Month: August 2014

Ten Characteristics of Happy Customers


cartoon-business-man-02 All businesses want happy customers. However, many companies do not know how to recognize whether their customers are really satisfied or simply going through the motions until a better deal comes along. To help you gauge whether you are adequately meeting your customers’ needs, consider these ten characteristics of happy customers.

 Continuing Business – Happy customers will keep coming back to your business time and time again. They will ask for other products and service you offer. You will become their go-to place for meeting all their needs in your particular industry.



What is a company ethos?

The ethos of a company is its core set of values or operating principles that are used to set the tone for the company’s overall operations. In general, the ethos expresses the way that a company wants to behave. Some companies include concepts like environmental awareness or a democratic structure of communication in their overall ethos.

jerk-pic-1Businesses that have compelling ethoses end up winning clients even when their prices are not the best in the market or their products or services might not be the most innovative available. Their ethoses may capture the attention of their niches, and their clients develop an emotional attachment.

Green Mountain Energy is an example of a company that has captured a larger market share than it might have otherwise because of its commitment to providing energy through means that are pollution free. The company’s ethos involves using power from sun, wind and hydroelectric sources so that its customers do not contribute to global pollution. The company’s marketing and outreach push this ethos, quantifying the energy use of its customers in terms of the number of trees saved or the number of cars taken off the road. These statistics make its ethos easy to understand,

11 tips for new consultants to hit the ground running

Tips for new business consultants and management consultantsAfter releasing a few big products last week, we’re back to regularly-scheduled programming. This week, we’ll focus on the consulting lifestyle.Today’s post is on practical tips to being successful as a new consultant. A former manager once said to me, “do well in your first project, and you can write your own ticket for the next few years.”

To that end, here’s a tactical list for getting off to a fast start on a new project. Follow the 11 steps below and you’ll be a management maven in no time:

1. Set up Google Alerts for your client and its competitors

This is an absolute must. Google Alerts feed you the latest online information (collected primarily from news sites and blogs) related to keywords that you specify.

Setup these alerts for your client and its top 3 competitors.

This will help you stay current on client and industry developments, which will come in handy through the project. Many people are too pre-occupied to do this regularly, and it’s a quick win for new consultants to add value.

Go here to get started. If you don’t know your client’s key competitors, use tools like Yahoo! Finance.





In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing and the next best thing is the wrong thing–the worst thing you can do is nothing.–Theodore Roosevelt

Today’s global economy is characterized by rapid and unpredictable change. The challenge of such turbulent times can only be met by employing an appropriate blend of the leadership and management mindsets.

Leaders in all sectors–industry, government, the military, academia, and non-profits–are being challenged to do more with less to better utilize their people’s time, physical assets, and budget. Your first response to a shrinking budget might be to do more yourself. An alternative is to delegate more to team members either proportionally or by getting your high potentials to take on extra work. In the first case, you are likely to burn out and have insufficient time to lead. In the latter two cases, you burn out either everyone or just the best people on your team. There is a better way: eliminate low-value tasks.

Stefan, an associate director in a government agency, received a constant stream of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, which by law must be addressed promptly. He lamented that answering the requests was making it virtually impossible for his people to perform their core mission; his thinking was rooted in ways that worked well for him in the past. Doing everything that was asked was one of Stefan’s core values and a source of pride for him. We asked him to consider other approaches he could use to process the FOIA requests. Stefan met with his boss and asked her to assign some of them to her staff. A few hours later, she agreed that her staff would handle the more controversial requests because they involved policy issues. The impossible became possible, and his team continued to excel at their core mission.


Top 10 Issues Small Businesses Will Face in 2014

The marketplace is constantly changing, and small businesses that stay abreast of contemporary trends and can anticipate the future will survive, while those that stubbornly rest on their laurels will be left behind. The ability to surmount small business challenges is critical to success, and it begins with a strategic plan to overcome market obstacles. To help you plan, the following lists the top 10 issues small business will face in 2014. Are you prepared

Top 10 Issues Small Businesses Will Face in 2014 image business issues

1. Healthcare

It’s still uncertain how the Affordable Care Act is going to affect small businesses, but it’s fair to say you’re going to spend a lot of time, money, or both dealing with it in 2014. How will you manage your healthcare program and expenses without jeopardizing your budget and work time?


The Pareto Principle

Pareto Principle

Applying the 80/20 Rule to Your Business

A small portion of your business is generating the bulk of productivity and profitability. That’s the Pareto principle. Your job is to identify and leverage it. Here’s how.
Italian economist Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto observed in 1906 that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population. Later, he observed this noteworthy ratio seemed to apply to other parts of life, such as gardening: 80 percent of his peas were produced by 20 percent of the peapods. Over time, this concept has come to be known as the “Pareto Principle,” “The 80/20 Rule,” and even “The Vital Few and Trivial Many Rule.” Interestingly, another of Pareto’s most noteworthy and controversial theories is that human beings are not, for the most part, motivated by logic and reason but rather by sentiment.

Observing the Pareto Principle in Action

Here are some 80/20 rule applications:
Does 20 percent of your sales force produce 80 percent of revenues?
Do 20 percent of your products account for 80 percent of product sales?
Do 80 percent of your visitors see only 20 percent of your Web site pages?
Do 80 percent of delays arise from 20 percent of the possible causes of delay?
Do 80 percent of customer complaints arise from 20 percent of your products or services?


Benefits of Small Business Consulting


No two businesses are the same. The challenges, opportunities, and structure of each company are in one way or another unique from its competitors and others. Since each business is different, a unique approach is required when any given business is trying to deal with a current problem or assess their viability in the future. The consulting industry exists to help businesses tackle these issues, but not every consulting job is going to be the same. Small business consulting is going to require a different approach and frame of mind compared to working with big businesses.

What is consulting? Well, consulting is the process of offering expert advice or facilitative assistance to help businesses examine the problems that are holding them back now as well as the opportunities they may have in the near future. The concept behind small business consulting is no different; however the approach may vary from that used with big businesses. A typical consulting approach looks like this:

  • Getting to know the business
  • Assessing problems and opportunities
  • Perform an analysis
  • Develop a plan to conquer issues
  • Implement, track, and adjust the plan


Beware The Power of the Business Consultant…

Erika Andersen

Erika Andersen

Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of some of the most highly regarded business thinkers of our time.  I read what they say – carefully, and with an open mind – and I think, What?  That is simply not my experience. I can’t imagine that’s the best way to think/act/respond.

I have an especially hard time with folks who propose complex systems of approaching business based on what I perceive to be faulty assumptions about the nature of human beings.  In my early years as a consultant and business coach, I would often sit in rooms where a highly paid guru from Bain or McKinsey or Accenture would pontificate to a group of execs about their business and how they should run it. And even though some of the managers were clearly skeptical (and would voice their skepticism afterwards in private), they would follow the consultants’ advice…too often to their detriment. Because the guy (pretty much always a guy) was highly paid, had multiple degrees, sounded smart, implied (or stated outright) that he knew more than they did.  It always reminded me of the story of the Emperor’s new clothes:  nobody wanted to say anything about the Emperor’s nakedness, because everyone else was talking about how wonderful the clothes were…


Jobs numbers and new iPads — five things to know today

AUGUST 12, 2014, 8:27 AM EDT

Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

Hello, friends and Fortune readers.

The mid-August doldrums have truly set in on Wall Street, and the news flow has slowed to a trickle. But there are still some notable events worth watching, so here’s what you need to know in business news today.

1. More jobs numbers

Last month, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, which is watched closely by economists and Federal Reserve policymakers for insights into labor market trends, showed the highest number of available jobs since 2007. The latest data comes out today, and we’ll see if hiring has ticked up or if employers are still having trouble finding the right candidates to fill their open positions.



Valcor CEO David Sussman was interviewed on Capital One’s Spark Business IQ: 

While the federal minimum wage bill stalls, cities including Seattle, Washington, DC, San Diego, and San Francisco have all passed minimum wage increases of their own. The wage increase varies, going up to $11.50 per hour in San Diego and up to $15 per hour in Seattle. And across the country, small business owners fall on both sides of the debate, many wrestling to reconcile the moral implications of low wages with the financial realities of running their businesses.

For instance, Lydia Stern supports an increase, even though it would likely require her to cut back on employees’ hours and spend more of her own time serving customers at Beadlush, a bead shop in Charlotte, NC. While a minimum wage increase “might be painful for a small business like mine at first, in the long run it will increase the overall amount of disposable income that can be spent in a specialty shop like mine,” Stern says. “I feel that, eventually, we would be able to bounce back to where I could increase hours for my team, freeing me up for managerial responsibilities.”


For most business owners, there are no easy answers. Here’s a rundown of some of the pros and cons.

Con: Raising costs without raising value

Increasing the minimum wage “will only raise costs, not increase value,” says David Sussman, CEO of Valcor Worldwide, a network of small business consultants. While a higher minimum wage will affect all small businesses, Sussman says it will be felt the hardest in franchise operations, quick-service restaurants, and small retail stores with tight profit margins. “There’s also a secondary impact here that many might not think about initially,” he says. “Once you raise the price for your minimum wage workers, you’ll end up having to raise the salaries for your managers and supervisors since your pay scale will become imbalanced.”