Fred Koury

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:05

Boxed in

Imagine a fish raised in a fish bowl. Its entire existence is enclosed in about one cubic square foot of water. In this environment the fish is content to live out its life, unaware of the world outside. The fish is limited by walls. This is the box we need to escape from if we want to excel.

When we think outside the box, a million-dollar idea can seem so simple. We have to reach beyond our self-imposed walls of limitations. If we don't, we'll get left behind.

Think about how the first airplane was invented. While airplanes have only existed since the beginning of this century, the technology has been around before man. The Wright brothers imitated the balance and aerodynamics of a bird's wing in their design. They were one of the first to look beyond mankind's self-imposed limitations, and to see the relationship, and possibilities, in applying nature to industry.

In 1954, as a 52-year-old milkshake machine vendor was visiting one of his restaurant customers in San Bernardino, Calif., he witnessed a unique food assembly line system that two brothers had developed. Immediately recognizing the potential of their idea, he offered to pay them a percentage of their gross receipts. The brothers agreed, and the vendor set up a copy of their restaurant in Des Plaines, Ill., on April 15, 1955. That year, he opened two more restaurants, and within the next six years he had opened 228 more stores. The brothers, Maurice and Richard McDonald, and the milkshake machine salesman, Ray Kroc, have permanent places in U.S. history. The lesson? Sometimes all it takes is a simple idea to make the difference between minor and historic success.

I recognize that thinking outside our walls can be difficult. In today's fast-paced environment, the one thing that most people lack is time. We're always rushed to make decisions, and the urgency of accomplishing the immediate naturally rises to the top of our priority list. What we don't realize is that this mentality encourages us to act like gerbils on a wheel, spinning in circles but not really going anywhere. Therefore, it is important to be able to take ourselves outside of the picture at times to look at things objectively. When we train ourselves to be more open-minded, we open doors to Ray Kroc's level of success.

I've found from experience that continual learning helps maintain an open mindset. We need to remind ourselves to invest time in learning, no matter our age. For example, history has a marvelous habit of repeating itself. By reading about history we gain various perspectives on how people respond to certain situations, and we can learn from their successes and mistakes. I, for one, read the Bible. It helps me broaden my perspective on life, and it provides a personal resource for me in finding new-yet ancient-ways of viewing and responding to situations.

There are other resources that can aid us in tearing down our walls. A source we deal with in business each day is our vendors. When you think that those vendors are probably dealing with six or seven other businesses like yours on a daily basis, they suddenly represent a great resource. They see and hear all the latest innovations taking place in our industries. How do you treat these people? Are they like flies waiting to be swatted, or do you see them as valuable team members?

Maybe the next great idea you'll encounter will come from one of your employees. How are you treating them?

Our attitude can be the direct cause of failure or great success. Treating people respectfully is one way of breaking down our walls. And it's an easy way to start climbing out of our box.

Fred Koury is CEO of SBN. He welcomes your comments at

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:00

From the CEO

The term revolutionary is defined as “someone engaged in the act of revolt.” It carries connotations of extremist or radical behavior. Even in the most conservative light, the thought of revolting against the ideas and norms of our peers and society makes most people uncomfortable.

But as history has proven, if we want to reach the pinnacle of success, we need to be a willing revolutionary. The ability to revolt against limitations set before us is the mountain true leaders must climb.

The year was 1863, Abraham Lincoln was president of the North and only two out of eight Americans lived in cities. Jefferson Davis was president of the 11 states of the Confederacy. During this time, a child was born in Dearborn, Mich., who would transform America from an agricultural to an industrial powerhouse. He worked with his father on the farm and attended a one-room schoolhouse. At 16, he left home for nearby Detroit to find work in a machine shop. There, he came in contact with an internal combustion engine. Young Henry Ford began to dream and think revolutionary thoughts.

Ford was determined to build a gasoline-powered vehicle. In 1893, he built his first gasoline-powered engine. Three years later, he made his first horseless carriage, known as the “Quadricycle.”

He exhausted his early investors, who saw the horseless carriage as a vehicle for the wealthy, because he insisted on providing quality at an affordable price. He left the company later known as Cadillac Motors, and built a new company, Ford Motor Co. When he introduced the Model T, he promised, “I will build a motor car for the great multitude.” His goal was revolutionary, and forced him to look for solutions.

In management, we hear such terms as “on-time delivery” and think of them as recent innovations in manufacturing. A study of the early Ford Motor Co. shows Ford designed an “on-time” assembly system that allowed his company to manufacture a chassis eight times faster than the competition. By dividing labors and coordinating operations in his manufacturing, he accomplished huge gains in productivity.

Ford was also a revolutionary in worker relations. While most employers paid employees the lowest wage possible, Ford viewed his employees as potential customer and paid them twice the going rate: $5 per day instead of the $2.34 rate for the industry. He also instituted a profit sharing plan that distributed up to $30 million annually to his employees. His employees now had the money to buy the cars they were building.

Overnight, Ford became a worldwide celebrity. By combining precision manufacturing with a continuously moving assembly line, Ford Motor Co. could produce a car every 24 seconds. And the Model T, which sold for $950 in 1908, could be purchased for $290 in 1927. More than 15 million cars were sold before the Model T was discontinued in 1928.

Today, a similar revolution is transforming the U.S. from an industrial/service economy to an information economy. Ford’s success was not an accident but a predetermined path which he chose. He sought to reach a market that no one else could see and found a way to help the market afford the product.

Revolutionary thinking is what transforms society and the world. But this form of thinking usually involves leaving our comfort zone. Those who refuse to be revolutionary in their thinking end up becoming followers in the marketplace.

The Internet is a great example. has a valuation of $10 billion, while Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest chain of booksellers, has a valuation of $2 billion. Amazon has no bookstores, Barnes & Noble has more than 1,100 stores. The difference is was founded on revolutionary principles. The Internet is filled with revolutionaries who have a different way of thinking than their peers.

How do you start down the revolutionary path? Here, three steps to try:

1. Be a leader How we view ourselves is the image we project. Don’t wait until someone else takes charge. Be proactive. Take control and lead your company in its industry. Find ways to be on the forefront and not in the critic’s chair. Leaders and revolutionaries face those who are used to doing things the old way. Ford’s early investors were outraged that he worked according to his own plan and timetable.

2. Be innovative Look for ways to change things. Look for solutions where nobody else sees them. Ford was able to create a car chassis eight times faster then his rivals because he was willing to innovate his process of production.

3. Be a visionary Don’t accept the status quo. Ford saw the car as a vehicle for the masses, not just the wealthy few. When his early investors didn’t agree with his vision, he left his first company and started a second. He was not willing to compromise his vision.

Fred Koury is CEO of Small Business News Inc. He can be reached at

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

An old friend

Do you find yourself constantly on the defensive? If it's not one problem, it's another?

Sales are down. Cash flow is negative. Employees are leaving. You even have problems at home.

Do you want to just give up? Well, maybe you are facing a heavy dose of adversity.

If we look at our lives with the benefit of hindsight, maybe we can understand it better. Adversity starts from the moment of our birth. Prior to entering the world, we live in a uterine bubble -- floating around in the comfort of our mothers, waiting to be born.

We arrive in a world filled with struggles and problems. We cry and scream to get food and attention. One day we enter school, a room filled with 30 different little personalities, each fighting for love and attention.

Our adversity continues through high school and college. Then, in a flash, we are thrust into the real world. And then a new struggle starts that follows us through the next 30 or 40 years.

That, of course, is the working life. We take all that we have learned from our protected world into the unprotected world, and who is there to greet us? Our old friend, adversity. Only now the stakes are higher. Our very existence sometimes depends on how we cope with the adversity we face in adulthood.

How should we view our frequent companion? Should we view it as an enemy and try to avoid it, or as a friend we can learn from?

You may ask how you can view adversity as a friend. I see three ways it can serve in that role:

  • In sifting. If we take two people and place them in a competitive situation, the inherent adversity usually shows who of the two will succeed and who will fail. Our economic system is based on this freedom to succeed or fail.

    Many people who immigrate to the U.S. start businesses that, within a few years, become very successful because hard work and a commitment to succeed overcome the adversity of adapting to a foreign culture.

  • In shining. Adversity also shines on those who make it beyond the sifting level. A boxer who fights against the bag but never faces a real opponent has not really been tested. Only when he is in the ring with another fighter do the rigors of training come to fruition and the fighter begins to realize his true potential.

  • In strengthening. The presence of adversity forces us to test our abilities, sharpening them as we go. In fact, one of the biggest dangers we face in business is a lack of adversity. Without it, we become comfortable, and with comfort comes complacency.

When we started SBN years ago, we faced plenty of adversity. We had no track record in the publishing business, little capital and a lot of competition. In those early years, we stared down adversity nearly every day, generating cash flow, paying bills, meeting payroll, soothing dissatisfied customers and trying to collect from customers who didn't pay their bills.

Today we publish magazines in several cities. However, we still face adversity in finding and keeping good employees, controlling costs and increasing revenue.

If we had let adversity have the upper hand, we probably wouldn't have started this company. And we certainly wouldn't have expanded into other cities. But through the process of sifting, shining and strengthening, we have always emerged from our adversity ready to take on the next challenge. And we will continue to do so in the years to come.

The true test of a person's character is not when things are going well, but how that person handles adversity. Those are the people I want on my team. Fred Koury ( is president and CEO of SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Why be organized?

Who do you want to be? How will you get there? These questions plague the success-driven.

Ask yourself, where do I want to be in 10 to 20 years? Then ask, what do I have to do today to be there?

Julius Caesar was 42 and the Roman Governor of Spain when, happening upon a statue of Alexander the Great, it occurred to him that the younger man had conquered the then-known world when he was 33. Caesar responded by changing his life, and the rest is history.

Planning for your future requires one important element: organization. It involves taking the components of your life and assembling them into a systematic routine aimed toward a particular result. Absent organization, you can look forward to frustration, wasted time, poor performance and lack of perspective.

Organizing your life yields three priceless resources: time, efficiency and perspective. Everybody has the first. Each day contains 24 hours that can never be recaptured. If the average life of a person is 73.5 years, that's 26,827 days, or 643,860 available hours.

Time is finite. When we waste it, we can't go back and make up for it. By managing our time, we gain control of this resource and can accomplish more in a shorter period.

The dividend of time management is efficiency, the ability to do more with less. The wealth and ease that most people have in the United States is a direct result of increased efficiency. The evolution of the world from agricultural to industrial and now to an information age is tied to ever-increasing productivity.

We need to look for ways to continue to increase our productivity. Are we involved with overlapping activities with negligible rewards? Every wasted activity eliminated is time discovered to produce more results.

Perspective is the ability to form a clear view of your environment. How often have you felt overwhelmed, only to realize you were going in circles? The person without perspective cannot see his or her path. But when we step back for a moment and consider ourselves as outsiders might, we can correct our course.

The Portuguese navigators of the 14th century kept detailed logbooks and records of their voyages in uncharted waters. They were considered state secrets. In our life's voyage, it's only by keeping detailed records of successes and failures and the choices that brought us there that we're able to adjust our course for more profitable waters.

Where should you begin? First, take an honest look at yourself. Three major steps will follow:

No. 1, examine every aspect of your life -- work, leisure and spiritual -- and make an inventory. Assess the tools at your disposal. What is your expertise? Who might give you insight? What are your assets and liabilities? Where are you wasting time? Are you spending too much time relaxing? How much time do you spend at work? What are your work processes? Where is your work being duplicated?

No. 2, group the parts of your life into components. Ask what is important. Then incorporate these aspects into one central command post, or organizer.

The Roman army was one of the most successful in history because it was one of the best-trained and best-organized. It was divided into divisions, or legions, of 6,000 men, which were divided into cohorts, which had several centurions over various units.

Through superior organization, Caesar was able to conquer the larger but less well-organized armies of Gaul in a few years. Your organizer can likewise become a central command post from which you will be able to direct the needed resources to win the war. It should contain some lever of control over every aspect of your life.

No. 3, execute your plan of attack. Do you need to make more sales? Do you need more products? More locations? More quiet time? With a panoramic view of your personal battlefield, you can begin plotting your strategy for the rest of your life.

We are only given one life, and now is the time to make it count. We can't go back and capture lost time. We can only look forward and make the time we have left count. By organizing ourselves, we can all get there. Fred Koury ( is president and CEO of SBN. This column originally appeared in the October 1998 issue of SBN.

Friday, 19 July 2002 07:10

Losing momentum

It seems like everywhere you turn, there is a slowdown in the economy.

You read in the paper or hear on the news about cutbacks in corporate America. Many companies continue to miss their earnings estimates, which makes Wall Street investors quite nervous. I often ask myself, why is it that the larger companies have no problem making changes relatively quickly but smaller companies sometimes wait until it's too late? One thing I realized is that larger companies have to perform for Wall Street each quarter or the stock market will not be very friendly to them.

This forces the leaders of these companies to be accountable to their employees, shareholders, investors and themselves.

The powers-that-be seem to have a strategy to keep the once red hot economy from falling beyond recovery. The Federal Reserve continues to lower interest rates. President Bush continues to talk about his tax-cut proposals.

Wall Street still tries to give us some promise of a rebound. Most of us continue to be hopeful that things will pick up in the near future, but what if they don't?

Each person in a management position owes it to themselves and to their company to prepare for the worst. We are all optimistic the slowdown in the economy is only a short-term setback, but in the meantime, there are several steps you should take to protect your company's success.

1. Manageable break-even. It's important that your budgeted break-even in expenses is less than your average revenue from the previous quarter. If it's not, make changes that will allow you to run the company without falling behind and accumulating losses.

2. Focus. Share information and communicate to your entire staff the condition of your company. People need to understand the goals. They cannot operate in the dark and still be helpful in achieving the company's goals. Everyone must be focused on the goal.

3. Flexibility. In a declining economy, everyone must be flexible. People may be asked to do things they do not normally do. The walls must come down, and people must understand things do not always stay the same. They must be open to change.

4. Value added. During times like this, it's important to differentiate yourself from the pack. When people are making decisions during slow times, offering a small bonus or perk could be just the thing to differentiate yourself. Do something that makes your product more attractive to your customers. Add something they value without having to cut your prices.

5. Be prepared. We've had boom times for so long that many businesses aren't sure how to survive in a slow economy. Pay careful attention to your financial numbers and prepare for worst case scenarios. Could you survive a 20 percent decline in revenue? It might not come to that, but if you're prepared, you're more likely to survive it.

If you built your business on strong principles and sound practices, you have a solid foundation to make it through any tremors in the economy. But what works in boom times may need some serious adjusting in a recession, so be prepared to make the tough decisions and be accountable to your chief stockholder: You.

In the long run, you'll be happy you did. Fred Koury ( is president and CEO of SBN Magazine.

Thursday, 18 July 2002 12:41

Reach out

We seem to live in a world in which me, myself, and I have become our three best friends.

We have become so self-centered that an offer of help is often viewed with suspicion. Opening a door for someone has become more of an insult than a positive gesture. Visiting a neighbor has become something of the past.

We have gone from sitting on our front porches and visiting with the people in our neighborhood to hiding in the backyard behind a giant fence. We retreat behind walls to live our lives, not even knowing our neighbors' names. In our modern world, we get more pleasure out of watching cable television than spending time with a family member.

What have we become?

We have become a world centered on self. In the dictionary, self-centered is defined as occupied or concerned only with one's own affairs; egocentric; selfish.

Maybe it's time we try to reverse this trend. Maybe it's time to reach out to others and become more focused on our community, regardless of whether it's the community at home or the community at work.

Whenever we are in a position of leadership, such as owning a business, we carry responsibility for others whether we like it or not. It is our responsibility to make the best decisions possible. Here are several steps to ensure that we are doing so:

1. Reach out to your employees. Get to know them for who they are, not just what task they perform for your company. Everyone has problems, and you can find ways to help. Even small gestures can go a long way to make someone's life a little bit better. Work with your employees as much as you can and their loyalty will pay off.

2. Reach out to your customers. The economy has slowed and cash flow has tightened up. Work with your customers as much as you can. Bending the rules once in awhile to help a loyal customer will only strengthen your relationship. If you are reaching your cash projections, and are in no immediate danger, why not try to help another business? The owner will appreciate it and become a customer for life.

3. Reach out to your vendors. Establishing a win-win relationship is the goal of everyone in business. Today you may have an upper hand in the relationship; tomorrow, that can change. It is important not to overnegotiate. Everyone needs to make a profit. Pushing your vendors up against a wall through unfair contracts and unprofitable deals will weaken your relationship in the long run. Things can quickly turn the other way, putting your company in trouble. Will a poorly treated vendor give you a break when you need it most? Probably not. It pays to be fair.

Many of us try to live by these rules but sometimes fall short. Failing once is no excuse to not try again. We must keep trying until we get it right. Doing this will ensure the success of our businesses and of those around us.

So what do you say, neighbor, shall we tear down the fences around us and reach out to others? A small gesture can go a long way. Fred Koury ( is president and CEO of SBN Magazine.

Monday, 29 October 2001 09:57

Introducing the new SBN Online

Few things in business command more excitement than the introduction of a new product or service. So it should come as no surprise that I'm ecstatic about the launch of the SBN Online Web site,

SBN Online is more than simply a Web-based version of our monthly publication. It will be the leading provider of daily local business news and information for senior level decision-makers.

It contains daily local and industry news, executive insights, a wide variety of resources and business information you won't find anywhere else. SBN Online will evolve quickly. Nearly every day, new features and information will be added to provide just what you're looking for.

We've spent the last five years developing an extensive database in order to understand our readers better than anyone else. We knew if we did that, we could better service their needs and provide them with smart ideas and information to help them grow their businesses.

Because of this, we can offer pre-personalized information and advanced predictive modeling. This makes SBN Online the only local business site designed for executives.

I invite you to log on to and discover what we have to offer. We will be sending out a series of postcards and direct mail pieces that explain how to use the site. You may have already received yours. It has your user name and password listed on it.

When you visit SBN Online, enter that information. The site will then use predictive modeling to deliver content specifically designed to fill your needs. Each user will get a different look and feel to the site, with industry and interest-specific news and information already loaded onto his or her browser.

We recognize the use of technology as another means to serve our audience. Now, after more than a year of work, numerous focus groups and dozens of surveys which validated our concept, we're proud to roll out the results of what local top-level decision-makers said they were looking for from the Internet. Here's what they want.

Ease of use
CEOs told us they are not Internet savvy. We solved this problem by developing an intuitive and personalized interface that does the hard work for them. We will use our monthly print publication to guide users to and around the site. And, we'll be sending out manuals to help explain how easy-to-use and friendly SBN Online is.

Time efficiency
There's little doubt that while information is available on the Internet, the Web is simply too complicated to use efficiently. We've streamlined content and developed one-stop-shop simplicity. Our goal is to make SBN Online your home page. You won't need to go anywhere else to find the business information you seek.

Local insight
CEOs buy, sell and network within their home communities. We recognize the importance of being local. That's why SBN Online offers locally generated news and information, as well as locally sourced goods and services.

Cost efficiency
Lower costs equal higher profits. We've partnered with many of the region's premier service providers and suppliers to create more efficient acquisition of goods and services. We'll also be offering discounted offerings from our preferred providers.

SBN Online's preferred providers cover nearly every industry that businesses need to work with in order to succeed -- health care, advertising and marketing, human resource management, software solutions and payroll. They are Anthem, Dollar Bank, Xerox Connect, Cleveland Clinic Health System's Center for Corporate Health, Microsoft, FirstEnergy, Hitchcock Fleming and Associates Inc., The Reserves Network, Ahola Payroll Services, Roetzel & Andress, Meritech Blue and Great Lakes Computer Corp.

Together, we plan to change how Cleveland business leaders think about using the Internet. Fred Koury ( is president and CEO of SBN Magazine.

SBN Online

Thursday, 26 July 2001 20:00

Time for change

How many of us are waiting for something to happen?

We may not necessarily be aware of what we're waiting for, but still, we wait. We come into the office on Monday, feel a total lack of motivation and start the trudge through another week. Before you know it, a year has gone by -- and then your life has passed you by, too.

What have we accomplished? What kind of impact have we made on society? Have we truly made a difference? What would your epitaph read? How about your eulogy?

My goal is not to write a doom and gloom column. It is to get you thinking about your future.

Each one of us has a certain lot in life. Are you living life to the fullest? If your answer is no and you are interested in making the necessary changes to do so, continue reading.

We all have basic practical needs that must be met, but sometimes, we can be too practical, stifling our growth within the rigid frame of our life's schedule. Life can be very similar to nature if we allow it to follow its natural course. Just like seeds become plants that eventually flower, our dreams can blossom, too, if we let them.

There are two things that need to take place in order to realize our heart-felt dreams. First, it's important to realize that we do need to meet basic practical needs, so don't make rash decisions which could prove more harmful than helpful. Second, be ready to take a chance and make a leap of faith. Timing is everything. Here are several signs to help you recognize it might be time for a change.

1. You don't like what you are doing at work. This is a sign that you have a job, not a career. A job is a series of tasks you perform. A career is something you believe in and which gives you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

2. Does something else interest you? Make inquiries, do some research and explore while you are in your current position. I'm not suggesting you take advantage of your current situation, but this will give you time to think before you make hasty decision. Learn more about the details of what you're considering, and talk to others who do it.

3. Find the new opportunity that's right for you. Pursue your new interest by locating the best opportunity that fits the criteria you created while exploring and researching what you wanted to change.

4. Take the plunge. Wait until you have peace about your decision. If it doesn't feel right, it's probably not the right choice. Bide your time until a better opportunity finds you.

Change is never easy, but you have to be willing to take a risk. The greater the risk, the greater the reward.

The seed of your dreams will never flower if you don't allow it to grow. Fred Koury ( is president and CEO of SBN Magazine.

Thursday, 25 November 2010 19:00

The power of promises

As the CEO, everything you say is magnified. You might as well walk around with a bullhorn turned up to the highest volume and broadcast even your most insignificant thoughts across the office. Everything is exaggerated. If you don’t smile wide enough when someone says good morning, people start to speculate that it must be because something is wrong with the business. If you don’t stop to chat as you walk by someone’s office, it must be because you hated the proposal he or she turned in last week.

It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way people look at the CEO. They view you through a microscope while you view them through a telescope. Every word gets dissected crossways. What did he really mean? What’s the significance of the red tie he’s wearing? He requested a meeting for next week — are we in trouble? Whether you like it or not, what you say carries a lot of weight with your employees.

Be very careful what you say, because anything you promise will come back to haunt you if you don’t follow through. And I’m not just talking about promises about big-picture initiatives. If you told someone that you would look into why there are no pens in the supply room, you better follow through. If someone thought it was important enough to bring to your attention, then it’s a major priority for that person. It might be at the bottom of your priority list, but if you told the employee you would look into and you forget, he or she will see that as a broken promise and call the rest of your leadership and integrity into question.

You may have just forgotten about this minor detail as much more important issues swirl about in this difficult economy, but we live in a world of broken promises. People almost expect that when a promise is made, it won’t be honored.

Lehman Brothers promised to take care of investors’ money and manage it wisely. Its broken promises wiped out what had once been a pillar of the financial community and helped put the economy into a tailspin as people lost faith in the system.

People in your company look to you for guidance. If you say you are going to do something, then do it. If there’s a chance you won’t get to it, then you are better off not saying anything.

The other thing to remember is that as the CEO, you set the tone. If you don’t follow up on things you say you are going to do, your senior managers will see that as acceptable behavior and do the same thing. The people under them will do likewise, and the next thing you know, you have a culture of people who don’t value the promises they make. Eventually, customers will become the victims of this behavior. Managers and salespeople will make promises and then not deliver.

Be careful with what you say and how you say it. Talk to your managers and make sure that there aren’t any items that you told people you would take care of that have been neglected.

Promises are a big deal, even when they may be about things that seem trivial at times. Breaking promises is the fastest way to destroy your credibility.

There will be times when you simply just can’t keep a promise. It could be something that’s completely out of your control or just bad luck. Perhaps you promised bonuses, but one of your biggest customers canceled its contract, so you can no longer afford to issue bonuses. Or maybe a storm damaged one of your facilities and the money had to be spent to put everything back in working order. Regardless of the reason, if you have to break a promise, make sure you take action.

Talk to the people involved, explain what happened and then do whatever it takes to make it right. Most people will understand why something wasn’t delivered if you give them all of the information.

In a world where people don’t honor promises, it’s important that you set the standard in your company. Be careful with what you say, do what you say you are going to do, and if something goes wrong, explain why. If you do all of those things, your credibility will remain high and people will know they can trust you.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010 20:00

Maximize your leverage

In today’s world, leverage is everything. You have to take advantage of every opportunity you can, because you never know when a small investment will turn into a big payout. Margins are really thin, and the competition is tougher than ever. The days of “business as usual” are gone forever.

If you aren’t finding ways of leveraging your people, your brand, your locations and your products, you probably won’t be around much longer. If you think of every contact as a dot, you need to be connecting those dots, not collecting them. What I mean by this is look at ways you can serve as an intermediary between those points. In some cases, there will be a direct business benefit for you. In other cases, you are simply making a connection that will benefit someone else. When you meet someone new, think about ways you can connect that person with others so that both parties benefit. When you come across a new product or service, don’t just think about how it can benefit your company but think about how it might benefit other CEOs. When you operate this way, you start making positive connections and people remember that. In the long run, hopefully they will remember you when they come across something that might help you out.

You are at the top of the organization and are probably used to thinking like this. But to maximize your leverage, you need to do everything you can to make sure those below you are doing it, too. Some people may not be as comfortable making the personal connections, so you should focus them on products. What are ways you can leverage your existing products in new ways? What are potential new products? How can you leverage your brand to create new revenue streams?

One example of a company that does this well is Sunkist. Not only does Sunkist provide fresh citrus fruit, the company also has the brand on more than 600 products in more than 45 countries. You’ll find the Sunkist moniker on everything from fruit juice to vitamins to orange soda. The company has found new ways to take its existing brand and apply it to products that still relate to its core, fresh fruit.

An effort like this isn’t coming from just the CEO. It’s something the entire organization embraces. The only way for you to achieve similar results is to make it a companywide effort, as well. It starts with a passion for knowing it’s the right thing for your company. When you exhibit that passion, it’s contagious, and others will follow. But you can’t stop there. You need to convey that passion as part of your vision for where the organization is going. When you combine your passion and vision and demonstrate that behavior, the attitude will start to be ingrained into your culture. When that happens, you are more likely to find the success that Sunkist has found in leveraging its brand.

But it all starts with your mindset. A lot of people talk about it, but few actually do it. The time to start is now. The next person you meet, think about not only how his or her talent or business can benefit your company, but think about how it might benefit other people you know. Find ways to cross-market not only your business but your peers, as well.

Start connecting those dots today, and you’ll see a stronger bottom line tomorrow.