Leadership

“Conflicts look bad. I always prepare touchy agenda points with my 2 senior leaders before leadership team meetings. This way senior leadership presents a united front,” recently mentioned the CEO of a 200-people company. Most leadership teams have too few open, healthy conflicts. This makes them less effective, reduces decision quality, and ultimately slows down business growth.  How can you step outside of your comfort zone and mine more healthy conflicts? Healthy conflicts help propel your business forward Many CEOs stick to their comfort zone: you avoid some conflicts and embrace other, based on your natural conflict style – not based on what is best for your business. Artificial harmony created by conflict avoidance is treacherous, as this 

THE CRITICAL QUESTION FOR BUSINESS OWNERS: DEFINING SUCCESS – WHY ARE YOU ON THIS ROAD? By recent article in Forbes magazine by John Jennings described this as the “money and happiness” paradox. In his article, Jennings discussed an important psychological study from 2003, which determined that although having more money is associated with happiness, seeking more money dampens life satisfaction and impairs happiness: [T]he study found that “the greater your goal for financial success, the lower your satisfaction with family life, regardless of household income.” This paradox teaches that money boosts happiness when it is a result, not when it is a primary goal, or as Ed Diener noted in his book his TED Talk that has more than 55 million views. Sinek’s website describes the book this way: Sinek presents a simple yet powerful idea: the most successful and influential companies and leaders start with the “why” of their business, rather than focusing solely on the “what” and “how.” By starting with purpose and beliefs, companies can create a clear and compelling message that resonates with their customers and employees. This is the first question for the business owner to answer: Why am I doing this? Having a clear purpose means that the owner will not shy away from challenges arising in the business. The owner’s purpose is the lodestar that keeps both the owner and the company on track and able to surmount these challenges. A business owner who knows the why has purpose that drives the business, and fulfilling the owner’s purpose will help define success. What Is the Quality of My Relationships? This question about relationships may be less obvious than deciding on one’s purpose, but it is no less important. We are human beings. We exist in relation to other humans, which is especially true in the business world. People do not succeed or experience success in business in a vacuum. There are two types of relationships for the business owner to consider: those within the company and those that the owner has with family and friends outside the business. Both of these are important and help the business owner to define and experience success. Inside the business, successful business owners stress the importance of building solid, meaningful relationships. Sam Kaufman, an entrepreneur and a member of the Forbesbusiness council, expressed this powerfully in a interview in 2021, he said: “Younger employees consistently rank corporate responsibility at or near the top of their criteria for working at a particular company. This means community actions are key, but not just from a talent perspective.” When asked why companies should compare about community impact, he stated: “It’s the connection between community and long-run company performance. That shows up in everything from what kind of brand do I build over time, to the knock-on effects of that brand, to the way my employees feel about the company, with respect to how I am engaging in community.” — Dave Young, a senior partner with Boston Consulting Group The point is not to suggest that business owners have to become “corporate do-gooders” to find success. But, if owners choose to disregard the impacts their companies are having on the communities in which they do business, they may find success to be an elusive goal. Conclusion Defining success is an individual process for business owners, who will reach different conclusions, but the process is a vital exercise to undertake. Owners who eschew the need to consider their path to success may find themselves lost or overwhelmed on an uncharted road. By undertaking the deliberative process required to define success, business owners will develop a clear sense of purpose, appreciate the important relationships in their lives and fully grasp how their company impacts the community in which it operates.

In the fast-paced landscape of today’s organizations, the missing link that often separates successful ventures from mediocre ones is trust. Trust is the glue that binds leaders with their stakeholders, creating an environment where collaboration thrives, innovation flourishes, and everyone feels valued. To bridge this trust gap, we propose a formula that encapsulates the essence of effective leadership—the 5 C’s of Leadership. 1. Communication: The Foundation of Relational Trust At the core of the 5 C’s lies communication, the bedrock upon which trust is built. It goes beyond merely transmitting information; effective communication involves active listening to understand and speaking to be understood. Leaders must foster an environment where every voice is heard, creating a sense of openness and transparency. When communication flows freely, trust is nurtured, and stakeholders feel a genuine connection with the leadership. 2. Connection: Managing by Walking Around Connection is the second pillar, urging leaders to step out of their offices and immerse themselves in the daily rhythm of the organization. It involves spending quality time with team members, being present when they start their day, and showing appreciation at the day’s end. But connection extends beyond internal teams—it encompasses engaging with customers, vendors, and community leaders. By sharing the organization’s mission, vision, and values, leaders build bridges that connect diverse stakeholders, fostering a sense of unity and common purpose. 3. Commitment: Anchoring to Mission, Vision, and Values Commitment is the anchor that prevents leadership from drifting into uncertainty. Leaders must be steadfast in their dedication to the company’s mission, vision, and values. This commitment goes beyond lip service; it involves actively shaping and building the organizational culture. When stakeholders witness leaders unwaveringly dedicated to a common goal, trust is solidified, creating a stable foundation for growth and collaboration. 4. Care: Nurturing Your People Care is the empathetic thread that weaves through the fabric of trust. Leaders must genuinely care for their people, recognizing them as individuals with unique needs and aspirations. This involves not only professional development but also a focus on the overall well-being of the team. By demonstrating genuine concern for the individuals within the organization, leaders cultivate a culture of trust, where each person feels valued and supported. 5. Curiosity: A Leader’s Lifelong Learning Journey Remaining curious is the fuel that propels a leader’s journey towards growth and success. Acknowledging that there is always more to learn, leaders should invest time in asking questions, seeking different perspectives, and gathering input from diverse sources. This curiosity leads to a more robust decision-making process and better outcomes. Embracing a mindset of continuous learning not only inspires trust but also fosters an environment of innovation and adaptability. Incorporating these 5 C’s into leadership practices provides a comprehensive roadmap for building and maintaining trust with stakeholders. It is not a one-time effort but an ongoing commitment to fostering a culture of trust, openness, and collaboration. As leaders strive to implement these principles, they will witness the transformational impact on organizational dynamics. Trust becomes the catalyst for enhanced teamwork, increased productivity, and a shared commitment to achieving common goals. In an era where trust is often a scarce commodity, leaders who embrace the 5 C’s will stand out as beacons of authenticity and reliability, guiding their organizations toward sustained success and growth.

“You don’t belong here: you are a fraud! Why would smart people ever want to listen to you?” whispered the manager to the salesperson. Galvanized by this wake-up call that he desperately needed, the employee rose to the occasion and exceeded all expectations. Does this sound realistic? Of course not! Who would feel upbeat by such senseless, demotivating speech? This scenario obviously never existed – and yet the speech is 100% authentic: I heard it from a sales executive last week. It wasn’t directed at a team member though: it was directed at himself. Your inner critic: your #1 judge. We all have an inner voice that continuously judges us. Its main message varies from person to person; in next week’s newsletter, we will see how to identify your inner voice’s main messages. In this week’s newsletter, we will discuss its negative impact on yourself and on your ability to grow your business, and what to do about it. One of my client CEOs’ inner voice calls him a “loser who sets the wrong example to his team and will never be a successful entrepreneur” when he doesn’t take over what his team members fail to accomplish. My inner voice calls me “lazy and complacent who will fail as an entrepreneur and a father” when I am idle for more than 2 minutes, even on vacation – and makes me feel guilty and shameful every single time it happens. Our inner critic pretends to be helpful and necessary to our success, but its long-term impact is unequivocally negative. Why do we keep listening to our inner critic, even though it is obvious that its message is utterly uninspiring and demotivating? What can we do about it? How does your inner critic afflict your performance? Our inner critic constantly finds faults with self (for past mistakes or current shortcomings), with others, and with circumstances. This judge sounds helpful at first sight by shedding light on our shortcomings. While it has the appearance of a helper, it is a bully that blackmails us with shame and guilt, with pretty dramatic consequences in the long run. It tells you: “Without me pushing you, you will be unworthy of love / attention / success.” Your inner critic negatively affects you in three significant ways: Your inner critic has a long-term damaging impact on your own performance. Your inner critic acts like a radioactive armor: it pretends to be protective but its long-term impact on your performance is always disastrous. Let’s get back to the two examples above: Client CEO: To respond to the guilt of not being the ideal leader his inner critic describes, this CEO feels the pressure from his inner critic to micro-manage his team when they don’t deliver, at the risk of becoming his company’s #1 growth roadblock – with the negative consequences on his team and on business growth that you can imagine. In response to my guilty feeling of missing out on learning opportunities for my children (and hence of not being a good father) if I am idle on vacation, I take them on high-tempo sightseeing trips (“We only live once, let’s get the most out of it”, right?) –  with, here again, the exact opposite long-term impact on my effectiveness as a father. “The inner critic is harmful because it triggers our self-protection mode, MIT Sloan sr lecturer Giardella says in

In the dynamic landscape of employee performance evaluations, 360-degree reviews have emerged as a holistic approach, offering a well-rounded perspective. However, to extract the full benefits of this method, managers must adopt a strategic outlook. This blog post explores key elements to enhance the effectiveness of 360 reviews, delving into the nuances of communication, goal setting, and the overall contribution of employees to organizational success. Key Considerations for Meaningful 360 Reviews 1. Managerial Preparedness for Effective Communication One pivotal aspect of successful 360 reviews is the manager’s commitment to investing time in preparation. To unlock the true potential of this evaluation method, managers must be well-prepared to clearly communicate the details of the review. This involves not only understanding the process but also being adept at articulating constructive feedback. Clear and transparent communication sets the tone for a positive and impactful review experience. 2. Clarity in Communication Building on the foundation of preparedness, managers must emphasize clarity in their communication during the 360-review process. Ambiguity can lead to misinterpretation, undermining the purpose of the evaluation. By asking great questions, listening thoroughly and  being precise and concise in feedback delivery managers can ensure that employees grasp the essence of their performance and areas for improvement. Clear communication fosters an environment of trust and mutual understanding. 3. Setting Attainable Goals Goals are the compass that guides professional development. In the context of 360 reviews, managers play a pivotal role in setting clear and attainable goals. These goals should not only align with the organization’s objectives but also consider the individual strengths and areas for improvement identified through the evaluation. Specificity in goal setting enhances the employee’s sense of direction and purpose, contributing to overall job satisfaction and productivity. 4. Communicating the “Why” of Employee Contributions Beyond the traditional focus on skills, it is essential to communicate the “why” behind an employee’s work. Managers should highlight the meaningful impact of individual contributions on the success of the company. This perspective instills a sense of purpose and belonging, motivating employees to actively engage in their roles. Connecting the dots between daily tasks and organizational success creates a more profound understanding of the employee’s value. Additional Perspectives on 360 Reviews Soft Skills Emphasis: While technical competencies are crucial, the 360-review process is ideally suited for assessing soft skills. Not everyone possesses the same technical expertise, making it challenging for a comprehensive evaluation. Soft skills, on the other hand, are universally applicable and contribute significantly to team dynamics and overall workplace harmony. Choosing the Right Platform: The choice of the platform for conducting 360 reviews is pivotal. Online surveys, with a mix of rating scales and open-ended commentary, have proven to be effective. This approach encourages honest feedback and provides a comprehensive understanding of the employee’s performance. Optimal Timing: Consider the timing of 360 reviews carefully. Avoiding busy periods, such as month-end, ensures that employees can dedicate sufficient time and attention to the evaluation process. This consideration reflects a commitment to a fair and thoughtful assessment. Encouraging Open Feedback: Acknowledge that not all employees may feel comfortable expressing themselves in written form, especially if English is not their primary language. To address this, provide alternative channels, such as internal forums or private HR consultations, where employees can voice their opinions comfortably. Incorporate 360 Reviews into Your Culture Incorporating these perspectives into the 360-review process transforms it from a routine evaluation into a powerful tool for professional growth and organizational success. By investing in preparation, embracing clarity, setting meaningful goals, and emphasizing the “why” of employee contributions, managers pave the way for a more insightful and constructive performance review experience. With any questions about implementing a 360-review process, reach out to the WhiteWater Consulting team today.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. George Bernard Shaw, a famous Irish playwright is credited with this quote which so aptly captures the issue. Communication is the most common organizational challenge cited by clients, whether as part of a team or as individual leaders. Why is that? Let’s start by understanding what communication means. The Latin base of the word is communicare, which means to share. To share something, you must hold or know it, and recognize that sharing will benefit you and the other party.  It then needs to be presented in a way that others will want to partake or engage. If the other party is not interested or does not know why they should be, the message will fall on deaf ears. This gives us three distinct components necessary for the start of effective communication.

I have a highly intelligent and successful ‘left brained’ colleague and friend who ‘gets it’ when it comes to understanding that data and fact sheets do not communicate meaning. This software developer, entrepreneur, certified project management professional, author, award-winning speaker and CIO of a medical practice knows that all the data in the world will not convey key messages, prompt engagement, nor influence behavior. I’m sharing his words and hope you find them of value, as do I. I’d love to hear your thoughts! “What is the value of collecting and analyzing data if it doesn’t change thinking or behavior? Too often we settle for data dumps that give the “illusion of understanding.” Why? Because that is how we were taught. And the results can be very costly, and in the case of the Challenger Disaster, even deadly. For the first time in human history we can lift the veil of illusion and see into a working brain. Leverage new insights offered by neuroscience and cognitive psychology to make your presentations more effective, efficient and reliable. It’s not the data that convinces us, it’s how we feel about the data that convinces us.”

Every business needs a strong Marketing Strategy & Planning Creative Direction Reporting & Analysis 2. Flexibility & Scalability, only an Outsourced CMO can Provide A fractional CMO is highly valuable because it offers flexibility and scalability that a full-time employee arrangement doesn’t provide. With an outsourced option, you can quickly scale up or down as needed depending on your current business circumstances. If you’re facing a hiring or skillset gap, a particularly busy season, or need additional assistance with a new product or service launch, an external CMO can quickly be brought in at short notice — without any long-term commitment from either side. Plus, an external expert won’t get bogged down by day-to-day tasks or administrative issues. Instead, a fractional CMO can address your specific objectives and focus on delivering results. What are typical outsourced CMOs’ hours? An outsourced Chief Marketing Officer will provide an hourly consultative rate or a retainer based on a predetermined number of hours per month that they will dedicate to your business. This number and rate will depend on your objectives, the timeframe to complete them, and the CMO’s level of expertise. That said, while an FTE’s salary is based on a 40-hour work week, outsourced CMOs only charge for the time they are actively engaged in your project. Therefore, a standard monthly contract may be based on 30, 40, or 50 hours per month or more. 3. Fractional CMO Services Provide a High ROI Hiring an outsourced Chief Marketing Officer to lead your business also has several added financial benefits compared to hiring a full-time CMO. Outsourcing eliminates costly recruitment fees, employment taxes, and benefits packages. Plus, since most outsourced professionals charge a monthly retainer that aligns with a pre-set scope of work, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting for your money without worrying about hidden costs or change order fees that weren’t accounted for initially. Chief Marketing Officer salary (50th percentile) in the United States ($342,859 as of February 27, 2023). This adds up to considerable savings — typically 33-50% or more — that could make all the difference between expanding your business operations and struggling to break even. Where can I find a fractional CMO company? Fractional C-Suite executives have become more mainstream over recent years, with outsourced COOs, CFOs, and CTOs leading the way. While some outsourced marketing professionals are a little newer to the scene, Schedule your free 30-minute consultation today. Incite Creative is a marketing advisory firm that provides outsourced CMO services. In short, we become your company’s chief marketing officer and do so virtually and efficiently — saving you time and money. Since 1999 we’ve had the pleasure of building and boosting brands for a core set of industries. Our thoughtful process, experienced team, and vested interest in our client’s success have positioned us as one of the Mid-Atlantic’s most sought-after marketing partners for those looking to grow their brand awareness and bottom line. Stop paying for digital and traditional services you may not need. Our retainer, no markup model means our recommendations don’t come with any catch or commission. The advice we provide aligns with what you need and what fits within your budget. For more information, contact us at 410-366-9479 or info@incitecmo.com. 

Trying to communicate to create connection, alignment, and action? Here’s a fantastic example from an attendee at one of our GENIUS Business Storytelling workshops who identified two important messages he wanted to communicate and used two versions of a story to do just that in a memorable way. Both versions began with the following: At the September 2020 US Open, Novak Djokovic was on his path to a 30-match winning streak and bid for an 18th Grand Slam title. As he walked to the Arthur Ashe Stadium side-line for a changeover, trailing Pablo Carreño Busta 6-5 in the first set, Djokovic – who was seeded and ranked No. 1 and an overwhelming favourite for the championship – angrily smacked a ball behind him. The ball flew right at the line judge, who dropped to her knees at the back of the court and reached for her neck. Djokovic pleaded his case saying that he didn’t hit the line umpire intentionally. He said, ‘Yes, I was angry. I hit the ball. I hit the line umpire. The facts are very clear. But it wasn’t my intent. I didn’t do it on purpose.’ So he said he shouldn’t be defaulted for it. The chair umpire thought otherwise, and Djokovic was swiftly disqualified. Ending Version 1– Djokovic Moments The US Tennis Association issued a statement saying that Djokovic was defaulted “in accordance with the Grand Slam rulebook, following his actions of intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences.” I’m sharing this with you because we have all experienced “the Djokovic moment” where we’ve unintentionally said something, unintentionally sent that email, or unintentionally reacted a certain way. We’re often busy and under pressure and we need to be mindful that our unintentional actions can sometime have disastrous consequences. Let’s all watch out for those regrettable “Djokovic moments”. Ending Version 2 – Djokovic Recovery To Djokovic’s credit, he later issued a statement saying, “As for the disqualification, I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being,” he wrote. “I apologize to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behaviour.” I’m sharing this with you because we have all acted irrationally and unintentionally, like Djokovic, when under pressure either at home or at work. However, like Djokovic, we can quickly recover by acknowledging our mistakes and applying our growth mindset to turn our mistakes into a lesson for our own growth and evolution. How much more memorable and impactful are these messages shared with storytelling skills rather than a ‘just do it’ approach? If you would like to learn the art, science, and skills of strategic business communication using storytelling I’m here for you and your teams!

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I once had the thrill of interviewing Jerry West on management. He was “The Logo” for the NBA, although back then they didn’t advertise him as such. Only the Laker followers knew for sure. In 1989 the “Showtime” Lakers were coming off back-to-back championships.  Pat Riley was a year away from his first of three Coach of the Year awards. 

Can you Offer Too Many SKUs to Your Customers? The short answer is YES! A SKU, or Stock Keeping Unit, defines each different product version that you sell and keep inventory of.  There may be different SKUs of the same overall item based on size, color, capacity (think computer or cellphone memory), features, and many other parameters.  For build to forecast businesses, that number of variations can quickly explode and become difficult to manage. Your customers are busy and want ordering simplified. Of course, they may need (or want) more than one variation of a product. That is reasonable and a common aspect of business – one size does not fit all! But there is a point where too offering too many SKUs is not value added either for your customer or your business.  In his April 30, 2013 article “Successful Retailers Learn That Fewer Choices Trigger More Sales” in Forbes, Carmine Gallo discusses his experience and a study about “choice overload” by other authors. He writes about a retailer that “has discovered that giving a customer more than three choices at one time actually overwhelms customers and makes them frustrated…when the customer is faced with too many choices at once, it leaves the customer confused and less likely to buy from any of the choices!” Choice overload is well-documented in consumer studies but can apply in B2B as well. While customer satisfaction is important, another key concern is the often-hidden costs associated with a business offering and managing a large number of SKUs for a given product type. These costs include holding inventory, S&OP (Sales and Operations Planning) team time, small production runs, and scrapping inventory. Holding inventory takes up space, which may come with a cost or utilize racks that could be used for other products. Scheduled inventory counts take up employee time and may result in blackout periods when the warehouse is not shipping product.  The more SKUs there are, including extra SKUS, the greater the potential impact. The Sales team’s forecasting and the Operations team’s purchasing reviews that are part of the S&OP process can occupy more of their valuable time if they need to consider these times. If small orders or forecasts require a new production run, this could be costly and create excess inventory. Whether from this new production or past builds, eventually it will make sense to write off and scrap old inventory, another cost impact to the company. How do you know which SKUs to focus on if you wish to look at reducing your total number of SKUs? Start by examining SKUs that have: Low historic sales over a period of time Small variations between SKUs that customers do not value Older technology or model when newer option SKUs are available This requires a true partnership between Sales and Operations. It starts with educating both teams on the costs involved – neither group may be aware of the money and time impact to the company. Periodic (such as quarterly) reviews of SKUs that meet the above descriptions should become a fixed part of the calendar. A review of the data and other available for sale options should result in the identification of SKUs which may not be needed. At that point, it is helpful to have a customer friendly EOL (End of Life) Notice process by which you inform customers of last time buy requirements for this SKU and alternates available. It is usually best to provide some time for the last time buy in the interest of customer satisfaction, although that may not always be necessary. At a company that designed and sold electronics, a robust SKU rationalization process was implemented to help address these issues. A representative from the Operations team analyzed SKUs that met a version of the above criteria and suggested candidates for the EOL process. Next, a member of the Sales team reviewed them and, where appropriate, issued product change or EOL notices to customers, providing them time for last time buy orders when needed. These steps helped reduce the work involved in maintaining these SKUs while not leading to any customer complaints. A final note – sometimes it makes sense to continue offering low selling SKUs – to support customers buying other items (hopefully in larger quantities). It may be worthwhile to encourage them to keep coming back to you for all of their product needs and this may be a way to accomplish that. But it helps to understand that this is truly the case and not assume that this customer would not be equally happy with another, more popular, SKU.   Steven Lustig is founder and CEO of Lustig Global Consulting and an experienced Supply Chain Executive.  He is a recognized thought leader in supply chain and risk mitigation, and serves on the Boards of Directors for Loh Medical and Atlanta Technology Angels.

When it comes to careers, business owners are a minority of the population. In conversations this week, I mentioned the statistics several times, and each owner I was discussing it with was surprised that they had so few peers. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are over 33,000,000 businesses in the US. Let’s discount those with zero employees. Many are shell companies or real estate holding entities. Also, those with fewer than 5 employees, true “Mom and Pop” businesses, are hard to distinguish from a job. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Association, lists businesses with 5 to 99 employees at about 3,300,000, and 123,000 have 100 to 500 employees (the SBA’s largest “small business” classification.) Overall, that means about 1% of the country are private employers. Owners are a small minority, a very small minority, of the population. Even if we only count working adults (161,000,000) business owners represent only a little more than 2% of that population. So What? Where am I going with this, and how does it relate to our recent discussions of purpose in business exit planning? It’s an important issue to consider when discussing an owner’s identity after transition. Whether or not individual owners know the statistics of their “rare species” status in society, they instinctively understand that they are different. They are identified with their owner status in every aspect of their business and personal life. At a social event, when asked “What do you do?” they will often respond “I own a business.” It’s an immediate differentiator from describing a job. “I am a carpenter.” or “I work in systems engineering,” describes a function. “I am a business owner” describes a life role. When asked for further information, the owner frequently replies in the Imperial first person plural. “We build multi-family housing,” is never mistaken for a personal role in the company. No one takes that answer to mean that the speaker swings a hammer all day. Owners are a Minority We process much of our information subconsciously. If a man enters a business gathering, for example, and the others in the room are 75% female, he will know instinctively, without consciously counting, that this business meeting or organization is different from others he attends. Similarly, business owners accept their minority status without thinking about it. They expect that the vast majority of the people they meet socially, who attend their church, or who have kids that play sports with theirs, work for someone else. There are places where owners congregate, but otherwise, they don’t expect to meet many other owners in the normal course of daily activity. This can be an issue after they exit the business. You see, telling people “I’m retired” has no distinction. Roughly 98% of the other people who say that never built an organization. They didn’t take the same risks. Others didn’t deal with the same broad variety of issues and challenges. Most didn’t have to personally live with the impact of every daily decision they made, or watch others suffer the consequences of their bad calls. That is why so many former owners suffer from a lack of identity after they leave. Subconsciously, they expect to stand out from the other 98%. “I’m retired” carries no such distinction.       This article was originally published by John F. Dini, CBEC, CExP, CEPA on

In a recent research study by The Value Builder System™, they analyzed data from 20,000 business owners who completed a Value Builder assessment of their business and discovered that owners who have businesses dependent on them, known as Hub & Spoke owners are facing a 35% discount on the value of their businesses and part of the problem may be the degree of customization they offer. For the purposes of the study, a Hub & Spoke owner is someone who answered the question “Which of the following best describes your personal relationship with your company’s customers?” with the response, “I know each of my customers by first name and they expect that I personally get involved when they buy from my company.”  One reason customers want the owner to personally attend to their project is the degree of customization Hub & Spoke owners offer.  In fact, the study shows that Hub & Spoke owners are more than twice as likely to say they offer a complete custom solution for each customer.  Since the owner is usually the person with the most subject matter expertise inside their company, it’s not surprising customers want the owner’s full attention on their job. The secret to making a business less reliant on its owner is to stop offering a custom solution for every customer.   How Ned MacPherson Built More Value By Doing Less   Ned MacPherson is a digital marketing guru, so it’s not surprising that when he first started offering his time, it was in demand.   In the early days as a consultant, he offered all sorts of growth hacking services. But when demand outstripped his supply of time, Ned had a decision to make. He could either turn away prospective clients or build a team of consultants underneath him.  As a growth guy, the idea of treading water didn’t appeal to Ned, so he opted to build a team. However, to ensure his team could execute without him, Ned decided to focus on one service offering: post-click analysis. Rather than help optimize a website for the entire customer journey, Ned’s company would become one of the world’s leading firms on optimizing a customer’s journey after they opted in to a website.   Most digital marketing consultants offer a wide range of services, but Ned knew it would be impossible to remove himself if they offered help in too many areas. By specializing in post-click analysis, Ned and his team were able to streamline their offering. Demand for Ned’s time started to diminish as his employees became some of the world’s leading experts in a narrow slice of the analytics market.   Within seven years of starting Endrock Growth & Analytics, Ned had 70 employees, more than $2 million a year in EBITDA, and multiple acquisition offers.   

The sale of a business marks a major life event. It’s emotional, stressful, and exciting all at the same time. And unfortunately, it’s often a lot of work. Most business owners will only experience the process of selling a business once in their life. This is both good and bad news. On the bright side, you only need to get through it once. But many business owners aren’t ready for the process and risk leaving money on the table as a result. With many sellers relying on the sale to fund their retirement and lifelong financial goals, getting it right from the start is critical. Here are tips from sell-side business advisors on what to do (and not do) when selling a business. What to do (and not do) when selling a business Start thinking about selling your business early — really early One of the top mistakes sellers make when selling their business is not starting the process early enough. There are many reasons starting last minute can really hurt your bottom line. It’s not uncommon for business owners to assume they’ll never retire at some point during their life. But as often happens, life changes. Perhaps health concerns for you or a spouse make continuing to run your business difficult. Or maybe you eventually lose the excitement when getting up every day and want a change of pace. Sudden sales or immediate retirements Unfortunately, when business owners want to sell with a tight timeline (or fire sale), they may have fewer options to exit. It’s not uncommon for some buyers to want the owner and/or members of the management team to stay on for a period to help with the transition. If there’s an earn-out, it’ll usually require the seller to stick with the company for different milestones (time, financial, or otherwise) to earn the full purchase price. Earn-outs aren’t ideal for sellers, but if you’re unwilling or unable to consider deals with any continuation component, it could impact the sale price, timeline to find a buyer, or both. Make your business more sellable later by getting advice now Business brokers often recommend getting a valuation done years before expecting to sell the company. Sarah Grossman, Principal of BayState Business Brokers in Needham, MA, says this helps sellers “shape their timeline and any financial planning that needs to be completed prior to a sale.” Understanding the fair market value of the company is critical to setting expectations for the seller, but understanding the drivers of the valuation can help increase the sale price over time. Grossman says, “a [business] broker can advise them on things they can do in their business over the next few years to make it more saleable when it does go on the market.” How to maximize your cash at closing Aaron Naisbitt, Managing Director at Dunn Rush & Co, an investment bank focused on sell-side M&A in Boston, MA, emphasizes the importance of going to market and knowing what your business is worth. He says, “the biggest mistake many businesses owners make is not running a competitive process when the business is capable of attracting interest from a broad number of buyers. This mistake most often occurs when the owner has already made the second biggest mistake – not taking the time to educate themselves and prepare adequately for the process.” Not every business will be able to run a competitive process. But those that can, and don’t, “Will leave money and terms on the table if they do not do so” he adds. Getting professional help is key here as trying to negotiate a sale directly with a buyer might be short-sighted. Grossman says it’s not uncommon for sellers to be approached directly by competitors. She cautions sellers considering working with buyers directly as “They could be leaving significant money on the table without a clear understanding of the valuation of their company. Sellers also need to work with a broker and their advisors to understand a typical deal structure so that they can maximize their cash at closing.” The importance of understanding the terms of the deal cannot be overstated. This is where money is made or lost. Naisbitt cautions that sometimes terms can sound really good, but aren’t always common sense. He adds that without an advisor, sellers “Don’t know where to argue.” During negotiations, you have to consider “What is it that’s important to you and what are you willing to give up” he says. Exit planning is not time to DIY — assemble your team of advisors When selling a company, gathering your team of advisors early on is key to getting a successful outcome. Again, odds are you haven’t sold a business before and probably won’t again. We don’t know what we don’t know…and you only have one shot to get this right. Your team of business and personal advisors will be instrumental in getting the deal over the finish line. Your business advisory team may consist of: a business broker or M&A advisor, accounting and tax advisors, and transaction/M&A attorney. On the personal side, your sudden wealth advisor who focuses on helping individuals experiencing a transformative liquidity event. Be sure to involve your wealth advisor in discussions around deal terms too. For example, when considering deal structure, it’s important to ensure alignment with your objectives or financial needs. What are your income needs after the sale or do you have plans for a big purchase? Your advisor can help determine how much cash you need at closing and whether to consider the pros and cons of arrangements like an installment sale. And at closing, a financial advisor can help you determine Section 1202, realizing the gain over time with an installment sale, asset versus stock purchase, or state tax implications such as the charitable goals, legacy objectives for heirs, or estate tax planning strategies. Brokers explain what sellers are most unprepared for during the process Selling a business is a lot of work. In addition to running the company in the usual course of business, sellers also need to comply with a host of due diligence requests from the buyer’s team and the lender financing the transaction. The magnitude of this process is by far the most 

In March 2022, Florida enacted the politically charged Individual Freedom Act, informally known as the STOP WOKE (Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees) Act. Less than two years later, the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Eleventh Circuit blocked the enforcement of the Act on the grounds it violates employers’ right to free speech. This decision directly impacts employers in the Eleventh Circuit and will have a ripple effect on employers nationally.   How did the Individual Freedom Act (Stop WOKE Act) affect employers? The Act attempted to prevent employers from mandating training or meetings for employees which “promote” a “certain set of beliefs” the state “found offensive” and discriminatory. There are eight prohibited beliefs each relating to race, color, sex, and national origin. According to the Act, employers must not teach the following: Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior to members of another race, color, sex, or national origin. An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously. An individual’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is determined by his or her race, color, sex, or national origin. Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect due to race, color, sex, or national origin. An individual, based on his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears responsibility for, or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of, actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin. An individual, based on his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion. An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the individual played no part, and were committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin. Such virtues as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race, color, sex, or national origin to oppress members of another race, color, sex, or national origin. Employers still had the ability to mandate employees attend sessions that either refute these concepts or present them in an “objective manner without endorsement.” This dictates how an employer deals with its employees and is particularly limiting in how employers address discrimination training. Employers who failed to adhere to the law were liable for “serious financial penalties—back pay, compensatory damages, and up to $100,000 in punitive damages, plus attorney’s fees—on top of injunctive relief.”   The Ruling – Honeyfund.com Inc. v. Governor [2024] In March 2024, the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Eleventh Circuit served an injunction preventing enforcement of the Act. Despite the state insisting the Act banned conduct rather than speech, the court ruled the Act unlawfully violated the First Amendment’s right of free speech by barring speech based on its content and penalizing certain viewpoints. While certain categories of speech such as “obscenity, fighting words, incitement, and the like” are traditionally unprotected, the court pointed out that “new categories of unprotected speech may not be added to the list by a legislature that concludes certain speech is too harmful to be tolerated.” Florida is keen to appeal against the decision.   What does this mean for employers? Regardless of one’s opinions on the matter, this can be viewed positively from an employer’s standpoint. Employers in the private sector can control speech in the workplace, and this ruling confirms their autonomy will continue. Whether or not the rest of the country will follow suit remains to be seen. This case, in tandem with the US Supreme Court’s ruling to ban race based affirmative action, signals today’s intense political climate is likely to continue to impact how employer diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are approached. Employers should continue to review their DEI initiatives, ensuring they are in line with the latest precedents. Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with the latest local, state and federal employment laws.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560      

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