Sheila Hyland of FosterHyland & Associates - ThistleSea Client Testimonial

Watch Sheila Discuss the Results Achieved Working With ThistleSea

Sheila Hyland is a outstanding and successful News Anchor, Editor and Reporter for both local and national news organizations. She is the principal at FosterHyland & Associates providing media coaching, media relations, training and crisis communications services.

FosterHyland & Associates is unparalleled in its customized approach to media relations, crisis communications and executive media coaching. They assist in relationships with all media — from wire services to global news organizations. Their services encompass development of crisis response plans, message development and proven strategies for making the most of every media encounter.

Learn more about the outstanding services offered by Sheila and her firm at

(c) 2014 ThistleSea Business Development, LLC, All Rights Reserved

Can't find time to read that great book that was recommended to you?

by Michelle Hall, ThistleSea Business Development, LLC

With today's ever increasing pace of life, it's often hard to find the time to sit down and read many of the great books that are available. Have you tried listening to a book instead? This is a great alternative while you're driving, working out, or even performing a mundane task around your house. Below are a couple resources available to you if you'd like to listen to an audiobook. - Listen to Audio Books for FREE

Overdrive is a resource available through your local library to provide digital media to you, including audio and electronic books, on a temporary basis. They have an 'app' available that you can download to your smartphone or tablet where you can search for titles and download them to your device. To do this, you just need to use your library card number to 'check out' a book ~ usually for a 3-week period.

There is an increasing selection of titles available, and you can also place yourself on a wait list for titles that are currently checked out. I recently downloaded "Born to Win" by Zig Ziglar which is an audio book that I would highly recommend. - Purchase Audio Books for your Digital Library is a part of, and they offer a monthly membership or the ability to purchase audio books for a fee. If you don't already have an account, I would suggest signing up for the free 30-day trial which allows you to receive 2 books for free. You can download and play any audiobooks on your computer, iPod or mp3 player. There is also an Audible 'app' that you can download to your smartphone or tablet to allow you to access your electronic library from your device.

These apps provide some quick and easy ways to listen to some of those great books that you haven't found the time to sit down and read.  So throw on those headphones and listen to a great book while multi-tasking!

Please share some of your favorites with us in the comments section below! What are some of the best business titles that you have read?

John D. Laslavic, LPBC, Receives 2013 PBCA’S Founders / Legend Award


ThistleSea’s President Honored By North America’s Premier Professional  Business Coaches. The Professional Business Coaches Alliance (PBCA) recognized John D. Laslavic, LPBC, President, ThistleSea Business Development, Wexford, PA,  for his dedicated work and efforts in developing and improving the business coaching profession and his leadership in the growth of the Professional Business Coaches Alliance.

At its 2013 Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, Mr. Laslavic was presented with the First Founders/ Legend Award by PBCA’s founder Mr. John Deagan, LPBC, of Canton, OH and Mr. Jon Denny, LPBC, PBCA’s Owner & President, of Syracuse, NY.

This distinguished award recognized Mr. Laslavic for his support and significant contributions to the PBCA.  Mr. Laslavic has been associated with the PBCA organization since its early inception in 2005.  He has served multiple years on the Executive Leadership Team, has served as the organization’s first Director of Strategic Alliances, worked as a JumpStart Coach who mentored business coaches whom desired training and those developing their business coaching practices after receiving their PBCA organization Business Coaching designations.

He was instrumental in developing and earning the PBCA Black Belt designation, which is the highest designation recognized by his peers,  demonstrating superior business coaching, knowledge and service to his community and the over 100 Professional Business Coaches in the United States and Canada.

Mr. Laslavic also founded ThistleSea Business Development in 2005.  Currently, this growing firm has 3 Licensed Professional Business coaches.  He is actively involved and serves the membership of The Chamber of Commerce, Inc, Wexford, PA, as the Vice Chair, Board of Directors and the Chairman, Personnel Committee and volunteers his time assisting men and women in their job transitions through Priority Two.

Wendy O. Lydon, LPBC, Nationally Recognized

Lydon Standing Pro Shot

ThistleSea Business Development's  Business Coach, Wendy O. Lydon, LPBC Receives Distinguished Recognition

During the 2013 Annual Professional Business Coaches Alliance (PBCA)  meeting in Orlando, Florida, Ms. Wendy O. Lydon, LPBC, Vice President and Business Coach at ThistleSea Business Development, LLC, Wexford, Pennsylvania, was awarded and recognized as the Eastern Region PBCA Business Coach of the Year.

This distinguished award is given annually to the most successful Business Coach who has most effectively served her business community as a Licensed Professional Business Coach,  mentor and has provided exceptional leadership to the PBCA organization and the over 100 Professional Business Coaches in the United States and Canada.

Ms. Lydon has been with ThistleSea Business Development for 4 years.  She has earned her PBCA Black Belt, which is the highest designation recognized by her peers,  demonstrating her superior business coaching, knowledge and service to her community.  She assists business owners and leaders in building more profitable businesses allowing them to achieve abundant and rewarding personal lives.   Ms. Lydon is involved in many organizations and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Women’s Business Network (WBN) and serves on the Board of the Cranberry Township Community Chest (CTCC).

ThistleSea Business Development, LLC,  is a business coaching, consulting, strategy development, training and business services company.  ThistleSea offers successful business owners and executive’s custom One-on-One / Face-to-Face and Group Coaching in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia with virtual coaching across the United States.

She resides with her husband Jack and daughter Keara in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania.

About ThistleSea Business Development, LLC:
ThistleSea Business Development is a business coaching, strategy development and training company with offices in Wexford, PA.  It is the only service organization in the area comprised of a team of Licensed Professional Business Coaches and is also a certified Guerrilla Marketing Firm.  ThistleSea Business Development also includes the division of CNICUS Buying Group, providing services that help businesses increase revenue, reduce expenses and improve their performance.

Register TODAY - TARGET, SELL & PROFIT - B.Y.O.B. Workshop, August 11, 2011

Target, Sell & Profit is a Build Your Own Business Workshop that includes business coaching , selling and social media education for business owners. ThistleSea Business Development is a business coaching firm in the Pittsburgh PA area and serves business owners and executives who want to profit and get help to grow their business.

Read More

Are you delivering great customer experiences time and time again?

Business Coaching at ThistleSea Business Development, LLC can help you retain repeat customers and gain referrals through implementing systems that provide consistent customer service but more important great customer experiences.

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By:  Wendy Lydon, LPBC As we proceed during  the year, we sometimes focus on all of the stuff we need to do to be successful.  We establish goals and sometimes do stuff and sometimes don’t do the stuff we planned to for a whole variety of reasons.  But we sometimes forget to look at our attitude to make sure we put ourselves in a position to succeed.  Let me tell you a story that might help.

At a recent networking group, the speaker asked each of the members of the audience after he had passed out stickers for each of them to wear, “So what are you?”  We all were wearing a sticker and one said Gottu and the other said Gettu.  No one knew what the heck he was talking about and that’s what made his presentation even better. Of course, he had prepped the group with some ringers to make his point and that’s OK since he went on to make his point with incredible effectiveness.

He proceeded and asked a second series of questions.  “What are you expecting to get out of today’s session? Who would like to go first?”  Then he pointed to someone (a shill) and said, “Come on Joe, why don’t we start with you?”  The expected response was, “Oh, man do I gotta go first.”  The speaker stopped him and said “No, that’s OK Joe, not to worry,” turning to another, he asked, “How about Mary, why you don’t start?”  Mary (the second shill), leaped to her feet and said with great enthusiasm, “Great, now, I gettu go first.”  Can you see the difference, and allowing for the grammatical assault, his point was made.

Quite simply put, some of us are Gottu people and some of us are Gettu.  Many of us are frequently thinking, “Oh boy, I’ve got to do this or I have to do that,” and it really colors the way we go about doing things and it makes us in almost all cases that much less effective.  Others cannot wait to sink their teeth into new or even every day projects and frequently and conversely exclaim, “YES, I gettu start working with this client, or I gettu finish up this project.”  Ask yourself, who would you want to spend any time with if given the choice?  That’s right, the gettu people every time. Do you think anyone chooses to work with those Debbie Downers of the world?  No way!!!   This relates to our personal life also.  I recently thought that I get to help my daughter clean her room (haha) and I get to drive my parents to the doctors.  I shutter to think – what if I didn’t get to do these things?!!

As you can imagine when I write this, I can’t wait to get to it!  Hopefully you’ll think about this the next time you need to do something because, here’s the beauty of all this, you GETTU choose who you are going to be each and every day in 2011. Why not make it the most effective choice you can make?

Wendy Lydon is a Licensed Professional Business Coach and Vice President of ThistleSea Business Development, LLC, located in Wexford, PA.  You can contact her at 724.935.1930 or by email at

Wendy Lydon Receives Licensed Professional Business Coach Designation

Wendy Lydon, LPBC

Wendy Lydon, LPBC

Pittsburgh Area Woman Receives Licensed Professional Business Coach Designation

Wendy Lydon, LPBC Wexford, PA – January 6, 2011 -- Local business woman and business coach Wendy Lydon, LPBC, has completed advanced business coaching training with the Professional Business Coaches Alliance (PBCA), Canton, OH ( She is vice president of ThistleSea Business Development, LLC, ( a Pittsburgh, PA area business coaching firm where she has been assisting the firm’s clients since 2009.

The Licensed Professional Business Coaching designation requires over 50 hours of intensive classroom training covering all aspects of coaching and mentoring successful business owners in addition to nearly 100 hours of continuing education annually.

The PBCA is an alliance of the most highly trained professional business coaches across North America. Its members have helped hundreds of business owners to become more successful.

Ms. Lydon is no stranger to business. She has formal education and degrees in Business Management and Information Systems. Ms. Lydon has over twenty years of extensive background and expertise in business development, sales leadership and customer care in healthcare, group purchasing, association management, retail and distribution. She is a member of the Women’s Business Network and Pittsburgh Professional Women organizations.

“Joining forces with a group of successful and committed business coaches gives my clients not only the insights of my solid career experience, but also the expertise and talents of over 100 Licensed Professional Business Coaches across North America,” said Ms. Lydon. “In addition, I now have a range of tools and best business practices my clients can use to really enhance their business performance to move to the next level much more quickly.”

John D. Laslavic, LPBC , president of ThistleSea Business Development, commented, “We are extremely pleased to add the talents of Ms. Lydon to our ThistleSea Business Development team of licensed professional business coaches. She has a tremendous business background and the skills to help business owners reach their professional and business goals.”

Ms. Lydon’s offices are located at 7500 Brooktree Road in Wexford. She offers both one-on-one coaching and group coaching for business owners and a variety of training and business assessments. She and her family reside in Cranberry Township, PA.

About ThistleSea Business Development, LLC.

Established in 2006, ThistleSea Business Development, LLC is a business coaching, strategy development and training company based in the Pittsburgh area. It is the only service organization in the area comprised of a team of three Licensed Professional Business Coaches and also a certified Guerrilla Marketing Firm. ThistleSea Business Development also includes the divisions of CNICUS Buying Group, providing services that help businesses increase revenue, reduce expenses and improve their performance and Ketchfire, which focuses on the design and implementation of internet, web development and social media tools and strategies.

“Because your business should lead to Abundance.”

For additional contact information:

Wendy O. Lydon, LPBC, Vice President ThistleSea Business Development Phone: (724) 935-1930 Cell: (724) 316-7027 Email: Business Development Office 7500 Brooktree Rd., Suite 117 Wexford, PA 15090 Phone: 724.935.1930 Fax: 925.848.3266

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: John D. Laslavic, LPBC, President ThistleSea Business Development, LLC Phone: (724) 935-1930 Cell: (412) 559-3503 Email: Web Site:

5 Important Areas To Consider In Your 2011 Business Planning


By: John D. Laslavic, LPBC Most business owners I have met consider the New Year as a time to get a fresh start. It is usually a time to reflect on the business’s past year’s successes and failures. It is also a time to compare the planned results of the previous year’s business goals to the actual results achieved for the year. Once the evaluation is completed, new goals are usually established by the business owner with the management team and a strategic action plan is developed and deployed.

Knowing that perfection is never actually achieved but a constant state to strive for, the most successful business owners are never satisfied with the current state of the business and are constantly striving for improved results.

Here are 5 important areas for business owners to consider when establishing the Strategic Business Action Plan!

1. Decide what you want for 2011! Have you determined what you want your business to be? Are you making the needed adjustments to help the business be the best in serving your market, prospects and clients? Are you setting realistic goals and objectives?

As a business owner you might want to consider the maturity of the business and if your desires for the business reflect what the business really needs. In your planning are you anticipating the areas that may be the weakest links in the business that could inhibit your business growth? What areas might need further developed in order for your business to continue to grow and prosper?

2. Benchmark your business! Are you comparing your business to other similar businesses in your SIC or NAICS codes? What can you learn by the comparisons and apply to improve your business performance?

I have a successful client that had always planned for annual revenue growth of 15%. He wondered why his peers around the country were growing much faster than his business. When we benchmarked this owner’s business against his peers, we found that his peers on average were growing revenue 46% annually. Using this data and adjusting the business owner’s action plan to more aggressively pursue more aggressive business growth, the business owner with renewed confidence achieved a 39% growth the following year. A great result for a change in perspective of the owner now not satisfied with a mere 15% annual revenue growth. ThistleSea Business Development has access to financial benchmarking tools to assist our clients in performing peer comparisons to assist in establishing realistic goals for growth and to identify actions to strengthen your business performance.

3. Find and implement the best business practices! What business best practices can you apply to avoid making the mistakes of others? How much more efficient and effective can your business operate, not to mention driving a more profitable business by applying the best business practices available.

You might want to consider a Business Effective Evaluation by a Licensed Professional Business Coach to help you begin the process to identify your strengths and weakness to help develop your Strategic Business Action Plan.

Find what works for you and your business but avoid continuing use of those practices that might feel comfortable but through an objective evaluation are costing your business and not giving you the return needed to be successful.

4. Put your Strategic Business Action Plan in writing! By developing your Strategic Business Action Plan for the New Year and putting it in writing, you will get closer to success than 99% of those who don’t put their plans in writing. So how do you develop the action plan for the New Year and to meet the needs of the business owner and develop a plan that will provide the business what it needs to grow strong to deliver for the business owner?

5. Envision your success and practice! Successful business owners see the future of business success in advance of achieving the results. They understand that a lot of small parts of the business add up to achieving this successful vision. They and their team members practice the actions that lead to the success envisioned. They understand and lead their team to understand that continual training and education on a patterned basis is required to keep the organization on track and relevant. This education and training is required to maintain a leadership position with their customers.

While a business owner can successfully move their organization forward on their own, engaging a Licensed Professional Business Coach will help you, the business owner to clearly and objectively evaluation your current situation and build a Strategic Business Action Plan. The ThistleSea Licensed Professional Business Coach also provides clients with tools, best practices, an objective perspective and the accountability needed to take those action steps to achieve big results.

About the Author John D. Laslavic is a Licensed Professional Business Coach and a Certified Guerrilla Marketing Coach. John is the President of ThistleSea Business Development, LLC ( which includes the CNICUS Buying Group.

John and his team of Licensed Professional Coaches work with successful business owners in the Greater Pittsburgh Area, Western Pennsylvania Region and across the United States. John can be contacted at ThistleSea Business Development, LLC by calling 724,935.1930 or email at

Contact us if you are interested in a no-cost initial meeting to discuss how a ThistleSea Business Development, LLC coach can help you achieve the success you desire for your business.

© 2010 – 2011 ThistleSea Business Development, LLC , All Rights Reserved.

Marketing (Are you doing enough to stay in the game?)

Have you or your staff ever complained that there is no business out there?  Complained that the political landscape is not conducive for new business, the economy can’t support new clients, potential customers are difficult and have all but disappeared, and competitors have eroded your market share.  How important is marketing (finding qualified leads) for your business?  Is marketing your business of primary focus or is your company primarily focused on the technical work.  Do you produce high quality products or services, but can’t get the traction to fill your sales pipeline with great prospects?

If you are one of the many companies with the above mentioned symptoms and assuming that your products and services fill customers’ needs, you might want to consider a change in your perspective. If any of the above sounds familiar to you and your business colleagues, you might be interested in reading on.

I have had the pleasure of watching my three sons Jon, Tony & Nick play high and college school sports.  Two focused their energies on football and one was a soccer and track athlete.  Having watched them through their years of development, many of the lessons they learned on the field while actively participating in these sports can be applied to marketing a business.

So with that being said, let’s break it down.

Marketing your business, like team sports, requires:

  1. Knowledge of the game or sport rules you’re playing,
  2. Leadership abilities to communicate to inspire your team,
  3. The ability to apply best practices and techniques to devise winning plays,
  4. Learning and developing skills to use on the field of play,
  5. Devising a winning game plan or plan of attack.

But that still is not good enough. Like competitive sports, putting your marketing game plan into action is then required at game time.  A game plan designed to score more points than your opponent to win the game.  Then, after the action, the results are measured by a score to determine a winner.  The results, game statistics, the play films are reviewed to ensure strategies and tactics are continually refined to produce an even improved result when playing the next game. 

Are you focused on measuring and replicating successful result (s)?  Do you communicate these results and look to make changes for continued improvement of your business? 

The importance of capturing, organizing and reporting data and information on marketing performance is critical for success.  By developing and refining your business systems that deliver the desired results more often, you too can have a great business and life.  As marketing is an investment, do we strive for the biggest return on our marketing investment as possible?

ThistleSea Business Development, LLC can help you determine and evaluate your current situation and get you back on the field with an action plan to double the effectiveness of your marketing.  It’s just part of the services we offer our clients.   Call us today, (724) 935-1930 for more information on how we help our clients score big. 

By: John D. Laslavic, LPBC

(c) 2010 ThistleSea Business Development, LLC, All Rights Reserved

26 Reasons Business Owners Seek Help


When Might You Want To Recommend Or Seek Assistance from A Licensed Professional Business Coach?

Many life events occur that impact business owners, business partners, business investors and business executives.  When should you seek help from an experienced business coach or mentor?  And why would you look for one?

ThistleSea Business Developments’ clients come from many different skills, educational backgrounds, careers, geographic locations and types of businesses.  But are there some things they have in common?  Yes, a few include:

  • A strong desire to succeed!
  • Knowledge that they might not know everything!
  • Some degree of lacking a completely clear vision of the future!
  • Experiencing some type of frustration, failure and/or pain!
  • A gradual or a sudden change of circumstances in their business or personal life!
  • An unending need or desire to learn more and get it right!

So what are some of the types of circumstances you might recognize in others or in your own business that could encourage you to recommend a business coach to another or seek assistance yourself?

Below are some reasons that we see at ThistleSea Business Development that might help you:

  1. Business is growing too fast for the owner to keep up with the changes needed.
  2. Owner losing control.
  3. Lack of business sales growth.
  4. Desire to sell and/or realizing the business has little value.
  5. Disputes within the business.
  6. Son(s) or daughter(s) taking over the reins of the business.
  7. Family issues in the business.
  8. Junior partner takes over the business,
  9. Business begins to fail after 16, 32 or more years of a successful business.
  10. Owner ends up in the emergency room because of the business pressures.
  11. Not enough income to earn a profit.
  12. Bank loan requirements that suggest a higher success rate when owners hire a licensed professional business coach.
  13. Owner cannot find employees who care.
  14. Owner 2 years in business and the business not working.
  15. A monumental mistake that puts their business at extreme risk.
  16. Owner failed in one business and not wanting to fail again.
  17. Looking for a new location to establish or re-establish the business.
  18. Retirement of a senior owner or partner.
  19. Co-owner not fulfilling their responsibilities.
  20. Theft of business assets by a co-owner or employee.
  21. Owner continues to self-sabotage.
  22. Competition from other businesses or individuals.
  23. Franchise model broken because of owner’s success.
  24. Added additional locations and owner(s) are out of control.
  25. Death of the owner or key employee.
  26. Loss of key customer(s) severely impacting revenue / cash flow.

If you are experiencing any of these situations in your business or others, be encouraged that there is help and these situations have answers and can be resolved for business improvement.

Our staff and allies at ThistleSea Business Development can help you identify the best way to start, resolve these issues and help you gain clarity and take action.  We encourage contacting us at 724.935.1930 for a free initial consultation.

By John D. Laslavic, LPBC, President

© 2010 All Rights Reserved, ThistleSea Business Development, LLC

Selling Your Business

Exit Planning – Cost of Doing Nothing!

By:  Tony McDaniel, CPA, CBI, BSN is the president of Allied Business Consultants

Most businesses simply do not sell.  And for those business owners who successfully sell their company, to either an external third party buyer or internally to family members or key employees, most do so without proper exit planning.   Under either exit scenario, the cost to the owner is often significant when compared to the benefits of implementing a successful exit strategy.

Without an exit strategy, the owner typically sells for too little… as much as 30% to 40% according to some industry statistics.   Additionally, when selling the business internally to family members or key employees, the cash component to the owner at closing is substantially lower than when selling to a third party buyer.

Real costs to business owners who do not properly plan for the exit of their business include the following:

  • Sale Price is often lower… as much as 30% to 40%
  • Cash at closing to the owner is often substantially less
  • Likelihood of actually selling is significantly reduced.  Industry statistics show that only 10% to 30% of businesses on the market at any point in time actually sell.
  • Pay more in income and estate taxes
  • Owner does not control the exit process….the buyer does
  • Personal and financial goals are not achieved
  • Becomes a burden to the family if the owner dies
  • Privacy and confidentiality can be difficult to maintain

The key to avoid or minimize the above costs is to be pro-active.  Do not be a statistic.  It is estimated that up to 70% of all privately held companies will transfer ownership over the next 5 – 10 years.  If you are a business owner, then your business will probably fall into this statistic.  If so, now is the time to take action!

Our business enhancement services are a key component to successful exit plans.  Our experts are skilled in providing guidance on increasing your annual revenues and minimizing your annual expenses.  The end result is an improved annual bottom line profit by as much as 100% - 200% and in turn, a substantially higher sale price for your company.

As a business owner, not only will you benefit, but your family will also benefit from your pro-active actions.  You will also greatly diminish the likelihood of being a statistic of forfeiting substantial money when you exit your business.  Please call us today to discuss your unique and individual objectives.

About the author: Tony McDaniel, CPA, CBI, BSN is the president of Allied Business Consultants serving Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.   Tony is a Business Sales Expert focusing on assisting owners of small to medium sized privately owned companies exit their business.   In addition to his 18 years of mergers and acquisitions experience, Tony previously practiced public accounting for 10 years, including prior employment with Ernst & Whinney, a Big 8 public accounting firm.  Tony can be reached at 412-377-0500 or   All discussions are kept strictly confidential.

(c) 2010 all rights reserved; ThistleSea Business Development, LLC

The Perfect Marketing Strategy

"Perfection is something you should strive for every day but realize you may never reach!"

If someone was to ask me what the most important thing to do in marketing a professional service these days, I might suggest a number of marketing strategies.

But what I'd emphasize, above all else, would be taking action on something, anything, and not worrying if it was perfect enough.

Last last year I had an imperfect campaign to launch a new idea.

Then I designed an imperfect  campaign and launched it.

I sent imperfect emails to announce it.

I put on imperfect teleclasses to promote it.

I did imperfect interviews with marketing experts.

I led imperfect coaching calls with members.

I tried several imperfect introductory pricing strategies. And the clients are getting imperfect results.

I now have about 650 new clients, and that's perfect!

I will continue in my imperfect ways.

I just designed imperfect Groups.  And no doubt I will manage those imperfectly as well.

If you are waiting to do things perfectly before you get started, you may just be a perfect idiot. Perfection is something you strive for, realizing it is never reached.

The Bottom Line: Got a marketing idea? Jump in and do it imperfectly. Your imperfect idea with the imperfect plan and the imperfect implementation may just attract all the new customers you need.

What do you do imperfectly and get great results anyway?

ThistleSea Business Development, has the resources and the expertise to help you grow a "sustainable" business even if a bit imperfectly.

Adapted from an eZine by Robert Middleton, President , Action Plan Marketing

Is Everything Sustainable?


Sustainability - Creating value for customers, investors, and the environment

The buzz word I heard the entire month was "Sustainable."

Everything is about and everyone seems to have some angle on this word. It is in vogue I guess. It is touted on news, at seminars, in businesses, trumpeted by business leaders, law makers, in articles, from government officials, foundations, foreign countries, politicians, economists and comedians, just to name drop a few.

Believe it or not, I heard the spokespersons apply the term sustainability to issues from firms large and small; in the reference to farming, manufacturing, insurance, hospitals, banking, construction, design, engineering, sciences, medicine, pharmaceuticals, energy, utilities, chemicals, sports, services, architecture, finance, educaton, not-for-profits, entertainment, fuels, law, transportation, and even the government. And I probably missed hundreds of others.

From McDonalds, to Nike, to Starbucks, to Home Depot, to NASA, to the Pittsburgh Convention Center for the G-20, they all are talking about their efforts to develop a more sustainable businesses or sometimes called a greener business. Even the Cleveland Browns and the Dallas Cowboys are looking for sustainability.

So if you're curious like me, you've got to dig into the term sustainable to find out how this really applies to a business coach (since I didn't hear business coaching in the dialogue all month) and what it might mean to my clients and your business.

According to the Wikipedia, "A sustainable business, or green business, is enterprise that has no negative impact on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy - a business that strives to meet the triple bottom line." (Editor's Note: The use of no negative impact might just cause a few disagreements.)

A sustainable business is any organization that participates in environmentally-friendly or green activities to ensure that all processes, products, and manufacturing activities adequately address current environmental concerns while maintaining a profit. In other words, it is a business that "meets the needs of the present world without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs." It is the process of assessing how to design products that will take advantage of the current environmental situation and how well a company's products perform with renewable resources.

The Brundtland Report emphasized that sustainability is a three-legged stool of people, planet, and profit. Sustainable businesses with the supply chain try to balance all three through the triple-bottom-line concept-using sustainable development and sustainable distribution to impact the environment, business growth, and the society.

As a business coach, I work with clients on a continual basis to assist them adopt best business practices. As a practical matter, it is yet to be seen how the economic landscape will evolve to adapt to this movement to a more sustainable or greener world. The economics will be one critical factor where my clients will lean on me a bit more to provide leadership, guidance and partnering with them to assistance in implementing sustainable solutions that improve their businesses.

Watch with a critical eye what opportunities exist with this movement because there is money to be made. I could be wrong, but I believe T. Boone Pickens, for example, just might make a few bucks on his movement for sustainable and "green" natural gas. For example, he continues to lobby congress to mandate that all new freight trucks be required to burn only natural gas instead of diesel fuel. If this is good economics, why isn't it being done today? And if it happens, it may be a tremendous opportunity for your business!

Adopting these sustainable practices can be good for us all and for future generations and might even improve our profitability. On the cynical side, I hope we are not mandated into a position where our hands become so tied and we lose our freedom to compete in the marketplace and are forced to mis-allocate our precious resources just because the new policies and legislation are labeled as sustainable or green.

By: John D. Laslavic, LPBCBusiness Coach/President ThistleSea Business Development, LLC

If you have any thoughts, email me at © 2009, ThistleSea Business Development; All Rights Reserved

Can Extraordinary Leaders Double Profits?

Is there really a connection between leadership and increased profits? The answer is YES!

In recent work by Jack Zenger, Joe Folkman and Scott K. Edinger they found that decoding leadership revealed patterns that can be used to develop leaders that inspire and motivate employees to higher levels of productivity and deliver profits as a result. As a matter of fact, extraordinary leaders can double profits.

So what is the connection between leadership and the bottom line?

Zenger, Folkman and Edinger through their study, found a growing body of research supporting the conclusion that leaders, good and bad directly affect the bottom line of companies. Analyzing a database of 300,000 360 degree feedback reports on approximately 30,000 managers collected in hundreds of companies around the world revealed concrete performance metrics that allowed them to compare measurable business results with leadership effectiveness. This data reveals how to identify extraordinary leaders and how to develop leaders.

A leadership study for a commercial bank revealed that poor leaders represent 10% of the management and lost the bank money; good leaders represent 80% of the management and made a profit and the bank's extraordinary leaders more than doubled profits in comparison to the other 90 percent. During the period studied poor leaders (10%) in the study lost 1.2 million dollars; good leaders' (80%) results provided net income of 1.2 million dollars; while the extraordinary leaders (10%) produced net income of 4.5 million dollars.

While extraordinary leaders don't double profits in every case, it is proven that good leaders create more economic value than poor leaders and extraordinary leaders create significantly more economic value as compared to the rest.

What factors have the most powerful impact on the ability of a leader to perform at the level of extraordinary? Measurement of a leader's impact on the bottom line reveals focus on the factors of employee retention and turnover; employee commitment and morale; customer satisfaction; and productivity. Because these factors can be objectively measured, the trend lines throughout the studies reveal these same factors every time.

Developing Extraordinary Leaders Organizations of any size can capitalize on the research by following a business development model that focuses on leadership development that defines the competencies that will make a difference as show by the best companies. The studies reveal a clear path to extraordinary leadership, increased productivity and more profits. This path is to build and develop your company's leadership on 16 competencies and strengths. These 16 competencies can be divided into 5 categories of behavior, as outlined below:

  • Focus on results.
    • Drives For Results,
    • Establishes Stretch Goals
    • Takes Initiative
  • Leading change.
    • Develops strategic perspectives,
    • Champions change
    • Connects the group to the outside world
  • Character.
    • Displays high integrity and honesty
  • Interpersonal skills.
    • Communicates powerfully and proficiently,
    • Inspires and motivates others to high performance
    • Builds relationships
    • Develops others
    • Collaborates and teamwork
  • Personal capability.
    • Demonstrates technical professional expertise
    • Solves problems and analyzes issues
    • Innovates
    • Practices self-development

These 16 competencies were most frequently and consistently those that separated the extraordinary leaders from the rest. While not all leaders will possess all the above traits, most extraordinary leaders will possess strengths in at least 3 or 4 competencies.

One Most Important Competency The one pivotal competency that distinguishes the extraordinary (10%) leaders was interpersonal skills behaviors. These leaders do their jobs well but also inspire and motivate their people to succeed. And the process is simple; develop leaders in your company with the competencies that support the behavior of inspiring and motivating people.

Empirical analysis in the study revealed that some of the traditional methods of motivating where less effective than applying use of competency companion behaviors which were not often intuitive. For example:

  • Setting stretch goals for employees.
  • Establishing a clear vision.
  • Developing others.
  • Practicing greater teamwork collaboration.
  • Demonstrating greater initiative.
  • Being a role model.

Developing leaders in your company with these competency companions and developing a system for follow-up, accountability and practicing new skills are critical for your company's leadership success and key to doubling your profits.

It is possible to measure leadership in dollars. Good leaders create value and extraordinary leaders create far more value that good leaders. Wisely choose to develop yourself and the leaders in your company.

If you want to learn more about this topic or how to apply these competencies in your company, call ThistleSea Business Development, LLC at 724.935.1930.

Adapted from: CLO Magazine, How extraordinary leaders double profits, by Jack Zenger, Joe Folkman and Scott K. Edinger, July 2009

By: John D. Laslavic, LPBC Business Coach/President ThistleSea Business Development, LLC

© 2009, ThistleSea Business Development, All Rights Reserved

13 Questions: Is your company growing too fast?

A recent national shipping company's television advertisement began with a company manager in a panic describing all of the issues he is facing has because of a great spike of growth in the business. Following the manager's tantrum, a worker simply asked the raving manager, "But isn't growth the reason why we are in the business?"

Growth should be a goal of any business, but growth should also be carefully planned. Impatience can lead to a number of common mishaps: the failed launch of a new product or service, expanding into an unfamiliar field before the company is ready, buying new equipment before you can actually afford it, or making an acquisition without proper due diligence. Should you curb your current growth plan?

Answer the following 13 questions, True or False and find out.

  1. Every day you're running in a constant crisis mode.
  2. You don't have any time to each month to evaluate what's going on in your industry.
  3. You've hired more temporary help than permanent employees in order to keep up with demand.
  4. You seem to get less financial return for every dollar you add to the payroll.
  5. Your posted job openings outnumber the number of workers you currently employ.
  6. Your back orders have grown substantially beyond your standard lead time.
  7. Your adoption of new technology is either well ahead or well behind a company of your size.
  8. Customer complaints are increasing.
  9. Your overhead costs are skyrocketing.
  10. Your existing customers are not getting the attention they deserve because you're pursuing new clients.
  11. Cash flow is tight because of your expenses and debts.
  12. Employees or a product group are putting a strain on the overall profitability of the company.
  13. You don't have a good handle on accounts receivable management or the finances.

If you answered True to more than three of these questions, your company is probably at risk of becoming out of your own control.

Take a step back and analyze what degree of growth is sustainable, profitable, and feasible for your business, and adjust your operations to make that growth a reality. This might require you to sideline some projects, or hold off on your dream of bigger offices, or even wait before adding staff. But in the end, your company will emerge stronger.

ThistleSea Business Development, has the resources and the expertise to help you grow a sustainable business. Give us a call at 724.935.1930 to schedule a confidential session to discuss your specific situation.

Adapted from Inc Magazine. Is your company growing too fast for you to keep up? - Gray, Keaton; August 2009.

Surviving And Thriving In The Economic Downturn (Part 2)

Part 2 - By: Denise Hebb, CPA - Certified Public Accountant & Certified Fraud Examiner PAY ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS. Just as you did when your business began, now is the time to pay attention to all of the small details of your business. As you expanded, you likely hired additional employees and delegated much of these small details.

Review employee expense reports. In good times, employees are likely to claim excessive reimbursement for "business-related" expenses. It is standard practice, a little perk for a job well done. But, as your profit margins decline, it is just such expenses that can sink you. Take the time to review these expenses, don't hesitate to refuse excessive reimbursements, and consider establishing a less liberal reimbursement policy. For instance, mileage reimbursement does not have to be that allowed by the IRS. Many companies routinely reimburse mileage at a lower rate - if you are paying the maximum, now might be the time to reduce this cost.

Be alert to fraud and abuse. It is a fact, employees steal. Whether it is cash and inventory, taking excessive paid time off, or slacking on the job, employees are often self-serving. In the current economic turmoil, employers should expect an increase in such behavior.

The fraud triangle describes three conditions that must exist in order for fraud to occur: pressure or incentive, rationalization, and opportunity. As businesses suffer through hard times, employees are also experiencing their own difficulties. Making their mortgage payment or meeting other obligations becomes more difficult, creating an incentive to take advantage of their employer. Pay cuts, layoffs, or uncertain continued employment enable the employee to rationalize that, in these difficult times, it is reasonable for them to look out for themselves. The incentives and rationalization naturally arise even more frequently in the face of economic uncertainty. There is very little that you can to do curtail these factors.

This leaves just one condition that you can impact - opportunity. Making sure that you have adequate controls over assets such as cash and inventory, closely monitoring the behavior of your employees, and independently reviewing business transactions is your best defense against employee theft. Employees, even dishonest ones, want to appear honest. Implementing proper internal controls will increase the employees' perception that they might be caught. It is the threat of being exposed that deters most employees from taking advantage of you.

Monitor inventory levels. Inventory represents an investment. You manufacture or acquire goods, hold them in stock until they are sold, and hopefully sell them at a profit. While held for sale, inventory is an idle asset - not making you any money and, in fact, compromising your cash flow. Now, more than ever, you should avoid unnecessarily high inventory levels. Monitoring your "days in inventory" ratio is critical. Cut back your orders or production to meet your current demand. Consider selling inventory that has been on the shelves for a while at a discount. It is better to breakeven or even take a small loss on the sale of unproductive assets than to continue to have cash tied up in them.

Focus on service. It is exceptional customer service that sets you apart from your competition. Exceptional customer service is appreciated and can make or break any business. It is often an intangible asset that drives repeat business. Make sure that everyone in your organization understands the importance of exceptional customer service.

I am a loyal Costco customer. Their prices are right, but their customer service routinely exceeds my expectations. I purchased a leather sofa and loveseat in August 2006. My family had enjoyed this purchase for nearly three years, when I noticed that the leather on the armrests has seemed to melt. It is not just wear and tear, but appears to be some sort of problem with the treatment of the leather. I approached the service desk at Costco to inquire if anything might be done. Considering that the furniture is nearly three years old, I did not expect much. But, to my great pleasure, Costco informed me if I was not satisfied with my purchase; they would gladly accept a return and give me a full cash refund. Threes years later, a full cash refund - once again, my expectations were greatly exceeded. Wonder why I am a loyal Costco customer? I buy everything from furniture and appliances to food, clothes, and books from Costco. As I said, the price is right, but it is the customer service that really knocks my socks off.

Know your competitive advantages. You need to know what you do that sets you apart from your competitors. You need to able to clearly articulate your competitive advantages. Identify your strengths and highlight them to your customers. In tumultuous times, it is best to stick with your core competencies. Use your core strengths to make your business shine.

Focusing your efforts on existing customers. As sales decline, competition for business increases. This makes keeping close contact with existing customers more important than ever. Ignoring them simply gives your competition an opportunity to get their foot in the door. Your existing customers are your biggest asset - work with them to increase their orders and to obtain referrals.

In addition, while sales to your customers are important, cash flow is even more critical. Keeping close contact with your existing customers allows you to continually assess their ability to pay their bills. Be alert to downturns in their businesses and pay close attention to your accounts receivable. Changes in payment terms might indicate they are having trouble paying their bills. Don't be afraid to call for your payment, it is often the squeaky wheel that gets the attention.

Focus on profitability, not growth. Growing a business often requires a substantial investment, one that might not be possible during down times. It is better to focus on your bottom line. While it is tempting to reduce your prices to spur increased sales, this is not always a wise course of action. Reduced prices decrease your profit margins and, even when the economy recovers, your customers may be resistant to price increases.

In addition, before reducing your prices, you must consider how this might harm your "brand". Remember, for most businesses, price is not the only factor customers consider when making their purchase. Even products that might be considered commodities are often differentiated and sold at various prices.

Continue marketing your business. It is tempting to cutback on advertising during down times. Many small businesses are likely to decrease their advertising, so use this to your advantage. Maintain or even increase your efforts. Marketing builds businesses; this is especially true when the economy is down. Consider some low cost alternatives to your current advertising.

Direct mail works. I have successfully used direct mail to market a number of successful businesses. I have consistently found that it provides more results per dollar spent than traditional advertising.

Reactivate past customers. Approach inactive customers and ask why they are no longer customers. Determine what can be done to make them customers again. If your company has failed in some way, vow to remedy the situation and ask for the business back.

Take the time to call on potential customers yourself. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Calling your customers is one of the best ways you can convey your appreciation. A lunch, a quick cup of coffee, or dropping off a small token of your appreciation will go a long way towards making your customer feel important.

Do anything you can to get yourself in front of customers or potential customers. Speaking at events or hosting workshops enables you to hold yourself out as an expert and gives you the opportunity to meet new people - potential new customers.

Newsletters are a great way to get your name in front of both existing and potential customers. Often you can purchase a prewritten newsletter that can be modified and used to enhance your marketing efforts.

Update your website. Often websites are developed and then just left to be. Doing so is not making the best use of your investment and the monthly hosting fees you must pay. Update your site, add links, and actively promote it. Entire businesses thrive on marketing efforts linked to their website. Use your site wisely.

Finally, don't worry unproductively. Worrying about things outside of your control increases your stress and distracts you from areas that are controllable. Focus your time and energy on the things that you can control. Let others worry about the world economy while you control your own attitude and actions. Identify strategies to highlight and increase your business. Even in down times, businesses survive. Do what you must to ensure that your business is one of them.

Guest Contributor: Denise M. Hebb, CPA is the owner and president of D. Hebb & Company, LLC, located in the Wexford Professional Building II, 11676 Perry Highway, Suite 2105 Wexford, PA 15090. Denise can be reached at (724) 935-5480 or

ThistleSea Business Development, LLC is proud to have Hebb & Company, LLC, Certified Public Accountants as a client. © 2009, ThistleSea Business Development, All Rights Reserved

Surviving And Thriving In The Economic Downturn (Part 1)

Part 1 - By: Denise Hebb, CPA - Certified Public Accountant & Certified Fraud Examiner As a small business owner, it is almost inevitable that the current economic climate has caused you to panic. Decreased sales, lower profit margins, and slower collection of receivables certainly creates a stressful situation. But, for most small business owners, the current uncertainty is not something new. Just think back to when you first started your business or to when you weathered the last economic downturn. While you probably worried about whether your business would succeed or fail, there was also something exhilarating about the path you had chosen.

I have spent the better part of my professional career making my own way. I often describe it as flying without a net. There is something exciting and liberating about making my own way. Making my own rules, setting my own goals, and executing my own business strategies is what makes going to work every day seem worthwhile. Even as I work much harder than any "real" job might demand, I feel free. Free to set my own path, free to make my own mistakes, and free to succeed beyond my wildest imagination. Even a long-term consulting gig begins to feel like a cage to me.

Such freedom requires that I bear the burden of the risks associated with running my own show, but it also allows me to reap the rewards of a successful endeavor. My biggest fear is that my business ventures will be unsuccessful and I will be forced to get a real job. It is this fear drives me. I work hard, but as soon as I achieve a goal I move the goal line. It is a constant push forward, always waiting for the next sign of my success. I am incessantly impatient and cannot wait to see the results of my work. So, a slow down in the economy concerns me.

I liken the current economic environment to starting a new business venture. While there is a lot of uncertainty and risks prevalent in the current economy, there is also an enormous opportunity for success. Not every small business will weather the storm, but those that survive might benefit from less competition. Taking advantage of current opportunities might be as simple as getting back to basics and behaving as if you just started your business. Starting any business required the right mindset and the willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed.

Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. When starting a new business, you had to be prepared to do whatever it took to succeed. You did not have the resources to hire someone to perform many of the required tasks. So, you rolled up your sleeves and did whatever needs to be done. You answered phones, took out the trash, or delivered a customer order yourself. And, if you are honest with yourself, you happily did whatever needed doing. A downturn in you business might require you to step into some of the roles you originally fulfilled.

Now is the time to evaluate your staff and determine if it makes sense to outsource or insource some of the work to yourself or family members. While your current staffing levels might be ideal, you may simply not be able to afford ideal. Just as you did when you first started, you must critically evaluate your current employees and determine if cutbacks are required for your business to succeed. Waiting too long to make this assessment might mean the end of your business.

But, be warned, do not act too hastily. Good and loyal employees are hard to find. Cultivating talent is often a lengthily and costly process. Partial cutbacks may be a better alternative to cutting positions entirely. For instance, employees will often accept a reduction in their pay if it means that all employees get to keep their jobs. As a business owner, you must carefully evaluate your employees and their efforts against the needs of the business.

Expect to make sacrifices. I'll admit it. I am used to a certain standard of living. I hate doing without. Yet, each new business I started meant that I might not receive a weekly, or even annual, paycheck. This is the price paid for the freedom that running your own business. If you want a steady, predictable payment for your services, then maybe a "real" job is for you. Having your own business means that you must be prepared to sacrifice some of your financial security and be willing to go into debt - responsibly, of course - if necessary to ensure that your business succeeds. It can be a frightening road, but a road that should be familiar to many small business owners. While doing without a paycheck is stressful in the short-term, it can have many long-term benefits. There is no doubt that I have earned many times over the salary that I could have expected from a regular job. The greater risk has certainly resulted in much greater rewards.

When business is booming, we all have the tendency to more freely expend our resources. We expand of lines of business, hire additional staff, and fail to carefully scrutinize our purchases. When the profits are flowing, spending doesn't seem quite as important as it did in the beginning. But, now is the time to postpone nonessential expenditures and focus your efforts on your most profitable lines of business. Just as you did when you first started your business - you must evaluate all expenditures. Are they necessary? Are there lower cost alternatives? Can the expenditure be postponed? Take a long look at all expenditures including inventory, occupancy costs, payroll and employee benefits, and travel and entertainment. Just as you did in the beginning, you need to get by with a bit less.

Renegotiate your office lease. Has the market rate for your space declined? Does your building have an excess of vacant offices? Is your lease about to expire? Are you paying for space you don't need or use? Use the downturn in the economy to your advantage by trying to renegotiate more favorable terms. Perhaps agreeing to a lease extension will allow for a significant cost reduction. Not surprisingly, you may find your landlord more than willing to renegotiate the terms of your least. But, if you don't ask, you will never know.

Review your telephone and Internet services. Are there lower cost providers in the area? Do you need all of your existing lines? Just as when you started your business, shop around for the best value.

Review your routine office supply purchases. Often, as a business becomes more profitable, the purchasing of supplies is delegated to an administrative staff member. As time goes by, the plethora of supply choices in the office expands. Anything the staff desires is automatically ordered. Shopping for the lowest price takes a backseat, supplies are ordered ad hoc and without much consideration. Your review of such purchases can save you a significant amount of money. A small investment of your time can reap huge rewards.

I had recently worked at a small CPA firm. A new office manager was hired and placed in charge of purchasing office supplies. We had a good year of getting anything the staff wanted. I mentioned that I would like to have a laminated set of tax return assembly instructions placed at the front-desk, a single page document - a laminating machine and all required supplies was promptly ordered. I mentioned that we should have binding combs available in various sizes - a file drawer full of binding supplies (more then could be used in a decade!) arrived shortly thereafter. Needless to say, we had any type of pens, pencils, paper, calculators, desk lamps, or other office supply that we wanted. The office staff was ecstatic, but the bill for these supplies had to be enormous.

Review service contracts. Whether it is your IT support, office cleaning, or payroll service, many services are commodities. Paying a premium for such services makes little sense when your profits are soaring, but they make even less sense when things are a bit tight.

Pay attention to your "cringe" factor. When signing checks, notice if there are expenditures that make you cringe. You are most likely not getting value out of these expenditures. Now is the time to review them and find a way to reduce them or find a better provider.

Contributor: Denise M. Hebb, CPA is the owner and president of D. Hebb & Company, LLC, located in the Wexford Professional Building II, 11676 Perry Highway, Suite 2105 Wexford, PA 15090. Denise can be reached at (724) 935-5480 or

ThistleSea Business Development, LLC is proud to have Hebb & Company, LLC, Certified Public Accountants as a client. © 2009, ThistleSea Business Development, All Rights Reserved