Local Business Leaders Complete Specialized Training to Build Better Workplaces

Minneapolis, MN – June 29, 2018

Wiley welcomes ThistleSea Business Development of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania to the Authorized Partner network of talented trainers, consultants, facilitators, and coaches who bring Everything DiSC® and The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™ to organizations worldwide. Wendy O. Lydon and Terri Hammond have successfully completed JumpStart, the official Wiley business-building and training session that features the tools, theory, and research behind Everything DiSC and The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. As an Authorized Partner, ThistleSea Business Development will use this advanced knowledge to help clients improve workplace relationships and achieve organizational effectiveness with these proven workplace solutions.

“As an industry leading developer of workplace assessments, Wiley recognizes your dedication to building better workplaces using our proven Everything DiSC and Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team solutions,” said Barry Davis, Vice President and General Manager of Wiley’s Workplace Learning Solutions Group. “I continue to be amazed by the superior results our Authorized Partners achieve with their clients, by applying what they have learned through the JumpStart process.”  

With the growing demand for learning assessments, Wiley continues to attract independent business owners who are committed to delivering the latest tools in workplace performance development.  “Our high-quality tools coupled with ThistleSea’s expertise in training and development will serve organizations well.  The need for skilled leaders in this industry has been leveraged with our training programs.  We look forward to supporting ThistleSea’s business growth,” said Davis.

About Wiley’s Workplace Learning Solutions Group
Wiley's professional development business creates products and services that help people become more effective in the workplace and achieve career success. We bring the ideas and best practices of thought leaders to life—serving workplace communities worldwide.

ThistleSea becomes an Authorized Partner of Everything DiSC

By Wendy O. Lydon, LPBC

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At ThistleSea Business Development, we believe that interpersonal and communication skills are some of the most fundamental building blocks to support the relationships that grow businesses and build strong communities. Understanding human behavior has always been an important part of our coaching relationships. We're very excited to offer our clients new and more in-depth tools for human behavior training and understanding personal and business relationships.

ThistleSea Business Development now has the expanded ability to assist you, your team and your organization to gain a deeper and broader understanding of human behavior and relations. Using a research-validated learning model, each solution provides in-depth information including tips, strategies, and action plans to help you become more effective in the workplace.

We have become an authorized partner of Everything DISC®. Our ThistleSea coaches have been thoroughly trained and certified on these tools, and these new solutions provide rich, versatile learning programs that offer personal insights for individuals at every level of your organization, using a consistent language of DiSC.

Below is a brief overview of the new solutions we can provide to you and your employees:

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Everything DiSC Workplace® can be used with everyone in an organization, regardless of title or role, to improve the quality of the workplace. This tool focuses on gaining an understanding of both yours and other’s DISC style and building more effective relationships.

Note: This behavior assessment serves as a replacement for the reports and training we have worked with so many of you and your teams with.

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Everything DiSC® Productive Conflict explores workplace conflict. Clearly one of the most stressful, awkward and inevitable experiences in the workplace is inter-personal conflict. Now we have a tool and training focused on workplace conflict using the language of DISC. With all the attention placed on conflict resolution, it's to change our view of conflict and resolve to use it in a positive way in the workplace.

Note: We can certainly work with you and your teams in understanding conflict. Please stay tuned for future workshops and trainings focused just on resolving conflict – which is a perfect education for everyone, regardless of position and area of business or career path.

Everything DiSC® Work of Leaders helps you discover your DiSC leadership style and learn a simple three-step process to help you approach the fundamental work of leaders: crafting a Vision, building Alignment and championing Execution. Work of Leaders connects to real-world demands, generating powerful conversations that provide a clear path of action.

Everything DiSC® Management provides you with an understanding of how to manage more effectively by learning about your own management preferences and priorities, better motivate your staff and yourself and get more comfortable with delegation. We're excited that this tool also helps you gain insight into how to develop your employees – something that is so important to employee engagement and understanding how others might view you and your style.

Everything DiSC® Sales expands communication with your customers and reveals how to match your style to theirs. By helping people discover their unique strengths and limitations, this tool can convince even experienced salespeople that they can become more effective.

Everything DiSC 363® for Leaders combines the best of 360 feedback with the simplicity and power of DiSC, plus three strategies for improving leadership effectiveness. The result is a 360 experience that’s more productive and satisfying.

With these deeper and more powerful tools, ThistleSea can now provide you with a broader understanding of DISC and human behavior.

We have always valued the work of Patrick Lencioni and use many of his books as coaching tools. His book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, has always been one of the most important readings as we work through team building and understanding.

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We are also excited to share with you that ThistleSea coaches have been trained and certified to work with organizations and teams through a new program and curriculum, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™ Powered by Everything DiSC® helps teams understand how to apply The Five Behaviors™ model of Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, and Results to their work culture. By using Everything DiSC®, a tool that helps build effective team communication and relationships, this program allows participants to learn about their own DiSC style and discover how each style brings value to the team.

We look forward to continuing our work with you, and your teams and colleagues to learn, develop and build personal and professional effectiveness through better communication and relations.

Please reach out to us if you would like to learn more how we can use these tools to help support your continued success. And watch for information for future workshops and trainings!

Profit and Exit: Keys to Running the Best Company

Many books, seminars and speeches have been written about business. Many encourage business owners to jump through hoops but miss the two fundamental reasons for starting and running a business. The fundamental reasons are:

  • Earn a profit as a result of all the actions your business takes.
  • Be open to exit if the offer and timing is right.

All business owners should continually work to make a profit and prepare their companies for the ultimate success in an exit strategy. According to statistics, only 3 percent of businesses exist for 3 generations. Even size and reputation are no guarantee for business survival as many of the Fortune 500 vanish from the list each decade. With that backdrop, preparation, focus and always being open to an exit are critically important to maximize your investment in time, energy and money.

I have been asked many times by business owners, CPAs, attorneys, and consultants if I can help them or their clients achieve higher valuations. Obviously, if there is an engaged ownership / executive team and a market for the company’s products and services, the answer is yes. But where do you start?

While owners have many reasons for starting a business, they soon realize it is not easy and takes a lot of effort, money, smarts and consistent action. They learn, hopefully sooner than later, the only reason that a business exists is to earn money that results in a profit. Everything else may be important but is secondary.  Only delusional souls think the business' primary reason to exist is to keep families together, preserve a legacy, develop people, serve a community, etc. These are all good reasons but are secondary. If your business makes a profit first, you can “make the happy business cake,” and benefit those you serve it to. But without profit, you have no prosperity, just broken dreams, wasted energy and disheartened souls.

Typically, if there is some time before the actual exit events and sales closing, there are a number of things that can be done to evaluate, consider and take actions that will increase profits and the company’s valuation.

The first recommendation is to conduct an overall assessment of the business. It should include all areas of the business and technical operations. This assessment should help you discover the strengths and weaknesses to build an action plan for improving those areas found deficient and targeted for specific improvement. This is an area where an outside objective observer may be required to help you eliminate your company’s blind spots. They may also help you build your action plan and steps required for the improved value and results.

Here are some areas typically needing improvement:

Leadership

Is your vision for the company’s future clear and have you communicated this vision to all your stakeholders?

Most companies we meet need some work with the leadership team on refining the future vision, so they can clearly communicate what success will look like. This may include, for example, working on the strategic plan, communication strategy, upgrading organizational talent and preparing high potential emerging leaders, etc.

Marketing

Is the organization able to continually generate new qualified leads for its products and services?

How your customer service and reputation management integrate with your sales and customer service processes should be an important concern and typically are areas where great gains in value can be made.

Human Resources

Is your human resources function mitigating the risks for the business?

Typically, there is an opportunity to improve your agreements and employee understanding of the work required. If all functions are smoothly accomplished and properly executed, typically, it enhances the overall company’s profitability. In addition, buyers or those involved in operating the company after the transition are typically looking for a turn-key operation with well documented organization processes and procedures. They place a higher value during their due diligence process on a well-organized company human resources program.

Financial

Three areas to look in the finance area when preparing to exit include the following:

  • A clean set of books that are understandable. This is especially important to place the proper value on the company prior to the sale, during buyer due diligence and at closing.
  • A financial dashboard that demonstrates the financial Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track your progress in improving company performance and overall value.
  • A budget and cash-flow plan to demonstrate how much cash the business can generate over time and how much cash the business will need.

Sales

Is your sales organization able to convert qualified leads to customers?

Do you have a sales model that works? Can your sales model be replicated and taught to others in order to repeat the results and company sales growth?

Technical

While many start businesses because of their founder’s expertise in some technical, product or service area they are knowledgeable and excel in, that alone doesn’t make the business sustainable and grow. Building a technical operating manual to include your policies, procedures and training programs will enhance the company’s value. In addition, you will need to demonstrate the company’s expertise, along with many other business competencies to entice an interested buyer to complete the purchase of your company.

Expense Control

Do you have a purchasing system in place that helps you to increase your gross margin and control overhead?
 

Are there areas where you can eliminate or reduce without hurting your quality and performance?

In summary, your ongoing and number one goal should be focusing on and achieving the highest profit and the highest valuation with your exit strategy in mind. This is the best way to run a company that will deliver for your family, employees, customers and the community.

If you are interested in learning more about how ACT Capital Advisors can assist you in improving your profits, valuation and selling your company, contact me at (724) 935-1930 or email me at jlaslavic(at)actcapitaladvisors.com.

Learn more about the author at http://actcapitaladvisors.com/pittsburgh-office/

ACT Capital Advisors Opens Pittsburgh Office and Selects John D. Laslavic, LPBC as Managing Director

Pennsylvania Business Coach to Lead Firm’s Area M&A Practice

April 24, 2017           

ACT Capital Advisors announced today that John D. Laslavic has joined the firm as a Managing Director. Mr. Laslavic will focus on helping business owners in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia achieve an optimal outcome when they decide to sell their company. The new Pittsburgh location opened this month.

Our plan is to have highly skilled M&A advisors in every major market of the United States. John will play an important role in this strategy.
— Bob Hild, ACT Capital Advisors Chairman and Managing Director

Laslavic is a well-known business coach throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. For the past 30 years he has dedicated his professional career to mentoring and leading business owners to success. Mr. Laslavic is the President of ThistleSea Business Development, LLC. The firm is a coaching, strategy development, training and business services company.

“I am excited to build ACT’s M&A practice in this area,” said Laslavic. “I often help my clients position themselves for an exit. Now, as part of ACT, I can guide them through the entire M&A process. ACT has an excellent team of financial professionals that will support me from their headquarters in Seattle. I can now offer full-service investment banking to my clients.”

Bob Hild, ACT Capital Advisors Chairman and Managing Director said, “We are delighted to have John Laslavic on our team. He’s already a trusted coach to thousands of business owners. Our plan is to have highly skilled M&A advisors in every major market of the United States. John will play an important role in this strategy. We are confident he will do an excellent job of helping business owners achieve the best possible outcomes when they decide to sell.” 

John Laslavic can be reached at jlaslavic(at)actcapitaladvisors.com.

ACT Capital Advisors, LLC is a leading Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) and Corporate Finance firm that represents lower-middle-market companies ($5 million to $50 million in annual revenues) across a variety of sectors and industries, including industrial manufacturing, information technology, construction, healthcare, aerospace, consumer staple/discretionary, oil and energy, as well as outsourced services. The firm provides strategic financial advice to closely held, family-owned, as well as private equity sponsored organizations and corporate shareholders that wish to sell their company, raise growth capital, or secure commercial financing. Leveraging ACT’s deep industry-wide knowledge and strategic auction process, clients appreciate ACT’s approach, pairing the professional expertise of a national investment banking firm with the senior level attention and entrepreneurial creativity of a smaller enterprise.

If you’d like more information or to schedule an interview, please call Terri Hammond at 724-935-1930 or email terri.hammond(at)thistlesea.com.

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Agreements: Key to your leadership success

The start of a new year, growth in your business, increasing complexity, new federal tax legislation, increasing competition, the introduction of new products or services… They’re just a few examples of business complexity that require strong leadership to chart a new destination and clarity to define success. 

The answers to, “What direction are you heading?” and “Why are you heading that direction?” require leadership. In almost all cases, you will need to work with others and clearly communicate to inspire them to your vision of success.

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What can we do to more quickly build a framework that engages our team members, outsiders, and other stakeholders and propels everyone’s actions to reach our desired level of success? Let’s consider focusing in 2018 on better and stronger agreements. 

Agreements can be oral or written, simple or complex. The understanding on when and how to use an agreement in business is critically important to gaining trust, honoring relationships and putting dignity (“the state of being worthy of honor and respect”) into relationships, to create value and build a more profitable business model. Gaining agreement is not always easy, but it’s essential to any ongoing relationship.

Here are 6 items to help build strong agreements:

  1. Dream of the desired state and define why you desire it and what success looks like for you, your department and/or your company.
  2. Describe why the desired state is important to you, your team and your company.
  3. What must you do to achieve your dream and the success desired?
  4. Who is involved and needed to assist you in fulfilling and accomplishing your dream state?
  5. What are the specific messages you need to communicate, and what agreements are required to lead others to help you achieve this success?
  6. Develop a list of terms (the words and phrases that express the concepts required for a strong agreement). The terms must be clear to all parties involved in the agreement to achieve the desired outcomes. 

Without strong agreement, we operate from a position of unconscious and often conflicting set of assumptions. In that position, relationships are fragile at best and most of the time the relationships are far less successful than desired. 

When should you worry that your agreements might be weak? Consider these 3 warning signs:

  1. Employees or stakeholders refuse to share ideas, or their ideas are not acknowledged.
  2. Solutions to issues and problems are incomplete and not resolved, causing frustration and confusion.
  3. Complex challenges are not dealt with efficiently or in a manner quickly enough to make a real difference. 

When the people involved in the company struggle to see eye to eye on an issue, their implicit vague agreement causes a misalignment. Misalignment creates greater risk and destroys value. 

Most importantly, without clear agreements, our decision-making is clouded, and we fail to honor our own values. Leaders struggle to make timely and appropriate decisions, ultimately operating at a level far less than their potential. 

The same applies to employees. In the absence of strong agreements, we set them up for poor performance and failure. Questions left unanswered in the culture include: “How do we interact to achieve the desired results?” “What are the unwritten rules of the game?” “What level of autonomy and resource do I use to make an impact?” 

Clarity for both the supervisor and employee on responsibilities, accountabilities, duties and performance levels through strong agreement relieves the pressure and tension allowing for personal expression, business growth and the ability for the team to create value for the customer.

The use of agreements (both formal and informal) guides companies to make good decisions, and supports organizational capacity-building and maturity. 

If you would like to learn more about building strong and better agreements with your employees and stakeholders, contact a ThistleSea Team member. We would be glad to help you and your organization.
 

Leading yourself first

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It's not an accident that "leadership" is our Abundance newsletter topic more often than any other. But we don't often discuss that "leading yourself first" can make the difference between a life of abundance... and not. In fact, we estimate that 95% of our clients list personal goals - ways they'd like to lead themselves better - when they're considering the futures of their businesses.

From eating more healthily to spending quality time with loved ones, it seems that leading yourself first isn't part of business school curricula or a requirement of funding pitches. It's multi-faceted, and some things are likely to come more easily to you than others. We divide it into a few arenas, and for the sake of brevity, we'll list just a few items under each:

 Oh, man. Go to sleep.

Oh, man. Go to sleep.

Your bedrock tools

  1. Define your values
  2. Recognize and reduce your negative self-talk
  3. Prepare a personal mission statement

Your physical self

  1. Get plenty of rest
  2. Exercise regularly
  3. Get regular check-ups

Your personal finances

  1. Put insurance policies in place
  2. Complete estate planning
  3. Create plan for retirement (financial and otherwise)

Your mind

  1. Prioritize your activities to maximize your time
  2. Spend quality time with loved ones
  3. Spend time on a hobby

As with any changes, it's best not to do too much at once. If you've been working hard to lead yourself and you're not gaining traction, try to do a little less. And contact us for assistance.

5 Areas to Improve Your Profit Margins

It's important to remember that "profit" is just a result of a well-executed plan involving many actions in your business to gain more resources than you have invested.

Most business owners and executives with profit/loss responsibilities have the desire to improve their profit margins. Some have mastered the process and others struggle to know what to do. While there are many things to consider, here are five areas to review and consider to take action.

  1. Listen to your customers.
  2. Look to create value.
  3. Do the math.
  4. Perform expert technical work.
  5. Lead your team.

(1) Listen to your customers.

 Your customers are talking. Are you listening?

Your customers are talking. Are you listening?

While it may sound like simple advice, business today changes rapidly. Keeping the pulse of your customers, with their use of faster communication, is harder than it used to be. Process changes that impact how business is conducted are critically important to your profit margins. We recommend surveying your customers frequently to ensure you understand their perspectives and make adjustments to improve your performance in their eyes.

It's surprising how many leaders somehow forget this important step.

(2) Look to create value.

Increasing your value in the eyes of your customer may involve how you deliver and serve them, beyond the technical aspects of your produce or service.

Is there something you can do to help them be more successful that's in your wheelhouse? Would it create additional revenue for them? And would it increase YOUR value, your sales revenue or the volume of business you do with them? Is it a new product/service you could offer to gain more revenue?

(3) Do the math.

 If you haven't done the math...

If you haven't done the math...

Are you developing realistic forecasts of your revenue, expenses and cash flow? This is the first step to understanding your current state, which can then be followed by "what if?" models. When you've gathered your numbers, you can ask questions like:

  • What if we offered more products or services?
  • What if we expanded our coverage?
  • What if we dropped a service or product line?
  • What if we focused differently?
  • What if we enhanced our sales department?

Asking questions and modeling the "what ifs," prior to a strong execution of the model, can have a tremendous impact on your profit margins.

(4) Perform expert technical work.

Really be good at your technical work! All the forecasting and planning will only do so much to deliver increased profit. You must deliver on your promise to your customers technically as well.

Invest in your team and continually help them enhance their skills in delivery for your customers. Are you getting great testimonials and referrals? If not, your work needs to be analyzed for needed improvements to ensure you're all working together to deliver great results.

(5) Lead your team.

It's good to share your vision and inspire your team members to follow your lead. Part of the vision is the desired levels of revenue and performance required by your customers.

Don't hesitate to try new ways to enhance your company's offerings, measure your results and adjust.

If you'd like to learn and discuss more about ways to improve your profit margin, just contact us.

5 Steps for a Great 2018

Have you ever wondered why some businesses seem to consistently outperform others within the same industry?

There’s a good chance that the better performers employ a strong planning process – one that results in a plan that is well understood by the board, leadership, managers and employees and is actionable. Starting the 2018 calendar year with a well-designed annual plan will better maximize potential business profits and deliver for the owners and employees what they need to have a great year.

Involving your key managers and leaders in the process tends to produce better outcomes, because these individuals have a stake and ownership in helping you build and execute the plan.
Here are 5 key steps ThistleSea recommends for your planning in 2018. They are:

  1. Identify your as-is state.
  2. Draft your plan for 2018.
  3. Present your plan to the stakeholders and adjust.
  4. Budget for impact, cash flow and profit.
  5. Deploy your plan, track progress and adjust.

By taking these steps, you can improve your business and increase your success.

1.      Identify your as-is state.

Assuming a business works on a calendar year (i.e. January 1 – December 31), we suggest you start by preparing your as-is overview, assessing where you are today. Have your managers responsible for each area of the company write a brief document describing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats covering the scope of their department and area of responsibility, including any key metrics tracked. This should be a realistic evaluation and include industry trends, recent experiences and expert evaluation.

2.      Draft your plans for 2018.

While managers are drafting their as-is assessments, they should simultaneously prepare their suggested plans for the next year 2018. Why should these be done at the same time?

As managers are gathering and recording information for the as-is state, they should be thinking:

  • “This is my current revenue, and this is my current number of staff members.” (Record in as-is document.)
  • “Next year, revenue will increase by 10%, and we will require one additional staff member.” (Record in 2018 document.)

This includes the anticipated changes in personnel, capital equipment and any other expenses that will be required, as well as the overall impact their plans will have in revenue growth, expenses and profitability.

 (Don’t let managers forget to consider the key factor is the impact on your primary customers.)
 

3.      Present the plans to the stakeholders and adjust.

We suggest that both the as-is review and plan for 2018 be presented by the authors (i.e. managers) to the management team members first. The purpose is to share each plan, discuss the impact on the company against its mission, vision and values, ensure congruency, and avoid any duplication. Top leadership should direct managers to refine their plans based upon feedback and prepare to present final plans.

Depending on the organization’s size, scope of operations, complexity and governance, there may be several internal presentations and refinements to prepare the plans for final plan approval.

From a timing standpoint, we recommend planning begin in August and conclude with approvals by the end of September to begin the budgeting process.
 

4.      Budget for impact, cash flow and profit.

With the as-is review and the 2018 plans approved, you should be in a great position to engage your company in the budgeting process. This process should begin with your bookkeeper providing each manager who has Profit & Loss responsibility with worksheets to prepare a projected actual budget for the current year, through the year’s end, for their scope of operations.

That budget becomes a tool for preparing a 2018 budget for leadership approval, to be incorporated into the overall company budget. With each budget prepared, the leadership will have an opportunity to review each department’s impact on the customers, market and how money spent will generate the anticipated revenue for the new year.

You’ve heard the saying, “Cash is king”? Well, it’s true. Preparing your budget should include looking at your cash flow to include every dollar that goes into and comes out of your checking account.

Finally, look at the bottom-line. Profit is just a result of all the activities of the business. Look at making the final adjustments with feedback from your management team to include timing of initiatives, expenditures and hiring, etc.

5.      Deploy your plan, track progress and adjust

While the planning process provides the roadmap for the destination and success you envision, it’s just a plan. Without taking action even the best plan is worthless.

So, what does taking action entail? The answer: Your leadership. It involves clearly articulating your vision of success to those on whom you rely to help you achieve results you desire. It involves communication, both speaking and actively listening to those stakeholders to track progress and make needed adjustments.

But there is even more.

Your plan calls for certain work do be done. Is the environment for that work conducive to getting it done? Have barriers for success been eliminated? Are the business systems designed to consistently deliver the results you expect? Are the systems transferrable and easily understood by all employees as the company grows?

Leadership is critically important to your company to make any plan work in the business and for the stakeholders.
 

Summary

Through assessing your current situation, involving your managers, preparing a plan for the new year, communicating to inspire the stakeholders to adopt your vision of success, budgeting for financial success, listening and adjusting your plan, and taking actions in the environment you create to serve your customers, you can ensure the highest probability that your business will deliver for you.

Prepare and approve your 2018 plans and final budget before the Thanksgiving holiday and you will cruise through the holidays knowing you and your company are prepared to execute your 2018 plans with less stress and more impact and focus.

About ThistleSea Business Development, LLC

We believe that your business or career should deliver what you need to have a great life.

ThistleSea Business Development was founded in 2005 and is a business and executive coaching, strategy development, training and business services company. We offer business owners and executives custom one-on-one, face-to-face and group business coaching in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia and phone coaching across the United States. Our coaching practice is supported by resources from a network of over 150 affiliated business coaches located across the United States and Canada.

We work together with successful business owners and executives in improving the value of their business, company, department and quality of life.

Our team of ThistleSea Business Development licensed professional business coaches includes:

  • John D. Laslavic, LPBC President – Cranberry Township, PA Office
  • Wendy O. Lydon, LPBC, Sr. Vice President - Cranberry Township, PA Office
  • Jayne Huston, LPBC, Vice President – Harrisburg, PA Office
  • Terri Hammond, ASQ SSYB – Vice President / Business Systems - Cranberry Township, PA Office

Contact us if you would like to learn more about us and our services at thistlesea.com.

"If they don't really want the job, they won't quit unexpectedly."

Or "Eating an elephant one bite at a time."

I decided to write this series after reflecting on my time as a client at ThistleSea (I'm the only one in our office who can do this). This may give you an idea of why someone might hire a business coach.

When you're working in a business that kind of has HR systems, the first major step forward is a big one. It's job descriptions. And it's not just job descriptions - it's the performance standards that go along with them.

When I realized that our hiring practices were tied fairly directly to my foot pain (see previous post), I decided that there was no avoiding the next big step. (After all, I was only 34 and I had only two feet that were supposed to last me for the next 60 years.)

Here's what I did:

  1. I listed every position in the company. There were 13.
  2. I figured out which job descriptions were the closest to "already done." (After all, we had job descriptions. They just weren't nearly detailed enough.)
  3. I looked at my calendar, and I blocked off time to work on this. I knew if I tried to do it during the work day, I'd just place it lower and lower on my priority list and it would never get done. So I selected Saturday mornings, from 9 am until 1 pm at the local coffee shop.
  4. I made a pledge not to work on the job descriptions at all, except the time I had set aside to do it.
  5. I showed up on the first Saturday at 9:00 am and got to work.

I won't sugarcoat this process. It wasn't easy, and it required tremendous focus. It took roughly 6 months.

As I finished my first draft of each position, I met with the manager who supervised that particular role. I asked him/her, "How'd I do with this? Does this accurately represent the duties and responsibilities you expect each employee in this role to do? What did I leave out? What did I capture incorrectly? You're the expert... could you share your expert opinion?"

  • Some managers had immediate feedback.
  • Some needed time to think. (Of course, I made sure to schedule a follow-up meeting.)
  • Some said, "This is good, but would it be okay if I got the employees' input? I bet they'll have even more feedback than I will." (<--Another lesson for me to use in the future.)
 This is kind of what your company looks like to new hires when you don't have good job descriptions in place.

This is kind of what your company looks like to new hires when you don't have good job descriptions in place.

I shared that once we got the job descriptions the way we wanted them, I'd be coming around again for their expert opinions on the performance standards. (I set them up to be ready for the next round.)

This was a collaborative process and a challenging one, and I won't lie and say that every manager was enthusiastic about contributing. Not all were. However, when they were finished, a few things happened immediately:

  • Job candidates noticed and commented on our level of professionalism.
  • Some job candidates removed themselves from the candidate pool (Good news for my feet! If they don't really want the job, they won't quit unexpectedly and add 10 hours to my week.).
  • Existing staff members asked questions and gave suggestions about their current roles.
  • Communication increased overall.

As a client, I experienced the weight of the task of writing job descriptions and performance standards. So as a coach, I understand why clients are reluctant to do it and choose to focus on other parts of their HR systems. It's not always possible for the owner of a company to write them her/himself. But it must be done. Drop us a line if you'd like some help with yours.

"To tie my foot problems directly to employee hiring was funny."

Or "How my bunions led me to hire a business coach."

I decided to write this post after reflecting on my time as a client at ThistleSea (I'm the only one in our office who can do this). This may give you an idea of why someone might hire a business coach.

I came to business coaching when the business was almost exactly 18 months old. I spent the first 13 months working between 70 and 80 hours weekly, and my 34-year-old body had begun to inform my brain that this was not a sustainable plan. What were my clues?

 There are no pictures that accurately represent how unpleasant marriage was at the time.

There are no pictures that accurately represent how unpleasant marriage was at the time.

  • I was missing important family events regularly.
  • I had very few relationships outside of the business.
  • My feet had developed problems that weren't healing. (This after many years of tap dancing and running without issue.)
  • My marriage was pretty unpleasant.
  • I arrived each day at work prepared to fight fires.
  • If I wasn't putting out my own business fires, I was covering so that employees could put out their fires.

Looking back now, it's not hard to categorize my challenges. But under pressure, I couldn't see them:

  • Work/life balance was poor
  • Systems were not in place (in my case, HR systems were weak)

 (I don't know if ThistleSea's Wexford office was literally at a cooler temperature than my business, but when I would arrive at a coaching session, there was a clear feeling of "Ahhhh...." I could breathe. I could think and plan, ask questions, propose solutions, write, be still... I had no fires to fight.) Getting to the root cause of anything is difficult under pressure, so it was important that pressure could be relieved.

Let's use one of my examples.

PROBLEM: "My feet had developed problems that weren't healing."

WHY? (1)
I was on my feet for 8-10 hours, 6 days per week.

WHY? (2) 
I had to help the staff get the work done.

WHY? (3) 
There wasn't enough staff capable of meeting the company's requirements for the amount/quality of the work.

WHY? (4)
Staff didn't stay very long.

WHY? (5) 
We didn't clearly explain what was required when we hired new people. So we hired some people who didn't understand the work or weren't capable of doing it.

 Yeah, I wore this. Yeah, it was as ridiculous as it looks.

Yeah, I wore this. Yeah, it was as ridiculous as it looks.

To tie my foot problems directly to employee hiring (1) was funny, (2) did not happen overnight and (3) did require making intermediate adjustments. That is, I didn't go straight to having an amazing system for hiring and then magically experience foot healing.

I'll talk a bit more about what happened in my next post. 

TAKEAWAY: When you're having a problem in your business, write it down. Ask "why" 5 times. You'll get very close to the root cause, and that's where you need to be.

The CEO Genome Project findings

By: John D. Laslavic, LPBC

Our team at ThistleSea Business Development, LLC works with clients to apply best business practices and personal effectiveness strategies. The results help them run more profitable and successful businesses and have careers that deliver more fulfilling lives.

An article in the May-June 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, “What Sets Successful CEOs Apart,” reviews a behavioral study called the CEO Genome project. The University of Chicago and the Copenhagen Business School collaborated to identify the common traits of the most successful CEOs. They used data and interviews from over 17,000 C-suite executives (including 2,000 CEOs) covering career history, business results and behavioral patterns. Distinguishing behaviors were identified in four areas taken from those who were hired as CEOs (and those who weren’t) and those who excelled in the CEO role (and those who underperformed).

These findings are important because business leaders can significantly increase their odds of becoming high performing CEOs and top performing business executives if they deliberately develop the following behaviors. For this article, we will call them leaders.

1. Decide with Speed and Conviction
Leaders found as high performers move forward and make decisions. They understand that slow decision-making causes bottlenecks, frustrated teams, and over cautious staff. It stalls progress within their company.

Bad decisions are better than a lack of clear direction because they can be fixed. Mistakes are viewed as learning experiences by top performing leaders.

Having a wide view from a variety of data and information resources is required but must not be overdone. To make a call, 65% of the information is enough for these high performers. Perfection slows progress. They cannot wait for a perfect answer.

2. Engage for Impact
Top performing leaders lean into the discomfort. They set a clear course by understanding their stakeholders’ needs and motives. They have an unrelenting focus on creating value and driving performance and results.

Leaders are also principled in their communication. They stand out by making decisions fast with great conviction. The studies showed leaders who are more decisive are 12x more likely to be a CEO. A wrong decision is better than no decision. According to the findings, leaders were given low marks on decisiveness 94% of the time for deciding too little, too late and given low marks only 6% for deciding too quickly. Only 1/3 of the leaders are terminated for bad calls while 2/3 are terminated for indecisiveness. Results-oriented, engaged leaders who consistently understood their stakeholders were 75% more successful in their role.

3. Adapt Proactively
When you’re watching a close sporting event, you’ll see that sometimes the coach must throw the playbook out the window to win. Business leaders are, at times, required to quickly adapt. Those who can master adaptation are 7x more likely to succeed in their role. To successfully adapt, these leaders are consistently scanning wide networks and diverse sources of data and information. They have a great sense of change and can make strategic moves to their advantage. They also spend 50% of their time on long-term thinking.

Leaders use coaches and recognize the value of having diverse advisors who are objective and whose judgement they trust. As one colleague of mine would say, “Never drink your own bathwater!”

These successful leaders recognize setbacks as a part of their job. Setbacks are part of learning and offer opportunities to modify and improve.

4. Deliver Reliably
Leaders who had the ability to deliver reliably were twice as likely to be selected for the CEO role and 15x more likely to succeed. Board members, investors and employees love a leader with a steady hand they can trust.

The keys to delivering reliably? Set realistic expectations, plan, budget, assess the business to develop an independent point of view, build a strong team, align and execute. Establish meeting cadence, dashboards, clear accountability, monitor performance systems and make rapid course corrections.

If you want to see how you rank in these 4 traits, take the 5-minute online assessment at http://CEOGenome.com.

Contact us if you would like to discuss how we assist business owners, executives and other leaders improve their performance through understanding their impact and adopting successful behaviors and best practices. We might be a good fit to assist you and your team. ThistleSea is confident in our ability to positively impact your continued success and growth.

The Cure for a Business Filled with Assumptions

One of the most important concepts I discovered as a business coaching client was just two words long: “Never assume.” What kinds of things did I assume as a business owner?

  • Every stakeholder knows and shares my vision for success.
  • Employees will follow the company’s policies and procedures. (In retrospect, "HAHAHAHAHA!")
  • Staff members will share their discontent with me if it occurs.
  • Employees will share my values.
  • Vendor relationships are adversarial in nature.
 Turns out there's a reason EVERYBODY knows this saying.

Turns out there's a reason EVERYBODY knows this saying.

Were my assumptions wrong? Well, yes and no.
 
Some stakeholders knew my vision for success. Some employees followed company policies and procedures. Some staff shared discontent with me when it occurred. Some shared my values. Some vendors tried to take advantage of the company. The problem was not that my assumptions were all wrong; it was that by assuming, I could never be sure.

Business coaching helped me to understand the dangers of assuming, and then to make changes in my behavior to stop doing it.

BEFORE (Assumptions) AFTER THISTLESEA COACHING
Every stakeholder knows and shares my vision for
success.
I need to know the vision. I need to communicate it often. We
need to discuss it, ask questions about it, and lead people to
share and adopt it.
Employees will follow the company’s policies and
procedures.
"These are our company’s policies and procedures. Here’s
where they’re written down, and these are the people who can answer questions.
You’re expected to understand and follow them. If you choose not to do so, here
are the consequences you can expect."
Staff will share their discontent with me if it
occurs.
"We’ll check in as a group daily and with each other
periodically. Your supervisor will meet with you individually on a regular
schedule, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions, speak openly,
receive performance feedback, etc. If you’d like to speak directly or you’re
experiencing a problem that isn’t being resolved, here’s the best way to
schedule time together."
Employees will share my values. "The values that drive our company are _____, ____, and
_____. We honor our values among ourselves, with our customers, vendors and
competitors. On Wednesday, Amanda demonstrated our value of ______ when she
________."
Vendor relationships are
adversarial in nature.
"Here’s what we need and expect now, as outlined in our
written agreement. Let’s schedule a 6-month review so we can correct any
issues, learn about new services, etc. If we have immediate needs, what’s the
best way to get a fast response?"

Assumptions can be hard to identify, particularly if you’re assuming things correctly.
 
Communicating clearly elevates the importance of top performance in your company. It gives all parties the opportunity to decide, “Now that I understand this, am I on board? Or not?” It leaves no room for drama, ambiguity, excuses or blame.
 
The next time you’re surprised at something that happens in your business, ask yourself why. It’s likely that you assumed incorrectly… just like I did. Let us know if we can help. Reviewing your assumptions may be your key to success.

ThistleSea Announces Two New Leadership Coaching programs

For those desiring to be more powerful, effective leaders

Executive Leadership Coaching Program

This advanced program is designed to strengthen the competencies of business owners and executives, set a baseline for both individuals and organizational current leadership, review benchmarks for the current state and help establish goals and priorities for future leadership development and coaching. 

This program will help you self-discover, reflect upon and identify the strength of your leadership competencies and skills in ten core areas. These core areas are a unique compilation of knowledge and insights gleaned from top leaders, executives, educators and mentors from around the world. 

The 10 core areas include: 

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Communication Skills and Conflict Management
  3. Self-Discipline, Focus and Decision Making
  4. Relationship-Building and Social Intelligence
  5. Executing for Results
  6. Persuasion and Influence
  7. Teamwork and Innovation
  8. Shaping Culture and Organizational Change
  9. Thinking Strategically and at a Higher Level
  10. Positive Psychology


Emerging Leadership Coaching Program

Some employees who are great at their technical work may be emerging as potential leaders for the future. As the company grows and retirement of the baby boomer generation accelerates, what are you doing to avoid the high cost of turnover? Are you training your high potential employees to successfully take on new roles in supervision and leadership positions? 

The Emerging Leadership Coaching Program is designed for the high potential employees who are part of a company’s transition plans to move into supervision, management and executive leadership roles in the future and for those leaders who want to refresh their own leadership skills. 

This program focuses on strengthening leadership through application of best practices in the following 15 areas:

  1. Business Systems
  2. Choice Management
  3. Coaching
  4. Communications
  5. Customer Experience
  6. Financial Management
  7. Gross Profit
  8. Human Resources
  9. Leadership
  10. Management
  11. Marketing
  12. Motivation
  13. Personal Effectiveness
  14. Sales
  15. Strategic Planning

Both programs are designed to provide you with the tools for a leadership journey that will inspire and excite, strengthen the business, and apply leadership best practices. Organizations can use these programs in a group, one-on-one, or customized for their specific needs. 
 

To learn more, contact one of our ThistleSea business coaches at 724-935-1930 or info@thistlesea.com
 

Strengthening Your Workforce

By John Laslavic

Many businesses we talk to are in dire need of employees with two important characteristics; (1) their attitudes of service honor the business code of conduct and (2) they have the technical competency to perform in their position at a high level. 

Today, most owners and executives advertise for positions when an employee leaves (or right after the employee gives notice). Owners and HR departments perceive that they're competing for quality employees in their specific market segment. And they complain that there are no quality candidates to fill open positions.

Without denying that market factors can impact one's local labor market, we submit that there are three things that business owners and executives can do to reduce the number of open positions, quickly fill vacant positions, and improve the quality of work in the company's workforce.

  1. Stop hiring and start marketing!
    Take action to continuously network, market and accept applications and resumes. Don't be afraid to replace non-performers or those who bring down morale.

    Accept responsibility for the results you are achieving. Don’t make excuses or blame others. Your organization has a lot to offer, and you need to clearly communicate those benefits to your target potential employees.
     
  2. Evaluate performance.
    Identify each employee's role in the organization, and evaluate individual performance on an ongoing basis. Provide coaching and feedback to each employee, and follow up on all corrective actions to ensure improved performance. Replace employees that are not happy, not performing, and do not share your organization's values.
     
  3. Actively seek “on-deck” candidates.
    Create a bench of candidates that meet your company's requirements (also called "ondecking."). By creating a talent pool of qualified candidates, you can avoid long vacancies and continually identify more qualified applicants. That will improve and upgrade your organization's workforce.

ThistleSea can work with you to both evaluate your current system and coach your organization to improve it. Give us a call at 724-935-1930 to learn more about our capabilities.

"I've heard I should be networking."

"But what does it mean, and why should I bother?"

Let's start with "why." Networking:

  • Creates a vehicle for you to help others
  • Puts opportunities in front of you
  • Allows you to make choices about who, when, where, why and how you meet others

What does networking look like?

  • Regularly scheduled meetings
  • Social events
  • Non-profit or charity events
  • Educational seminars or classes
  • Award presentations
  • One-on-one meetings

You'll notice that one item missing from "Why" is "To get more business." Yes, it's absolutely possible that building your network will add revenue to your company. However, if you begin networking with the sole question, "What's in it for me?" you're going to be discouraged. Instead of focusing on your own dollars, concentrate instead on connecting people to each other and helping them meet their goals.

If you haven't put effort into building your network before, that's okay. But start now! An easy way to make networking a habit is to join a group that holds regular events (many are low-cost or no-cost) and then (THIS IS IMPORTANT) put the scheduled events on your calendar.

It's okay not to have perfect attendance, but remember, people can only know, like and trust you if you show up. 

John, Wendy, Jayne and I believe so strongly in the importance of building networks that we happily invite you to attend a networking event as our guest. Check out our Events page for some ideas or email us.

It's a little scary to do something new, especially when everyone else seems so practiced. Just remember the words of "Eat That Frog" author Brian Tracy, "You can only grow if you're willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new."

A Path to Growth or Destruction?

Using peer review as a strategic competitive advantage

By John D. Laslavic, LPBC

Many company leaders are strong-willed individuals. While this can be a strength, it can also reveal itself as a dangerous strand of stubbornness that can negatively impact a business. Some may struggle with obtaining and integrating advice from peer groups.  

Common feelings CEOs and presidents express about having peer review (i.e. board of directors, advisory board, outside committees, a business or executive coach, etc.) include:

  • “What if people find out I don’t have a strong vision and action plan for my company?”
  • “I’m not that comfortable communicating internally… or externally.”
  • “Will I lose authority by involving others in my thinking?”
  • “Will a board (committee, coach, etc.) interfere with my decision making?”
  • “It costs too much and takes too long.”
  • “I know what I’m doing, and people should focus on my getting it done.”
  • “What happens if I try something (based on peer review) and it fails?”
  • “I don’t really understand what the board (committee, etc.) was trying to say.”
  • “It’s a pain.”

Just because a company uses peer review of some kind doesn’t mean it’s effective, however. Organizations already using peer review may be on the wrong path if they see the following happening:

  • Peer review group agendas not focused on vision, future direction, policy, strategy, KPIs and financial results.
  • SMART goals not established.
  • Peer review participants unwilling to voice their opinions. 
  • Company making adjustments for individual people’s needs without consideration for the company’s mission.
  • Minimal communication from the owner, president or CEO.
  • Decline or stagnation in company growth.
  • Key employees leaving the company.

If you observe these situations in your organization (or you’re observing these situations as a trusted advisor), you might consider recommending or improving the process by inviting people to serve in a peer advisory capacity who:

  • Are financially independent from the company.
  • Are not afraid to voice their opinions.
  • Know things you don’t.
  • Agree with the company’s mission, vision and values.
  • Agree to be open to suggestions, listen to and work closely with peers who desire to bring new life to the company.

If used properly, peer review is an excellent way to provide your organization perspective to improve governance, business operations and product/service growth. 

Our ThistleSea team advises that 2017 business planning and budgeting should begin now. Evaluate your current peer review efforts to gain additional expertise and ideas. Adding an advisor, business coach or a peer review group to assist you might give you the advice and guidance you need to excel. Just be open enough to take their good advice and put it into action.

Contact a ThistleSea team member if we can help you and your company create a peer review process. Doing so should help your company grow revenue, expand operations and help you to personally prosper.

It's not too early...

The summer of 2016 is winding down and a new fall season is fast approaching. Soon the children will be back in school, and fall sports will once again dominate the airways, competing with the madness of this year’s presidential election. 

In speaking and working with business owners, we’re finding that many are preparing for more volatility, uncertainty, and complexity in 2017. As this is both the perception and a possibility, having business clarity when planning for 2017 is more important than ever. Clarity requires inner strength, discipline, self-understanding, external engagement, a clear vision of success, and an inspiring call-to-action with flexibility. 

It’s not too early to begin your business planning for 2017.

You may be thinking, “Yeah right, are you crazy? It’s way too early!”

Well, consider that the holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving, are just about 13 weeks away. (We’ve all experienced the fun, excitement and pressure of that time of year when we’re a bit distracted from our business and work.) So I’ll make the case to begin your planning now, complete your planning in September, budget in October and finalize your plan and budget by Thanksgiving.

This process will help you to have fewer distractions and maximum clarity and avoid the many end-of-year disruptions as 2016 comes to a close. Your vision and leadership require intense focus if you are anything like the awesome business owners and executives we work with every day. 

At ThistleSea, our team knows that stable times require a planning and financial forecasting process to obtain the business, personal and financial successes you envision. During these times, the ability to stay flexible and prepare in advance for the unexpected is even more important. 

Best of luck with your 2017 planning. ThistleSea is here to help if you want to evaluate your situation or would like assistance with your 2017 plans. Just contact one of our team members. 

John

Advice from a Tree

In September, 2015 Wendy had an exciting vacation with family in Yellowstone National Park. She picked up several “Advice from . . ." writings authored by Ilan Shamir and is sharing them with you to expand the thinking and apply to your business.

By Wendy Lydon

 Photo by Wendy Lydon

Photo by Wendy Lydon

Stand tall and proud

Congratulations on being a leader! Small achievements lead to larger ones. Not everyone can achieve what you have done. Be humble and be gracious, too!

Sink your roots into the earth

Did you know that what you see above ground is really determined by what you can’t see that’s underground? What happens underground in a business (where the roots live) drives the ability for the business to grow. The bigger and healthier the root system, the bigger and healthier the business. The roots of any business are the systems which provide an anchor for it to stay on track and grow. More, importantly, the systems provide the lifeline, air, water and nutrients for the business. This is the magic for business growth and prosperity.

Be content with your natural beauty

Be satisfied with what you have created. It is not an easy task to create and nurture a business. Enjoy the life that the business provides for you and your team. 

Go out on a limb

One of the foundations of success is a willingness to go out on a limb when necessary. In fact, in business and in life generally, all meaningful progress is preceded by the decision to take a risk and do something.

Drink plenty of water

If we do not stay hydrated, physical performance can suffer. Your brain is strongly influenced by your hydration status. Mild dehydration can impair energy levels and mood and lead to major reductions in memory and brain performance. The business and your team needs you to be your best functioning self at all times. 

Remember your roots

Your roots connect you to family, communities, cultures and ideals. As your life takes you in different directions, always remember where you came from. Entrepreneurship helps you to reconnect with the roots that ground you. Acknowledge and celebrate your heritage at every opportunity as it is one of the largest contributing factors to who you are as a person and will always be a part of you.

Is it time to re-evaluate?

A note from John

Can you remember back to January? You most likely had a vision of success for your business in 2016. Whether formal or informal, you were putting plans, strategies and tactics into action to result in a profitable 2016 for your business and family.

Now that we have just passed the halfway point of 2016, it’s time to evaluate where we are, compared to our plans. Are we on track? Here are 5 questions you should ask:

  1. Is our leadership and our vision of success communicated well and motivating to others?
  2. Are the people that we work with helping us move toward achieving our vision?
  3. Are we focused on improving the systems that would support our vision?
  4. Are our financial goals and budget forecast realistic and on track?
  5. Are our actions coordinated and resulting in profitable outcomes?

In preparing for the next half of 2016, the answers to these questions will help you to re-evaluate your action plans in order to achieve the success you desire.

If you have any difficulty answering these questions, ThistleSea’s staff can help you understand and evaluate the current situation and shed light on those areas to help you achieve success.

Contact us. Our team at ThistleSea just might be a good for for you and your team to identify and implement a best practices action plan for improved organizational performance,

Advice from a River

In September, 2015 Wendy had an exciting vacation with family in Yellowstone National Park. She picked up several “Advice from . . ." writings authored by Ilan Shamir and is sharing them with you to expand the thinking and apply to your business.

By Wendy Lydon

 Photo by Wendy Lydon

Photo by Wendy Lydon

Go with the flow

Working on ALL aspects of your business to ensure continued success will allow you to enjoy smooth waters and prepare for the rough ones.

Immerse yourself in nature

Take time to enjoy your surroundings. Sometimes a nice walk to clear your mind will result in the most incredible ideas!

Slow down and meander

Take time to understand what is going on in your business. As an owner and leader, you must spend time with your staff, teammates and customers to be able to truly listen.  

Go around the obstacles

Obstacles are there for you as a checkpoint! Determine what's in the way and develop innovative ways to get around them to ensure continued success.

Be thoughtful of those downstream

An inspiring and kind leader will have followers. Always inspire and be considerate of your employees. If you understand and help them to achieve their goals, they will help you achieve yours!  

Stay current

Others will believe if you believe! How involved are you in your industry and market? Be sure to stay current with the trends and competitive environment. Network and create relationships. Claim the expert space as a speaker, trainer and mentor to your colleagues and staff.

The beauty is the journey

Being a leader is not a race! The leadership journey is one that provides you with growth and new understanding along the way. Be sure to celebrate yourself and those around you as you venture along your path of success and, more importantly, significance.