumb and cheap. How simple to invest a few minutes to personalize that greeting?

    “Hi, this is Ben Dover with Glitztronics. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you by the end of the day.”

    Job done—concise, courteous and helpful. Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

    Simple and easy tactic No. 2: Listen to what callers hear

    So, what do callers hear when you do answer the phone? What kind of an image does your greeting cast? “Hi …” is a good start, but it needs help: “Hi, this is Ben with Glitztronics …” is better, but “Hi … this is Ben Dover with Glitztronics. How can I help you today?” really works well. Which one casts the best image of Ben? Which is the most like yours?

    Simple and easy tactic No. 3: Turn a problem into a pleasure

    What do you say when a caller needs help, asks a question or just says, “Thanks”? I do have a problem with responding, “No problem”, which seems to be most everyone’s default response these days. Simply say, “You’re welcome” instead. And even better is, “My pleasure.” While the shift from “problem” to “pleasure” is subtle, it does say something about your attitude.

    Simple and easy tactic No. 4: Review how you place out-going calls

    When you place an out-going call, what do they hear first after answering?  Consider a concise and courteous statement such as, “Hi … this is Ben Dover from Glitztronics … Is this a good time to discuss next week’s meeting?”

    And if the other person says it’s not a good time, no need to apologize. If you knew that, you wouldn’t have called and also, remember, they picked up the phone in the first place.

    Because most people have some version of Caller ID installed on their phone, make sure the read out isn’t lame like “unknown caller”, “not available” or blank. Those all signal a robo or spam call. Would you answer a call like that yourself? If I don’t recognize the name or number, I let the call go into voice mail where they hear my concise and courteous message. Most don’t leave a message, which tells me they were robo or spammers.

    Simple and easy tactic No. 5: Please leave a (complete) message

    When you do leave a voice message, what do they hear? “Hi … This is Ben returning your call” Is a good start, but not enough to really be helpful. “Hi … This is Ben Dover with Glitztronics returning your call. I can meet with you Tuesday at 10 or Thursday at 3. Let me know what works for you at 459-703-3162.’ While longer, it’s a more courteous and complete communication.

    Little effort, big results

    As you’ve seen, it doesn’t take much time or effort to phone in your image-casting make-over tactics that differentiate your business from the competition who don’t think it matters or have even bothered to try.

    Everything your customers and prospects hear over the phone should be on purpose and for a purpose. What kind of an image-casting score would they give your business?

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440-449-0356, and empowers business leaders to communicate confidently. A popular trainer and executive coach on workplace communications and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative.
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