Monthly Archives: September 2010

Recession? What Recession?- Are you still making excuses?

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Brad Sugars speak here in Edmonton.

Now, I am a ML of a company founded by Brad…so obviously I have a bias.

But the the room was full of people who don’t work for Brad, even indirectly, & there was a standing ovation at the end.


Brad is that rare creature: successful but modest. He understands how tough it is to run a business–he’s been there.

So he spares us all the jargon, the rah-rah, the Anthony Robbins stuff that turns so many of us off.

He got right to the point: “recession” or not, good companies thrive. How do they do this?

“They grab all the customers who have been abandoned by companies that don’t adapt or change.”

This should be obvious, but it’s not. People get scared by the news, decide to cut back on risk. They stop doing the things that made them appealing to customers in the first place.

Example? Sure. Westjet now controls roughly 30% of the Canadian market. That’s an astounding number for a company founded in 1996.

How did they do this?

By being better. (And they got lucky, too. Their main competition in Canada long ago stopped bothering to pretend they cared about customers.)

Porter Air is doing the same thing in Ontario WJ did in the west–building a customer base one by one. It’s working. It was founded in 2006 & now is a serious player in the eastern market.

Both Porter & WJ had to deal with the ‘recession’ the way the rest of us did. But they emerged just fine–stronger, even.

Brad finished by saying something with which I couldn’t agree more:

“Our thoughts inform our actions— and business owners need to make a decision that for them these are not tough times.”

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Could You Be The Michael Scott At Work?

Did anybody else see this great piece in the Financial Post?

You aren't him...are you?


When the US version of the Office was launched, I remember someone telling me about seeing Steve Carell, who plays Michael Scott, being interviewed on NBC. He said something like this:

“Yeah, for sure, there’s a Michael Scott in every office. And if there isn’t one in yours….it might be YOU.”

Being a good boss is tough, no question. It requires so many talents. And a busy person can be forgiven for not being the perfect manager at all times. But there’s no question good boss=better employees=more productivity.

We all know this. It is a real pleasure to work for someone who values what you do, & when they don’t, tell you so PRIVATELY. You’ll work all day for that person. On the other hand, & we’ve all been there, nothing is worse than going to work where the boss makes you feel about 2 mm tall, no matter how hard or well you work. You always do the bare minimum for this person–sometimes even less than that, when he’s not watching. Why companies keep these managers is a mystery I’ll never fathom, because it costs them, big time. (Ever notice you can always tell instantly which places are well run & which are not? Why? Eye contact. At well run places of business, people will smile or nod. At badly run places….everyone will pretend you are not there.)

The article is good, but let me add a few insights from my 15+ years of running  successful businesses:

1) Good managers get out of the way. There’s no point in hiring good people & then fussing over them like newborn hens. Give them the tools they need & then stay out of the way.

2) As mentioned above, all correction is done PRIVATELY. You want plummeting morale? Point out an employee’s shortcomings in front of witnesses. (Praise in public- correct in private)

3) If possible, always ask, never tell. There is a world of difference. A friend of mine once said: “Ask me nicely to clean the bathroom, & I’ll make it shine. Tell me to do it….& we have a problem.”

4) If there’s deadwood on the team, get rid of it. This does not have to be done nastily or rudely, but a team with one bad apple & 9 good ones eventually becomes 10 very bad apples.

5) Your door is always open. That doesn’t mean the rules will change: but everything should be up for discussion.

6) Finally, if nothing else, be a listener. Employees don’t expect perfection. They DO expect to be taken seriously.

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Filed under Alberta, Business, Business and Economy, Canada, Cold calling, Globe and Mail, Private sector, Public sector, Recession

Good Customers/Bad Customers

Superb piece in an issue of Entrepreneur that every business owner (small or medium or large) needs to read:

I couldn’t agree more with this piece; it’s well argued. I would like to elaborate on one of her points:

“The best way to avoid bad customers is to avoid bringing them aboard altogether.”


But so much easier said than done.

As she writes herself, when you’re starting out….you want everyone! It’s part of the challenge.

Sadly, this does not work out quite the way we’d like.

Every business owner has horror stories. I have one client I still can’t get out of my mind, even years later: he used every excuse to pay late. He would forget to sign the check. Or forget to date it. Or put the wrong amount. Or forget to put a stamp on the envelope. Or send it to the wrong address.

You get the picture.

I should have let him go; but my business was new; I wanted to prove I could make it work.

Of course, I was wrong & he cost me untold hours of time, & money I would rather not think about.

So before you take on a new customer, state out EXPLICITLY what the requirements are. Talk about every aspect; don’t assume they know how you operate. Make sure you have clear contracts that leave no room for ambiguity.

Above all: if your gut is screaming “No,” then walk away. It might hurt at the moment, but it will save you thousands (I am not joking) in the long run.

Praise in public and correct in private. It’s the right thing to do.

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When Is Enough Enough?

Everybody has different kinds of measurements–what matters to them.

Some people don’t care how long they work, or where, or for whom, as long as they have 6 weeks in the summer to go fishing.

Some people want a 5 day work week. As long as they get that, they don’t care.

There are others who don’t even care about money–as long as they love their job, they don’t really care what it pays.

But if you’re in business for yourself, & a good chunk of my readers are, how do you measure success? How do you know that you’re doing well? Or better than last year?

Douglas Hubbard & David Parmenter have written some great books on this very subject. They raise such good questions as: “How many leads turn into a sale?” “How many customers have to spend money with you?” “How often do they have to spend it with you?”

Obviously, every business needs to think about these things. This is what I tell my clients: establish 5 key performance indicators–the 5 things that matter most to you. Every year end, you could establish 5 numbers:

1) Did my business turn a profit this year?
2) How many a hours a week did I work?
3) How long does it take for leads to turn into sales?
4) What do I make from each sale?
5) Did I make more than last year?

If you’re not happy with the answers to those questions….it may be time to look into an ActionCOACH. Our coaches have helped thousands of businesses just like yours, because our coaches are seasoned professionals who have been in the trenches, not just theorizing from models in books.

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The surefire way how to improve your business

I’d like to invite everyone who owns a business to attend one of Brad Sugars’ Business is Booming stops next week.

It’s free, you can bring a friend and you are going to walk away with at least 28 strategies to implement into your business.

This is the real deal, no sell job, it’s just good business. All you have to do is register at and use the code GK001- easy. Then go down to the event and network with other business owners. You can check out the sponsors on my website as well. This is a chance you don’t get everyday.

So what are you waiting for? Go and register today.

Brad Sugars Business is Booming Tour- Sept 13- Toronto, Sept 14th-Edmonton, Sept 15th-Calgary, September 16- Vancouver. Details on the venue once you register. Do it. Now.

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