Collaboration = Success

Collaboration = Success

What do you get when you channel multiple people’s skills together under one objective? Collaboration!

However your organization collaborates, and whether it does so effectively or not, collaboration is happening all the time. In fact, collaboration is so fundamental that sometimes you don’t even realize you’re doing it.

To give you a guiding definition, collaboration is when two or more people work together to a common goal. Collaborating leverages the skills, values and vantage points of multiple contributors. In the professional world, collaborations can take place within your organization or between your organization and another person or group.


What Are The Benefits Of Collaboration?

The benefits of collaboration are bigger than just adding together all the skills each collaborator brings. In fact, the different talents and experiences react together like Mentos in a bottle of Coke, swelling to produce powerful results that are only possible when these people come together.

In other words, collaboration amplifies creativity, resourcefulness and ingenuity.

Collaboration also shapes organizational culture, whether it’s a project including horizontal or vertical collaborators. Teammates see the value of their contributions, and the results prove the capacity of the larger team—and, by extension, the organization.

A quick snapshot of the benefits collaboration brings to your organization include:

  • Greater flexibility to meet needs
  • Greater efficiency
  • Improved team culture
  • More productive meetings
  • More creative ideas and execution
  • Happier teammates
  • More accessible leadership

The 6 Elements Of Successful Collaboration

Collaborating can yield great results, but only if done right. To get you on the right path, I outline the six fundamental elements of a successful collaboration below. Depending on the nature of your collaboration, you might have one team member who takes over one of these essential elements thanks to a natural talent in the same. Maybe each one of your collaborators will ultimately take one of these on. As long as these elements are each guided by one or more members of the group, your collaboration will reach its maximum success.

1: Shared Goals

Having a shared goal is why you’re collaborating in the first place. You and your team want to get to the same destination, and you’re energized to work together to get there faster and with more to show for it. Just be sure to articulate that shared goal early and often.

2: Standards And Expectations

It’s crucial not just to have standards and expectations, but to state them throughout your collaboration. For example, if a standard is set that specific, individual items have to be delivered on time to avoid putting the subsequent deliverables at risk, everyone should be aware of that expectation as well as the consequences of failure.

3: Trust

Trust is built by a team of collaborators knowing they can rely on each other. Without that reliability, you don’t have trust. Without trust, you don’t have a team. Relying on others to hold up “their end” of the bargain can be a challenge for some, and this is where the standards and expectations I just talked about are particularly helpful. Articulate expectations and empower the team to hold one another to them. The success of each collaboration depends on joint efforts and contributions.

Need help building accountability within and even outside collaborations? Read my recent article about it.

4: Active Communication

Effective communication is active communication and separates successful collaborations from ineffective ones. Collaborations start with clear instructions and work to keep channels open for active and productive communication over the course of work. This means promoting feedback and listening actively to each member of the team. Not only does this build camaraderie, it also provides the transparency a team needs to optimally meet responsibilities and expectations.

5: Conflict Management

It’s inevitable. When you get a bunch of people together, especially to work on something, there will be friction. People will disagree. Opinions will clash. Establish a system at the start of a collaboration to work through these disagreements, and talk to the team about it before the project even starts. Having proactive processes in place to get to the bottom of a disagreement and resolve it with clear next steps is the only way to avoid friction becoming team-destroying animosity.

6: The Right Leadership

A successful collaboration will have natural leaders. Maybe one team member will stand out as the conflict manager, easily equipped to break down disagreements and help steer the team to a collaborative decision. Maybe another team member will keep everyone adhering to their deadlines. Or maybe one person takes on all aspects of leadership in the collaboration, whether due to status or natural talents.

Whether you’re a project manager or a manager or owner who simply can’t outsource this kind of collaboration management, being tasked with guiding a team toward a shared target is not easy. It requires focus on all of the elements above, it requires organization skills, and it requires a fusion of technical and personal talents to help everyone in the collaboration get the most out of it they can.

These six fundamental elements to successful collaboration also represent the points you should cover with your team as soon as any collaboration begins. Use this article as your checklist to kick your collaboration off, ensuring each of these elements is understood.

These elements also need to be revisited time and time again. Discuss them when your collaboration is underway and discuss them when your collaboration has finished. They need to be continually revisited to keep everyone aligned. There’s much to be learned from collaboration post mortems, so don’t overlook getting into that valuable habit as well.


Who Should Collaborate?

Collaboration has become a bit of a corporate buzzword, but that doesn’t mean it’s lost its meaning. Some things, they say, are “cliché for a reason.” In the case of collaboration, this rings true. Organizations and ventures of all sizes can use collaboration to maximize their efforts and move faster and more ambitiously toward their respective visions.

When it comes to different industries, then, everyone collaborates. No one is excluded from the benefits collaboration can bring.

Collaborations can also happen on a horizontal or vertical scale at your organization. This will depend on the project at hand as well as the size and structure of your team. These six essential elements of successful collaborations are the same whether or not one of the contributors is technically the “boss.” In fact, company culture tends to benefit even more from active communication taking place across vertical collaborations.

Interestingly, even “lone-wolf” operations can benefit from collaboration with other people or organizations outside their own, too. Inter-organizational collaborations, in fact, have taken some interesting shapes in recent years.

Influencer marketing, for example, is a kind of inter-organizational collaboration. The influencer industry represented around $8 Billion in marketing dollars spent last year alone. This is more of a “purchased collaboration,” but helps paint a picture of how much organizations stand to gain from getting help from outside entities.

For example, inter-organizational collaborations of a more organic sort can result in greater reach for each of the collaborating parties. They can also mean better product or service offerings for both, as well as more expansive reach and dynamic growth. The key? Find individuals or organizations that share and can get equally excited about your goals, and see how you can each contribute something to elevate one another’s organization and the mission you share.


Where To Go For Inter-organizational Collaborations

Let’s get the wheels turning. When looking for inter-organizational collaborations, start by revisiting your organization’s mission. Who else supports that mission, but in a different way? Think about:

  • High-profile members of the community
  • Other organizations with different but related offerings
  • Similar organizations to yours in other markets


Once you have a shortlist of possibilities, start some conversations. Your collaboration could begin with putting two heads together over a call to decide how an inter-organizational collaboration could mutually benefit both parties.

What collaborations have you been part of recently that have been a massive success or a total bust? Start the conversation with me today!

7 Reasons Why You Can’t Outsource Management

7 Reasons Why You Can’t Outsource Management

I’ll be clear: you cannot outsource management. If you’re the owner, the CEO or the founder of your business, your active management and leadership of your team are absolutely integral to success.

It’s incredibly beneficial to outsource certain aspects of your business, especially with the growing global market of independent contractors available to outsource to. It’s estimated that 300,000 positions were outsourced last year alone. Everything from social media to bookkeeping can be taken care of virtually and even on-demand, whether through an agency, a local freelancer or a virtual assistant halfway around the world.

Perhaps you wish you could also outsource management to save much-needed time and energy spent mentoring and coaching your team members, as well as organizing and coordinating work within your organization. But alas, developing team members as professionals, delegating work and holding folks accountable truly must be done by you.

Yes, active management is an essential role of a leader. In fact, providing leadership and team management is one of the three primary functions of a CEO. (In case you’re wondering, the other two are business vision and financial strategy/oversight—email me personally for more information and tips on these.)

Most leaders have crossed the threshold of doubt (or desperation) at least once as a result of their management responsibilities. Appreciating why you can’t outsource management could be just what you need to get in touch with why you’re doing this in the first place. You want your team to be successful. You want your organization to grow. Your goals, therefore, are reflected in these seven reasons why you absolutely have to be the one managing your team.

7 Reasons Why You’re The Best Person For The Job

1: You’re the face of your company culture

Just like your customer service reps are the “face of your organization” for clients, you’re the face of your internal company culture. Therefore, you are the most effective person to lead and motivate team members and to advance employee engagement. If you do have leadership roles below yours, you will only develop a high-performing leadership team if you work with them directly.

To positively impact employee satisfaction and company culture, you have to head your company culture. This means walking the talk and ensuring others do so as well.

2: Your expectations have to be constantly re-articulated

We only retain 10% of what we see and 30-40% of what we see and hear. With this in mind, don’t be surprised if your expectations and values—clear though they are in your mind—don’t “stick” right away with your team.

Expectations and values have to be clearly articulated, then re-articulated, then re-articulated again before they settle in across your team. No one knows your expectations better than you, and so your presence ensures the repetition of key values and standards for coordination within and amongst teams. Under your management, the right conversations take place, clear requests and committed promises are made, and the right actions are taken to carry your organization toward the expectations and end-goals you set.

3: You oversee quality control

You can only oversee quality control of the delivery of your services (and ensure client satisfaction) if you’re around to see it. Clear communication of your expectations is the first part of this, and creating specific KPIs is the second part.

4: You’re most aware of (and can steer your team toward) goals

If communicating your values and standards proverbially revs the team engine and sets the speed, your leadership and management are what then steer everyone around obstacles. If prioritization, focus or organization are lacking in your organization, if goals aren’t met or accountability is non-existent, your management offers support and your leadership directs team members to solutions through mentorship and coaching.

5: You can effectively reward high-performance

Whether it’s a team effort that hit last month’s KPIs out of the park, or specific high-performing individuals you want to recognize, the sincerest rewards are delivered by you. No one cares more about the success of your organization, and no one can hold a high-performer up like the company’s owner or founder.

6: Working on your leadership skills avoids you getting stuck

To revisit the E-Myth (the entrepreneurial myth that all people who start businesses are natural-born entrepreneurs), especially for those who are promoted into leadership or who have recently gone into business for themselves, it’s common to get stuck in patterns of operating like a technician.

Not only does this pattern have to be broken for your sake, but if you’ve wondered why your organization or team members have stalled out, it might require looking inward first. Your leadership is what can set new practices and routines in place to drive focus where it needs to be.

7: You also have to develop the rest of your skills

Not only is your leadership the keystone to your organization’s success, it’s the linchpin for your own personal change and growth. You’re constantly developing yourself. By managing your organization, you’ll gain the skills and make intentional moves to build yourself up in tandem with your business.

If You’re Still Convinced You Need Help

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. You’re so busy and have so many responsibilities that the idea of outsourcing management still sounds attractive, illusory though the idea might be.

Maybe you still feel like you need help. Something’s got to give. You have the option to hire a general manager or supervisor, though two things have to be clear before you do:

  1. First, you need the processes in place (and on paper) to give a supervisor the necessary tools to succeed. However overwhelmed you might feel, without a large portion of the exclusive knowledge in your head getting transposed to paper in repeatable processes, a supervisor or general manager will be left spinning their wheels and you won’t get the help you need. Get started with Kleriti’s self-guided online course DuplicateU to streamline writing these processes.
  2. Next, you have to be sure to understand what a supervisor does and doesn’t do. A supervisor helps with deliverables and accountability. A supervisor keeps everyone on track. There are some responsibilities that will always be yours and yours only, however.

  • Supervisors can provide input, but don’t exercise hiring or firing—that’s your responsibility
  • Supervisors make recommendations, but do not directly set KPIs for their direct reports
  • Supervisors will not make critical decisions about how resources are spent
  • Supervisors are not responsible for aligning big-picture thinking with organizational goals


Whatever you choose to do, whichever route you feel is best for your organization, take action now. Look at this list of seven reasons you can’t outsource management and identify what you do best. Where are your natural strengths?

Next, do something about the weaker points. Where are your weaknesses? The longer you wait, the more you and your organization will suffer. Management is hard, and leadership is harder. That’s why I work with clients like you to develop these skills. This list gives you a handy place to start, and when you’re ready to focus your energy in 2020 to grow as a leader, and realize the tremendous impacts of doing just that, contact me to chat.

It all starts with an honest dialogue. What do you think you do best? What’s hardest for you? Tell me. I’m listening.

Are You Part Of The Accountability Epidemic?

Are You Part Of The Accountability Epidemic?

Picture a world where business goals are murky and employees have little-to-no clarity on the key results they’re accountable for. The confusion results in delays and under-performance. Dissatisfaction runs rampant and stagnation persists.

This is the world many organizations operate in – the “accountability epidemic.”

I hope you’re not envisioning your organization, but there’s a good chance you are. The numbers are stacked against you. Research by Vitalsmarts—recently discussed by the Harvard Business Review—found that only 15% of organizations feel that “results are clearly defined in a way employees at all levels can engage.” Employees have a hard time addressing accountability issues with their colleagues when they come up, too. The same Vitalsmarts research found that 69% of avoided confrontations have to do with accountability.

November was a time for gratitude. The practices I wrote about in my last article are ones that, if made routine, will encourage a rewarding company culture. The next step, now that we’re staring down 2020, is to think about the measurable results you want to see in the new year. December is the perfect time to evaluate progress, specifically where you met or fell short of goals.

Evaluating The Impact Of Accountability

Evaluating your progress means identifying and articulating the factor(s) feeding into each success and shortcoming.

Looking at another Vitalsmarts study, 93% of business owners and employees surveyed said they have at least one coworker who “doesn’t do his or her fair share,” and one out of four reported putting in 4-6 hours of additional work a week to make up for those coworkers.

Can you imagine any number of your employees putting in extra hours due to lack of accountability elsewhere? Accountability is one of the biggest reasons a team (or an individual teammate) doesn’t follow through on what they say they’ll do. Shoring up for the coming year on accountability and getting at the root of why a goal wasn’t met will help you build team buy-in and engagement.

Want to know “how?”

That’s what I’m here for. Let’s begin.

What Is The Accountability Gap?

Business owners and organizational leaders know that you can’t micromanage your way to accountability. Instead, the idea of the “accountability gap” gets into the very real need for team alignment with your company’s vision, mission and core values. When team members care about a vision and see themselves as part of it, accountability is the natural response.

Leadership is so much more than managing, and you know that. Though, while the idea of creating accountability through organizational alignment sounds great, actually doing it is another thing.

I’ve worked with many clients on this very challenge, and the system I’m about to explain is one that has made a real difference for them. I know you’ll find it valuable, too. It’s an outline to create accountability through real employee buy-in, thereby setting you up for success on individual, team and organizational levels.

Accountability starts with you. To model the behaviors you want to see on all levels, you have to walk the talk—and your team has to see it. By following the “three Cs” I outline below, your team will see it, feel it, and be better equipped to follow it.

1 – Care

At its core, accountability comes down to what you (and the team) care about. This drills right down to that engagement I spoke to above. Whether overtly or subconsciously, if your team doesn’t see the deeper value of something assigned to them (as it relates to something they care about), it gets put off.

What do you care about?

It seems like a simple question, yet it’s hardly ever asked. Ask yourself that question, engage with it and use these last few weeks of 2019 to integrate it into your day-to-day. What you care about is ultimately what brings you meaning, value and satisfaction.

What you care about also shapes the energy you bring to work every day. And it’s no different for the members of your team. So open conversations with them about what they care about. And really listen.

When a team shares a purpose (their care), this serves as the “North Star” that will guide conversations, actions and ultimately accountability. I spoke about this in greater detail in a recent article for new managers.

2 – Commitment

Commitments are the promises you make to yourself and to others. They’re most powerful when connected to what you care about, because accountability is built around commitments that you and your team mutually trust.

Trust and commitment go hand-in-hand when building accountability. Your team needs to feel confident that you’ll fulfill what you say you will—and herein lies your biggest opportunity to model the behavior you want your team to repeat. Trust also feeds into transparency; where something changes and you can’t fulfill a commitment, you open a conversation about why and how to recover.

All actions are shaped by commitment. Without commitment, tasks and to-dos are either set aside or not done with full engagement.

The probability of meeting a goal when a teammate first hears an idea barely reaches 10%. When that teammate decides he or she will do it (making an internal, mental affirmation), that probability comes up to 40%. Once that teammate starts planning how he or she will do it, the probability of completion creeps up to 50%. And when a teammate commits to someone else that he or she will do it, probability comes up to 65%—a far throw from the original 10%.

When someone has a specific accountability appointment with a person he or she has committed to, the probability that the goal will be met increases to 95%. So how do you get to that 95%? The “care” factor I discuss above is what inspires this commitment, and the capacity (discussed below) is what assures it.

3 – Capacity

Without the capacity to fulfill commitments for the sake of what you care about, accountability withers and dies. Capacity in time and space must be available to actually get the work done.

Capacity and commitment are intertwined, because you can’t make a commitment without knowing if you have the capacity to fulfill. Part of that capacity is setting boundaries and sticking to them.

You are only human. There’s only so much you can take on. Saying “yes” to everything is a quick path to feeling completely overwhelmed.

Again, this comes back to modeling the behavior you want your team to repeat. Be honest with yourself and with others. Start by assessing what level of demand is coming across your desk compared with your realistic capacity.

This takes practice and courage, especially to speak up and exercise anything other than a “yes.” As a leader, this skill is crucial, because it’s also your responsibility to make promises on behalf of your team. Model the behavior you need from your team so you can keep a real pulse on their capacity, or else the promises you make on their behalf will quickly fall out of alignment.

Stepping back for a look at the bigger picture, “organizational capacity” is your business’s ability to manage resources to gain advantage over the competition in tandem with its ability to meet customer demand. By studying your own business’s capacity along with your own and your team’s, you will be able to make realistic commitments and achieve what you care most about.

Addressing accountability within this ecosystem of the “three Cs” is game changing. I’ve worked with many organizations to implement these principles, and at the precipice of 2020, your business could be next. Reach out today to get into position for a stellar 2020.

The Shift From Performer To Manager

The Shift From Performer To Manager

A promotion is exciting—and stressful. According to a recent study by DDI (an HR consultancy firm), 60% of managers felt that their initial promotion to management was the second most stressful time in their lives (second to divorce, for those who had experienced that, too).

The shift to a management role means the shift to a role as a formal leader. Sometimes this transition happens with promotions, and sometimes it happens with the natural progression of the “technician-turned-business-owner” where you go into business for yourself and are suddenly running the show.

How can you make this transition successfully and smoothly? I’ll give you a hint: what got you here isn’t going to get you there—that is, firmly planted as a respected and effective manager.

I’ve coached many people in this position. It’s a demanding time, and as stressful as it can be, there’s also an innate excitement to embrace the challenge, expand your skillset and have an even bigger impact. Let’s examine the three must-have skills to make this transition as rewarding as possible, for you and everyone you’re leading.

When Does This Transition Happen?

I’ve seen it so many times. The high-performer, go-to and trusted worker gets promoted and finds him or herself leading a team. Oftentimes, people in this position have no formal management training, and even more often they have no formal leadership training. They struggle to adapt to their new role and continually get pulled back into doing the work themselves.

This is one way it happens.

In other cases, someone in a technical, do-the-work role has performed outstandingly, and then has the opportunity to “go it solo.” Sometimes these people have grown out of the business they were formerly employed at. Almost always, these people are hungry to create and expand their own organization. And then, these folks find themselves in the position of leading a team and growing a company.

Whichever is the case for you, the transition from performer to manager requires a different conversational skillset. And yes, it comes down to conversation—because now you’re coordinating the work instead of doing it. Here are the essential communication steps you need to take now:

Step 1: Clearly Establish The Foundation:

  •  What the team cares about

Teams exist to make promises and deliver on those promises. These promises must be grounded in a common purpose/vision that the team lives day in and day out in order to organize and operate effectively together. This shared care is like your “North Star” – it guides the decisions you make as a team, the work you engage in and how you measure success.

  •  What shared language the team needs

Before you start throwing words around, it’s vital to establish what language you’ll be using as a group, and what that language means. “Customer satisfaction,” “revenue” and “team” are all examples of terms that need to be clearly defined to ensure everyone is working with the same understanding of their meaning. Without this shared understanding, team members could think they’re on the same page as you when, in fact, they’re not.

  •  What standards the team holds

Standards left assumed or unspoken are unfair and unrealistic. Communication breaks down if you don’t establish standards clearly from day one and then continue reiterating them. These standards include how the team coordinates work together, as well as how it interacts with internal and external customers. These standards also provide a shared understanding for how performance and outcomes will be assessed. Everyone needs to be clear of the rules of the game they’re playing, and when something is unclear, take the opportunity to open a conversation to bring clarity.

Being responsible and accountable for managing your team’s capacity and outcomes (not to mention the satisfaction of clients affected by the results) starts with establishing these three pillars of effective communication. Read more about each in this article on shaping the future of your business.

Step 2: Coach People Effectively

Coaching your team means helping them find the answers, not giving them the answers. Often, new managers fall into the story that it will take less time to simply provide an answer than to coach a team member through the process of arriving at their own answer. This approach stifles the team in a number of ways:

  1. It inhibits the growth and development of the team member, since he or she is not being challenged and supported to solve problems.
  2. It keeps the manager in the cycle of doing the work, which leads to capacity issues.
  3. It assumes that the manager has the best answer, which in many cases is not true. Stifling creativity and different ways of thinking short-circuits the team and the organization.

The metaphor goes that, if someone comes to you with a monkey on their back, they have to leave with the monkey (not leave it with you). That monkey might be a problem to solve, a deliverable that needs to get done, or even a simple question. Your team will not grow if you let them dump things on you. (And it won’t be good for you, either.) Instead, help them think through what options there are, evaluate those options and determine a course of action.

coaching employees

Helping your team find the answers and forge a path forward isn’t inherently about tough love, either. Rather, it’s an empowering force. When your team members are challenged, they ultimately feel more useful. This and other tips on things NOT to do to team members were written about recently on Inc.com.

You’ve heard about helicopter parents who hover so close to their children and remove all obstacles in their path that the children miss developmental opportunities. Delegating appropriately is another “must” to make sure the same doesn’t happen to people you manage.

Step 3: Make And Fulfill Promises

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to make promises on behalf of your team that they can fulfill to the standards the team has set. Doing so requires some key elements:

  • Manage the team’s capacity

Now that you’re responsible for more than just your performance, you must stay in-tune with what the team can take on. Being in a default mode of saying “yes” to everything that is asked of you and the team is a quick road to dissatisfaction and burnout. It can also lead to the disappointment of customers and others when the promise is not fulfilled. Rather than jumping to “yes,” open a conversation with your team as a whole, or specific team members, about what’s possible—and then respond. That shared care comes into play here as well. Staying in alignment with that purpose will ensure you’re supporting your team in pursuing the activities that matter most.

  • Hold yourself and team members accountable for the promises you (and they) make

When you make a promise, fulfill it, and expect the same of your team. Following through on promises made is the best way to build trust. I encourage teams to establish weekly action meetings where specific work/deliverables are committed to, and the following week must be reported out as done or not done. If there’s a recurring “not done” report by a specific team member or with regard to a specific task or project, it’s time to dig in and see what’s going on.

  • Coordinate when there are breakdowns

Breakdowns are a regular occurrence in organizational life, and life in general. When the situation shifts, new information becomes available or any other change leads to a disruption in the normal course of action, call it out. Bring the breakdown/issue/red flag to light, and encourage your team to do the same. Doing so opens the conversation for how to respond/recover.

Congratulations for your promotion or for your leap into self-employment. I hope your own priorities, standards and outcomes are aligned a little clearer after reading this article. If you do have more questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email directly. I love supporting managers and teams in establishing these routines to have maximum impact and maximum satisfaction.

Three Business “Do Or Dies”

Three Business “Do Or Dies”

The barrier to entry to start a business in this country is extremely low. Have an idea? Think you can do something better or different than others who are doing it? Than start a business! File some simple documents online, and you’re official.

But that doesn’t mean that you can run a successful business.

When it comes to running a business, there are three core functions that you absolutely must have. These apply across every business model and industry without exception. These are mission-critical, and without all three, failure is inevitable.

I talk about these functions seriously because they are that essential. You can develop these functions internally or you can outsource them, but you must have them covered one way or another.

So, without further ado, these three necessary skills for anyone running a business are:

  1. Generate and convert leads.
  2. Read and interpret financials.
  3. Create and put processes in place.

These are each make-or-break, and it’s not just your business that’s at stake—it’s your life. Keep reading and I’ll show you not only why, but also how, to effectively master all three.

1: Generate And Convert Leads

Your business will fail if you don’t have leads coming in. Right? At least, that’s what all the digital marketing companies are telling you. And it’s the truth, but not the whole truth.

Lead lists and how important it is to convertYou do have to be growing your lead list, that’s for sure. I’ll take it a step further, though, and say that your conversion rate on those leads is even more important. If you need nine new clients a month and are only generating a dozen leads, but converting nine of them, you’re right on track.

Your conversion rate will depend on a multitude of factors, and business-to-business those factors will vary a lot. Identifying the right KPIs will help give you direction on where your numbers should be.

Maybe you’ve already identified those KPIs. Maybe you already know where your numbers are, and you’re painfully aware that you desperately need more leads—and a much higher conversion rate. To get to the heart of this, I’ve outlined the steps to get going in the right direction. This is something you have to work on immediately, because without generating and converting the right number of leads, it’s just a matter of time until your business is toast.

Step 1 – Identify Where Your Ideal Clients “Live”

You’ve probably heard and read about this many, many times. Your ideal client, or avatar, is the profile of the client you best serve.

As much as you might know about your avatar (their gender and age, where they are located geographically, what they do for work), do you know where they hang out? Do you know what percent of that audience uses one social network versus another? Can you name a book that multiple people in your audience have read? Do you know what their favorite websites are? What magazines they read? Where they go for fun? What they really care about deep down?

You can get these answers through interviews of your ideal client. This will help you know where to go and what to talk about to attract and convert more leads.

Step 2 – Make A Valuable Offer

We’ve gone over how you’ll have a much easier time reaching your ideal client when you know where they “live.” You’ll also have a better understanding about what makes them happy, sad, scared, relieved—and make an offer to them that’s valuable and alleviates their concerns, helps them realize their dreams, etc. In essence, that takes care of what they care about. Anything that can bring real value to your avatar (while speaking to the “need” and emotional backdrop you know is there) will help position your offer as the solution.

Step 3 – Follow Up

Let’s say you’ve done all the work up to here. To tap the well and convert even more leads, you need a system in place to easily (and, ideally, automatically) follow-up.

Sometimes called “touch programs,” “top-of-mind awareness” and “drip campaigns,” this refers to the marketing and messaging you push out to warm leads who already contacted you but didn’t bite. This is the segment of your target audience that knows who you are and knows you provide a solution they need. Generally, two thirds of this segment learned about you before they were ready to buy, and following up is your ticket to staying in the picture until they are ready to make their decision. Without following up, it’s dangerously unlikely that decision will be made in your favor.

Building a system for following up also generates content that’s often sharable and repeatable, and helps bring new leads in—and thus the cycle continues.

Take these steps seriously, and remember that even a mammoth lead list won’t do anything unless you both generate and convert leads consistently.

2: Read And Interpret Financials

Your financial statements are commonly referred to as “the scorecards for business performance.” I love talking about the KPI scorecards I help Kleriti clients build, and financials are always a big part of those. This acumen is so essential to your business that, if you aren’t on solid footing in reading and interpreting financials, you truly need to solve that now.

Financials and how to read financial reports

The Balance Sheet

The balance sheet gives you a “snapshot in time” of:

  • Assets
  • Liabilities
  • Shareholder equity
  • Net worth

This sheet is the quick overview of the health of your business. It’s also used to calculate things like your business’s capital structure and rate of return.

The Income Statement

The income statement, also called the profit and loss statement (or P&L), reports the money in, out and owed over a specific time period (rather than the balance sheet, which is a snapshot at a specific point in time). The focus of the income statement includes the net balances of money in and out.

Cash Flow Statement

We all know what cash flow is, and the cash flow statement is an equally essential concept to understand. This reports the operating cash flow as well as the financing cash flow, and—if you have investors—also includes the investing cash flow. Knowing what cash you have on hand, where it’s coming from and at what cost, is essential for assessing any business’s liquidity.

After you know what these financial statements are (and how to read them), knowing how to use that information is the next crucial hurdle. The good news is that this essential, do-or-die task is one of the most practical to outsource. Or, who knows, maybe it’s time to upgrade to a CFO?

3: Create And Put Processes In Place

Processes know how to put process in placeYou know how your business works. In fact, you know it better than anyone. That knowledge transfer is fundamental when you bring more people onto your team—and having documented processes in place is how you transfer your knowledge (and your expectations) successfully.

Processes act to streamline and communicate recurring tasks, as well as to support improving them. So, how do you know what needs to be turned into a process? And how do you craft that process, document it and teach it to others? My new self-paced, online course DuplicateU teaches you how to do just that. And in the meantime, here are some basics to get started.

Step 1 – Determine Recurring Activities

Every business is comprised of predictable, recurring business activities. Since time is money, engaging in recurring tasks depletes your bottom line. The more you can automate, the more time and space you can free up to attend to more creative endeavors.

Step 2 – Document Everything

I can’t tell you how many owners say to me, “Don’t worry. It’s all right here,” as they point to their head. To which I respond, “That is precisely the problem!”

You see, our brains are not meant to keep track of mundane information. They’re meant for higher level functioning and problem solving. Yet, when we fill them with all these details, there’s no room for anything else. Do you ever feel like your brain is sometimes foggy? Or like it’s really hard to concentrate on one thing? This is why! Not to mention that brains are fallible.

Operating this way is not just risky…it’s reckless. Put everything on paper. This makes it shareable and teachable with others in an efficient, effective way. And it frees up your brain for more fun stuff!

Step 3 – Design Tools for Support

Every process has a set of elements (like templates, scripts and checklists) that support it. These are necessary to execute the process seamlessly and consistently every time. And these all need to be on paper so that anyone can follow/use them. The right tools allow you to automate the process, making each repeatable task easier to execute consistently every time.

Mission-Critical Means Immediate Action Needed

This article was a to-the-point description of the three do-or-die functions for business owners. As you can imagine, each of these is so important that I could devote not just a whole blog, but an entire course to it—like I did with DuplicateU, the course I designed to empower business owners to put the processes in place they need so their businesses can run without them.

There’s a lot of information out there on each of these concepts, and even some excellent tools to help you. For example, read what Lucid Chart has to say about process documentation, and you’ll see how their “idea board” SaaS is especially well-designed to help.

Whatever you do, don’t look at the end of this article as the end of the lesson. These three business tasks are non-discretionary for your business and for your own well-being. You need to generate and convert leads, you need to know how to read and take action on your financials and you need to have defined, documented processes in place—or your business will fail. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Start today, and check out DuplicateU. You’ll be happy you did.

How To Create And Use KPIs For Real Results

How To Create And Use KPIs For Real Results

Analytics today. How much data do we have available just a click away? It’s unreal.

Most of the data we can access today about our business, our clients and the market in general is downright fascinating. But the excitement of all that information quickly deflates when you find yourself neck-deep in data without any idea how to use it.

Not all data is created equal. You can end up with a ton of information that doesn’t inform you on your daily business functions and which quite frankly isn’t that useful.

Gain relevant and actionable insights by developing and using the right KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Easier said than done, right? It’s true that this will require some development. Well-crafted KPIs are worth it, though, when you see them clearly outline your business’s road map to success.

First, I’d like to back up to one essential KPI “pre-step.” The following section is a must read before starting strategic KPI work, because ultimately your KPIs will be based off of this basic ingredient.


Start With The Right Goals

the best kpis start with the right goalsYour KPIs, in essence, are the metrics to check your progress against your goals. So setting the right goals for your business is essential to later craft the KPIs that measure their status.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you just rebuilt your website. It seems obvious that increased traffic would be a goal, right? That means increased visibility, maybe even improved SEO or a better user experience bringing more people to each page. But is website traffic necessarily the right goal to know if your website is performing well?

Websites aren’t (or shouldn’t be) built solely to “get more traffic.” If the business’s goal is to get more business, then a more appropriate goal for the website would be to get more online conversions. Higher website traffic comes with more conversions sometimes (for sheer volume), but definitely not always. By looking at conversions instead, you’re encompassing all the other factors that ultimately lead you to your goal.

Specific website conversion goals might include when users:

  • Register for an event
  • Submit a question
  • Make a payment
  • Fill in a form or opt in to something

Did you catch it? These goals all have a direct and measurable effect on our number-one business goal: growth. And by making it measurable, you naturally identify the KPIs that are worth watching to get where you want to go.

For some businesses, KPIs around things like employee performance feel harder to quantify—at first. Let’s work with another example. Is it the number of calls your front-desk employees are making that you want to monitor and improve? Or the number of appointments set with potential clients? By identifying the right goal, your KPIs will be easier to pick out.

How about business strategy KPIs? Client retention KPIs? See more examples and tips on choosing your KPIs in this well-done Hubspot article. Right here and now, I’ve got some more ground to cover to make your KPIs usable and effective.


Lagging Vs. Leading Indicators

It’s important for me to take a moment and talk about lagging vs. leading indicators. This is one important and fundamental way that performance management is broken down in business, and it’s also something I talk about with Kleriti clients and in my new self-guided online course, DuplicateU.

  • Lagging indicators are usually “output” oriented, meaning they measure something you’re looking at in hindsight. Think about financial performance, profit and cost metrics. These indicators are very easy to measure, while being more challenging to influence.
  • Leading indicators are the “input” factors in your business’s performance, meaning they measure something that’s in your control now. Leading indicators are measurable in the context of today or the immediate future, making them harder to measure but easier to control.

Want another example? Imagine a business that has some form of tech user support, like a SaaS start-up. They might have internal policies stating how to resolve client issues. Let’s say they even sold their clients on a commitment that they resolve all help-desk issues within 48 hours.

The output or “lagging indicator” is easy to measure—how many tickets are closed within a 48-hour window?

And how do you influence that lagging indicator? If tickets aren’t getting closed out, what KPIs are in your control? Maybe you see that incidents not touched within two hours are those that don’t get closed within 48. Your “leading indicator” could be the percent of incidents not worked at least once in a two-hour window.

what are lagging versus leading indicators in business kpis

For more examples, you can check out this accounting-specific article on leading and lagging KPIs.


Crafting Your KPIs In A Usable Way

So you have your goals and you have your KPIs. You even know how lagging and leading indicators work.

How do you ensure your KPIs are not only insightful, but also actionable?

An actionable KPI is an effective KPI, because the whole point of these metrics is to make smarter business decisions.

To spur action, your KPIs are effective and useful once you set targets for them. And describing the desired performance of these metrics is how your data will be interpreted later. This step defines good performance and bad performance along with thresholds for upper and lower limits.

And here we are at another “how:” how do you measure against those targets?


Establishing KPI Scorecards

how to establish kpi scorecards to track kpiOnce you have all these numbers clearly defined, the final steps are to set them up in a highly usable scorecard and establish a cadence for scorecard review.

The scorecard should include:

  • The KPI
  • The target
  • Who in the organization (team or individual) is responsible for driving it
  • How the metric is collected/measured (to ensure consistency)

Then establish a process where the scorecard is reviewed regularly (I recommend weekly) with a red light/green light report out so that corrective action can be taken as soon as possible to get metrics that have gone off track back on track.

For example, I work with the leadership teams of Kleriti clients to elect a set of 6-12 numbers that on their own give an absolute pulse on the business. These KPIs are formalized into a scorecard, data is collected and reviewed weekly by the leadership team and red light items are discussed with specific action items assigned to individuals to get them back in the green.


Ensure KPIs Are Understood And Used Across Your Organization

It’s essential that everyone on your team be aware of what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re measuring progress. KPIs form part of your business strategy decision-making across the board, and everyone should be clear on how their contributions affect major KPIs.

Communicating KPIs keeps your team on their toes and it also provides an opportunity to applaud success. People react to numbers, and meeting goals is something that can be shared and promoted company-wide when KPIs are hit out of the park.

Data and metrics are everywhere. For your business, only KPIs that are well designed and actionable will be effective in tracking progress to reaching your goals.

I spend a lot of time with Kleriti clients helping them define goals, identify KPIs and create the scorecards to assign responsibility and streamline the collection of usable data. If you have questions or want to know more about any part of this article, don’t hesitate to send me an email directly.