It’s been 34 years since the United States shocked the world and beat the Soviet Union in ice hockey at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. The “Miracle on Ice,” as it came to be known around the world, was completed two days later when Team USA beat Finland and captured the gold medal.
Everyone on the team was praised for the achievement, and the victory still resonates as an example of what can be accomplished in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
But it might never have happened at all without the unwavering commitment from the team’s coach, the late Herb Brooks, to go against the wishes of the U.S. Olympic Committee and build the team his way.
Don’t be afraid
As portrayed in the 2004 hit film, “Miracle,” Brooks explained to the USOC that a new approach was needed in order to beat the Soviets. The committee responded with concern that the team might be embarrassed trying to make such a big change less than a year before the competition. Brooks’ retort was that the team had already reached that point.
Now, if he had not reached his players, if he had been unable to convince them to put in the time, effort and commitment to becoming the best team they could be, Brooks would be a mere footnote in Olympic history.
But he had complete confidence in his plan, and he was willing to put his reputation on the line to see it through. It’s not something that all leaders are willing to do. The fear of failure overshadows the vision of success and the plan often is never allowed to see the light of day.
History is filled with examples of leaders who were willing to take a chance and go after an idea that those around them believed would never work. Thomas Edison and the light bulb, Henry Ford and the assembly line, John D. Rockefeller and his oil business, Steve Jobs and the iPhone.
Each of these individuals had plenty of critics who thought the idea was crazy. And each of these people, and many more throughout history, proved those critics wrong and changed the world as a result.
Why not you?
The cautious approach will only get you so far in life. Sure, there are times when you need to be a little bit more conservative and think about what could be at stake if you’re wrong.
But sometimes, in order to grow, you have to stop trying to collect that elusive final and convincing piece of data and just go for it. And who is to say that your idea won’t be a game-changer that transforms the way we live or work?
If you believe you have a solid idea and you have a plan in place to make it work, it’s time to give it a shot. Summon the courage that enabled you to be a CEO and build the business that you now lead. If you’ve done your homework and gathered the information to reach this tipping point, it’s probably OK to rely on your instincts to take the next step.
As Brooks often repeated to his team as they prepared for their moment of truth, “You can’t be common. The common man goes nowhere. You have to be uncommon.” ●
Mark Scott is senior associate editor of Smart Business Los Angeles. If you have an interesting story to share about a person or business making a difference in Los Angeles, please send an email to MScott@sbnonline.com You can also follow us on Twitter at @SmartBiz_LA.
This is an important question when it comes to any opportunity in sales strategies: Is the deal worth winning?
In the early days of a business, it may seem that any opportunity is worth pursuing. In the long run, that may have been true. While profit is the senior goal, so is credibility and having customers who can positively recommend your product or service.
But before long, it becomes necessary to make sure opportunities are worth winning. The precision of that evaluation becomes more vital as a product or service becomes more complex, as there can be a number of hidden costs that aren’t taken into account.
Here are some key considerations in evaluating an opportunity as to its profitability:
Any opportunity falls above or below a threshold of profitability for a company. It is important to establish that threshold early on. It becomes a primary goal of a company to sell and deliver products and services as far beneath that threshold as possible, while still maintaining desired quality.
Figuring in this factor can and should be part of a company’s sales process and worked into sales strategies. If this is done, and is also incorporated into the company’s CRM solution, the profitability of any opportunity can be seen all the way through a sales cycle. That would be part of rating it as to its priority.
The possibility of future business is another aspect to revenue potential, which can be weighed as a factor in evaluating the profitability of a deal. Shrewd companies will take a smaller profit if it means more business up the road.
Dovetailing in with revenue potential is the strategic value of the opportunity to your company. Take a look at how well this potential deal fits in with and helps you make your company’s strategic targets.
Examine the leverage potential of this opportunity. Will you be able to leverage this deal into others? This may mean more sales from the company you just sold to, or it could mean deals from referrals.
If the company you are selling to is a leader in its industry, its purchase and implementation of your product and service may mean you are acquiring an entire sector of industry.
Any opportunity should be evaluated as to its risk. In addition to the risk of the sale occurring in the first place, there are a number of other risks that should always be examined.
Is it possible that your company will not be able to deliver the product or service? What is the possibility that your company won’t be able to deliver on time?
Then there are questions that nobody wants to ask and even fewer want to answer: What if your customer causes your solution to fail? What would be the impact on your business? How possible is it that your prospect company could find a solution to their problem themselves, thereby killing the sale completely?
You’ll want to make these analysis points part of your sales process, and work them fully into your CRM solution. Each will be a standard point of evaluating opportunities into the future.
All sales strategies must take this question fully into account: Is the deal worth winning? ●
Learn more about Nikolaus Kimla at:
Ivan Misner: Why drinking more water along with four other actions could really stoke your energy at workWritten by Ivan Misner
At one time or another, we’ve all tried to find the secret to being happier at work. Even the most upbeat employees are going to have those times when they just don’t feel the same level of energy and passion about coming into the office each day.
Last year, in an effort to boost the health of my staff at BNI’s headquarters in Upland, Calif., I stumbled across one of these secrets. I found that the secret to being happier at work is actually being healthier at work.
Here are five ways to not only be healthier at the office, but to be happier too.
It is easy in an office to reach for readily available hot coffee, tea, cocoa or soft drinks, but what your body needs in order to both work effectively and release fat stores is plain, pure water. Plastic bottled water usually contains BPAs. Instead, drink filtered water or glass-bottled mineral water.
Many people experience chronic, low-level headaches, which can often make you unproductive at work. When we are dehydrated, one of the signals our body gives is that low-grade headache. Try drinking half your body weight in ounces in purified, preferably alkaline (mineral) water for headache relief.
Find reasons to walk
When you have to move from your office to another office, take the stairs or walk the long way around. Another way to increase your physical exertion is to park further from the door at work.
Use your break time to take a longer walk or spend part of your lunch walking. Some offices have started walking clubs, where several staff members walk together in the morning before work or on their lunch break.
Simply walking 20 to 30 minutes per day can increase your body’s release of feel-good hormones, such as oxytocin, norepinephrine and serotonin. It can also help your fat-burning systems melt away excess body fat.
Bring your lunch
Such a simple change has the ability to make a huge difference in how healthy you are overall. Pack a power lunch made of fresh, organic vegetables and whole grains, such as brown rice, steamed quinoa and fresh fruit. This enables you to avoid the temptation of easily accessible fast food, fried foods and foods high in sugars.
Find an accountability partner in the office
Anytime you are trying to make major shifts in health habits, it is powerful to have someone to help you with the changes. Pick someone who has similar goals to your own and who you know can be positive and supportive. Plan regular times to check in with each other, use various methods of contact (email, text, phone calls, as well as face to face), and, most of all, be honest!
Find your positive attitude
There are many studies that substantiate how much your attitude affects both your health and your level of happiness in life. When people consistently take the negative view on things, their immune systems become depressed, their overall outlook on life dims and they can become negative and unhappy about everything.
Being happy is always a choice. Learning how to choose to be positive goes a long way in creating health and happiness. ●
Ivan Misner, Ph.D., called the “Father of Modern Networking” by CNN, is considered one of the world's leading experts on business networking. Dr. Misner has written eleven books including the three New York Times Bestsellers, two #1 Amazon.com Bestsellers and a Wall Street Journal Bestseller. He holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior.
Learn more about BNI:
Few brands have forgotten about the waves created by the 2009 debut of “United Breaks Guitars.” The video was made by musician Dave Carroll who was upset about United Airlines breaking his guitar on a flight from Chicago to Omaha, Neb.
When it went viral, it cost the airline countless customers. How many customers? The Huffington Post estimated through the 4 million users who viewed the video, that it was about $180 million worth, or 10 percent of their market cap.
In response to the video, United apologized, complimented the song and even asked to use it for future internal training. They assured Carroll that because of the incident they were changing their customer service policy. But even with their apology and promise to change, United’s image never fully recovered.
So what do you do in the age of social media when you get a customer complaint that goes viral faster than the average criticism, and reaches a good portion of your audience and beyond, painting your brand in a bad light?
Here are three tips on how to handle the situation gracefully and recover with your reputation intact:
Don’t delete anything!
If your complaint comes in the form of an online public comment, don’t delete it. It’s so easy to just delete a comment from Facebook or a tweet that you don’t want too many eyes to see. But by the time you delete it, someone’s already taken a screenshot of it and circulated it through retweets and on Tumblr.
This makes your brand look even worse, like you’re desperately trying to cover your tracks. Instead, keep the comment up and respond promptly — though not so quickly that you make errors in grammar and false information alike.
Admit it was your fault, and make it public
So now you have a public complaint that you haven’t deleted and a public, quick response all ready to go. Not only should you respond on whatever medium the complaint is on, but if it’s a large enough mistake on your part, publicly make an additional statement in the form of a press release, blog post, video or some other outlet that presents the ability to make a grander than usual gesture.
Be sure to include what it is you’ve done. Acknowledge that the incident was your fault, how you can learn from the experience and what you can do to make it up to the customer. Being honest and genuine about the problem will always win over backtracking and denying that you’re at any fault to begin with.
Offer what you can
Whether you’re an international airline or a local mom and pop shop, don’t let an unhappy customer leave your place of business as an unhappy customer. By the time you’ve handled the situation personally, your customer should have a smile on his or her face and something positive to say about your business. If that means offering a free product or service, it’s a meaningful gesture to provide to keep the reputation of your brand on the up and up. ●
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start — up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services.
Learn more about Deborah Sweeney:
When California Pizza Kitchen head G.J. Hart arrived on the scene in 2011, he found a number of issues he wanted to address.
One of the first items on his list was the structured approach his team took toward serving guests in the restaurants.
CPK developed a series of steps for servers that started when they seated guests until it was time to deliver the check. It removed all the guesswork from being a server. But it also created a dining experience that lacked a personal touch.
Hart discovered that guests typically received the same experience, whether they were a couple out for a romantic evening or a family with young, screaming children. The reason is the servers were following a script.
In most cases, when someone tells you that you sound “scripted,” it’s not meant as a compliment. The general inference is that you’re not putting much thought or emotion into what you’re saying. You memorized what you needed to say, you said it and that was it.
But even in a profession where you need scripts, such as acting, your goal is not to come off as if you’re reading lines. You want your audience to think you’ve become this character, and the depth of your role goes beyond just the words coming out of your mouth.
Unleash your talent
The same rules apply in the world of customer service.
Companies that provide the best support to customers are those that empower employees to assess a situation and actively seek the best way to respond. So if you’re a server and you notice that your next guest keeps looking at his watch, you know to skip any witty banter and try to get him seated, served and out the door quickly.
Hart didn’t want his servers to be robots. He wanted them to be real people who could interact with guests and customize their service to each situation — and he quickly discovered that his employees were thrilled to shed formality and give guests the best experience the servers could provide.
Take care of business
As you look ahead this year, think about what your company can do for customers and think about skills or talents you might be underutilizing. How much do you know about these people you’ve hired? And considering these people are on the front lines dealing with customers daily, how much more guidance do they need to make your customers happy?
Every strong company has core values that it prizes. But if you’ve communicated them to your employees and you’re confident your servers understand what you expect, what other reasons do you have to keep your employees reined in?
Just take it from Amber Cox, a bartender at the CPK in Canoga Park.
“People go places because they like the service,” Cox says. “Guests love the way we can be ourselves and take care of them in the fashion they want to be taken care of.” ●
Mark Scott is senior associate editor of Smart Business Los Angeles. If you have an interesting story to share about a person or business making a difference in Los Angeles, please send an email to email@example.com.
I went to a talk on corporate wellness the other day. The speaker was a physician who had led the corporate wellness efforts for a large company. The organization spent $150 million annually on health benefits for its employees. She asked for $400,000 to run a wellness program. The powers-that-be only asked about and challenged the $400,000. No one questioned the $150 million.
Crazy, right? Welcome to my world.
Most people in the room add the $400,000 to the $150 million and look at it as an expenditure of $150.4 million. That is the wrong math. The return on a well-run wellness program is normally a 6-to-1 ratio. Thus, $2.4 million or more could have been saved with the $400,000 investment.
We just kicked off a program with a new client with 500 employees. The cost of two lifestyle driven health issues, obesity and stress, impacted the bottom line last year to the tune of about $7.5 million. This was due to absenteeism, presenteeism (being at work, but mentally not being there), incremental medical claims and increased prescription drugs to deal with just those two lifestyle issues.
The CEO understood this and realized the need to build a culture of wellness in their company. And, he realized that it started with him.
Make a healthy investment
Most executives never hesitate to make an investment in a new piece of equipment or a new technology if they feel it will help their bottom line. But often, company leaders feel wellness is “soft” and not measurable. That is not the case.
Think about one employee with Type II diabetes linked to obesity and the additional costs. Think of the extra prescriptions they get, the couple of extra specialists they see a year, the couple of extra days they are sick each year, the amount of time they spend at work surfing the Internet to learn more about their disease, the increased potential of a worker’s compensation claim by lifting too much, and so on.
You’ve invested in employees. They do a good job for you. Help them get healthier. By doing so, they will be more productive and happier, saving on your bottom line.
Let me tell you about Joe. He stopped at fast food restaurants every night on his way home from work. This was a snack prior to his dinner. Joe spent on average $5 a night, five nights a week, thus, equaling $1,300 a year. Joe was a Type II diabetic and his out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions and medical co-pays equaled an additional $2,000 a year.
Joe got engaged with the corporate wellness program we lead at his company. Joe started walking and stopped having the extra meal each night. Joe is finally able to stop taking his medications and has lost 200 pounds. Between just the prescriptions and extra meal, he is personally saving $3,300 a year.
At that rate, Joe will personally save $49,500 over the next 15 years. Now, he’s confident that in about 15 years, he will be alive to walk his daughter down the aisle and be able to pay for it. The value of that? Priceless.
By subtracting unhealthy expenses you can add to your bottom line. And, your employees will be much happier with their new bottom line, too! ●
Sue Parks, a former top-level executive with USWest, Gateway and Kinkos, is a corporate wellness expert. She is the founder and CEO of WalkStyles Inc., based in Irvine, Calif., and co-author of “iCount, 10 Simple Steps to a Healthy Life.” For more information, visit www.walkstyles.com.
In business, as in life, there are turning points. Sometimes they mean good days are ahead for your company. At other times, unfortunately, they represent the beginning of a more difficult stretch for you and your employees.
As business owners, we have the responsibility to make these turns and convert the challenges into opportunities. When you take the attitude that there is no problem you cannot change and translate it into a chance to grow your business, you give your company a better chance to achieve success.
See through the clouds
Decisions need to be made and the ability to see through the clouds that dim your view can make all the difference. Initiate conversations with your associates and with your customers and ask them what works and what needs to be changed or improved. The critical next step that many leaders fail to do is listen to suggestions and enact the ones that can help the business.
There was a time when I had only $20 in my pocket and seemingly little hope for the future. It was a critical moment where I had to make it happen in order to achieve my dreams.
It’s those critical moments that determine success and failure. When times are tough, reach out to those around you and continue searching for answers.
Clarity will come your way if you keep trying because giving up is not an option for true entrepreneurs. Evaluate what worked before and understand why it is not working today. Maybe the person who was making it happen moved to a different position or left the company. Maybe you haven’t given enough attention to training.
Or it could just be that the category is now obsolete. In that case, how are you going to replace it? Is there another category that will bring you similar results?
Be up-close and involved
Being hands-on in your business is a way to understand your business better. Spend time with your operations personnel and you will quickly find the effort and potential you need to propel your business and excel. It’s often at that moment when things look their bleakest that you reach a turning point that changes everything for the better. You could be this close, and if you give up, you will regret it the rest of your life.
There is nothing easy about being successful in business. Once you open your business, you constantly need to be renewing it through the eyes of your customers. It could be the same operation, but through rebranding, refreshing and restocking you can bring new air to your tired business lungs.
Take advantage of every opportunity you find and understand that there will be turning points. But believe that they can make you stronger by figuring it out and working with your team to turn the opportunities in your favor. Always pay attention to your customers. They will provide you with your best feedback and at the end they are the ones you will need to please in order to keep them coming back.
We all have something that keeps us going. In those moments of doubt, I always remember the words of my father, “Nothing stands against your will.” ●
Learn more about Curacao at:
Jerry Azarkman is the co-founder and co-owner of Curacao. He can be reached at (866) 410-1611. For more information, visit www.icuracao.com.
You’re reading this column because you view yourself as a leader, someone making a difference in the lives of others.
Whether through business, family or community work, leaders have at least one thing in common — they are taking action on an idea or concept bigger than themselves. It’s something they believe is so important, they want to create it, share it and accomplish it with others.
Since 1958, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) has inspired young people to become catalysts for positive change in their home, school, workplace and community. As America’s foremost youth leadership organization, HOBY has a long and impressive history of successfully motivating youth and volunteers to outstanding leadership.
The central core of our leadership philosophy and teachings is simple: Anyone can be a leader because leadership is not about positions or titles; leadership is about taking action.
I have met powerful and effective leaders during my time at HOBY. These are young people who have embraced their passions and successfully applied them on behalf of others.
There is Michael, who raised more than $400,000 for an assisted pet therapy program. At 15, Virginia, started heARTS, a nonprofit that has brought arts and education programming to thousands of schools. Allyson developed a youth fundraising model that has become one of Malaria No More’s main youth engagement programs and has helped save hundreds of thousands of lives.
Despite being in high school, they achieved remarkable results because they took action. And there are many more stories to tell.
What is a leader?
Leadership is a term applied and misapplied throughout society. We all know amazing, effective leaders. These are people who make a difference and achieve great results, sometimes without an official title.
We also know people who call themselves leaders, but despite their position or power, are not taking or inspiring action. Rather, they block initiatives and complain about the actions of others. These “leaders” taint our perceptions and beliefs about leadership — creating cynicism and mistrust.
When speaking to students about leadership, I sum it up by explaining that if you are president of your class because it’s a resume builder for college, but you are not actually doing anything, that doesn’t make you a leader. In fact, it makes you a liar. But if you don’t hold a position and are still taking action, through service and/or entrepreneurship, those actions make you a leader and hone your leadership skills.
Action prepares you for a future of leadership, success and creating change. This same sentiment applies to the CEO, manager and worker on the line or in the office. Each one can become an effective leader.
Which type of leader are you?
Are challenges opportunities for action or excuses for inaction? Is failure a chance to re-evaluate and recommit or the moment you abandon a goal? Is success a time for celebration and recognition with your team before moving to a higher level of action and accomplishment or a pageantry of self-congratulation and resting on laurels?
Regardless of venue or project, to be a leader is to be committed to action. A true leader embraces both their responsibility and opportunities to lead, inspire and bring out the best in others. People enjoy following and working with leaders who are taking action. And it’s more fun too. ●
Learn more about HOBY at:
Javier LaFianza is president and CEO of Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership. HOBY’s mission is to inspire and develop the global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service and innovation. For more information, visit www.hoby.org.
Think back to the second or third grade when your teacher passed out that year’s sales catalog to the class. You’d open the catalog, flipping past the pages of candy bars and wrapping paper that needed to be sold for your school’s annual fundraiser, and head straight to the prizes page.
If you sold 15 candy bars, you’d get a package of glow-in-the-dark ceiling stars. Sell 50 and you’d get a pogo stick. It went on and on, eventually culminating in a grand prize that was usually something incredibly awesome — like an electronic keyboard. Every kid dreamed of the big prize! Since the only way to get it was to sell, sell, sell, it created a healthy sense of competition between you and your classmates to the point where everyone was excited to get started.
In many ways, that sales catalog mirrors an in-office rewards program. The department that goes above and beyond the expected quota of sales or assignments due is the one that receives an incentive. Some of these incentives are even offered before you begin — as a reminder of how your hard work will pay off.
Even though your shoes won’t light up as you walk through those office doors as they might have in the second grade, being rewarded for a job well done never goes out of style. If you don’t already have an employee-rewards program, or you’d like to re-evaluate what you’ve got going, here are three ways to get the ball rolling.
Include all the departments separately and as a whole
Some companies have a rewards program in place for their sales team, but why not bring in everyone? Every team can strive toward bigger and better things!
For each department, set up a series of pre-specified goals to hit and rewards that will be given upon reaching those goals. Establish a companywide goal in terms of overall monthly profits, or positive customer service reviews. For those, throw a pizza party for the whole staff to get everyone in on the fun!
Think small as well as big
Don’t forget to reward the little goals as well as the large. As a big goal can be rewarded with a bonus, or trip, a small goal can be rewarded with a Starbucks gift card or lottery tickets.
Small rewards can still be a lot of fun and they also help keep the work environment fun and lighthearted.
Encourage your team to work together
The one danger in an employee rewards program is that it can create a sense of “dog-eat-dog” competition between your employees, and you don’t want that. This isn’t a real life version of “The Hunger Games” — you still want everybody working as a team. So while the individual rewards are good, encourage a sense of communication and camaraderie between team members.
At weekly meetings have everyone go around, speak up and share tips so that everyone can be at the top of their game.
The point of a rewards program is not to pit your team against one another, but to create a stronger one. ●
Learn more about MyCorporation at:
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark and copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best.
David Hankin - Why it's essential that you honor the good - and the bad - as you move into the new yearWritten by David Hankin
The “opening bell” for 2014 has rung and the new beginning it represents demands a conversation between company leadership and individual contributors — a conversation to celebrate the achievements of 2013 and look forward to 2014.
At the Alfred Mann Foundation, we have found the all-hands meeting effective in not just delivering a consistent message, but in engaging various employees in leading this conversation.
Additionally, we engage employees unrehearsed in banter that is seemingly intended to fill in critical details, but has the additional benefit of establishing the employee as the “subject-matter” expert in front of the entire company, not just his or her own peer group.
The conversation enables leadership to highlight achievement in an uplifting way. No department gets left behind — every employee walks away from the meeting with a pat on the back and the perception that he or she contributed in 2013.
One tip that I’d like to note is presenters must avoid simply reading a “laundry list” of what took place. The interactivity suggested above is meant to turn the presentation into an actual discussion. Pictures and video vignettes that can be embedded into a presentation personalize the acknowledgement and can be a tremendous source of inspiration and fuel interactivity. It’s amazing what source material can be found on a smartphone or in past presentations.
Identify the gaps
The group session also presents opportunities to address concerns. The conversation enables leadership to highlight a problem that the organization had to wrestle with and demonstrate the systems, processes and organizational behavior utilized to solve the problem. We can honestly assess which of our processes worked and which fell short and need refinement.
For example, we faced a mechanical engineering problem with a medical device we were developing. The obvious fix was to make the device larger, but increasing the device size undermined our market objectives. The team went to work on the problem and within a few weeks, proposed several potential solutions. The team selected the best solution, planned the redesign and executed on the plan.
In our conversation, not only will the project leaders and individual contributors be acknowledged, the organizational behavior of systematically attacking the problem will also be highlighted.
While we all hope to achieve all our organizational goals, the fact is that every organization has room to improve. The mere planning for the conversation requires leadership to honestly assess the prior year and own the performance gaps.
This has two potential effects: First, leadership is well aware of the challenges ahead and can effectively communicate the gravity of these challenges during the conversation. Second, an initial exchange of ideas can begin that will help fill the gaps. Our goal is to generate infectious enthusiasm to address these gaps.
Keep it fresh
Instead of communicating organizational goals, we like to introduce a few new ideas or concepts to our employees. The ideas or concepts may be a course correction, a system change, a change in the org chart, a change in a benefit plan, etc.
This year, among the concepts that we are introducing is a proposed alternative workweek. This will generate considerable discussion among leadership and our individual contributors in spirited off-line conversations on real issues that affect all of our work lives.
Best wishes for a prosperous 2014! ●
David Hankin is the CEO of the Alfred Mann Foundation, a nonprofit medical device company that develops groundbreaking medical devices to address serious medical conditions. For more information, visit www.aemf.org.