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Your Advisory Board

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“To turn really interesting ideas and fledgling technologies into a company that can continue to innovate for years, it requires a lot of disciplines.” ~~Steve Jobs RIP 10/5/11

You may have heard that business owners wear many hats. This is very true. It requires a lot of different skills and activities to keep an enterprise humming and thriving. We all bring various competencies to the equation—both business-related and personal. For example, one person may be a good marketer, excellent father, decent driver, and terrible golfer. They can’t sing but write well. This composite individual has strengths and weaknesses. In your business (as well as in personal relationships) weaknesses can be crippling and even fatal. Understanding that, you can appreciate the value of an advisory board.

This is a group of peers—fellow-business owners—that gather regularly and discuss pertinent issues. They bring expertise and experience into areas you are lacking and you can offer the same to them. Theoretically, seventy-percent of all business is the same while most of us only think of the thirty-percent that differentiates them. You would hardly think of an auto repair business, financial planner’s office, and chiropractor have much in common but they all deal with finding new customers, servicing accounts, billing, tax preparation, hiring, insurance, website selection, and countless other similar details. When someone has already mastered the process of accepting credit cards, for example, the other members can benefit from that knowledge.

In some cases you can start your own group. In others you can join an existing one. A good middle ground is a mastermind group. These are similar to business networking groups except that the focus is on sharing ideas rather than mining for referrals.

The best advisory boards will challenge your pre-conceived ideas and highlight soft areas. They can be uncomfortable yet invaluable. Some are very hands-on while others are more visionary and big-picture-centric. Some meet monthly and some meet quarterly. Some meet in person and others in more virtual settings.

Ivan Misner in The 29% Solution quotes business strategist Geri Stengel regarding ten effective tips for creating an advisory board, summarized below:

  1. What is the objective of your board? Will this be an industry-specific group or more generalized? Will it be a hybrid (business-to-business or homeowner-centric, for example?) Will it be regional, national, or larger? Will it include customers?
  2. How do you choose the right people? Understanding the purpose is one thing. Further defining the level of expertise, business size and maturity, etc., is another matter, as well. Whatever metric you define, be certain to consider “people skills” as well. Look for willingness to share, problem-solving ability, communication proficiency, and so on. Some boards love to recruit celebrities and a big name adds some allure while also opening the door for powerful introductions but don’t just gravitate to that if it is not a fit in the other areas, as well.
  3. What are your expectations? Be clear about time commitments, responsibilities, desired results, and all the rest. The clearer you are about the strengths and weaknesses of your current board make-up, the surer you will find the right person for the right reason that will stay. If your board will consider private matters have a confidentiality agreement prepared.
  4. What is the compensation? Certainly involvement has its own rewards. Decide on food, expenses, stock options, and cash payments, if any.
  5. How will you maximize the experience? Carefully consider the logistics and prepare agendas ahead of time. If prior knowledge of a topic is needed, deliver that ahead of time. End every session with a recap of the action plans and facilitate the process. Ideally, recap each meeting for all attendees (perhaps all members.)
  6. Honesty is the best policy. As mentioned above a strong advisory board will be challenging. Every member should share their own mistakes, especially in the early formative sessions. This builds rapport and provides a framework for trust. Honesty may put you in an uncomfortable situation as the probing questions uncover what you don’t know, never considered, blind spots, and so forth. Keep the conversations frank without personal attacks.
  7. How will you deal with the time/distance gaps? Meeting frequently drives momentum yet can burn members out. Meeting less often can lead to drift. Defining these expectations and finding suitable methods of between meeting communication is important. Emails, wikis, listserves, shared websites, and so on provide useful ways to move ideas across erratic schedules. Some members will access this late at night, for example. It is also useful to assign sub-committees who meet on specific topics at their own schedules and report results at the regular sessions.
  8. Will you respect the board recommendations? Everyone’s time is important. Do not monopolize the floor, for example. Conversely, when something needs to be said—do so. Listen to the advice given and consider your own actions. You will ultimately live with any decision, so there is no need to rush. That said, respect the advice, share your decision, and share the results.
  9. How will you keep board members informed? You may in time find the advice was incorrect and now will be talking about how to repair and restore. You may find that new areas of opportunity or concern have cropped up. You may simply find that things are moving according to plan. Briefly updating your advisory board is important.
  10. How will you deal with problem members? Set a structure up that enables you to deal with the inevitable issues that arise. Be certain to consider legal challenges, as well.

Who might you want to seek out for an advisory board? Here are some areas to consider:

  • People in your profession. This includes current professionals as well as prior specialists. There are benefits from both areas. Active experts have current technology, contacts, regulatory knowledge, and more. Former wizards bring different depth, too.
  • Outside observers. These can include regulators, authors, and business consultants.
  • Members of similar or related professional organizations like trade group people.

This is a large, significant area and sets the tone for your 2018 focus. Your action this week is to start planning your advisory board. I am including a link to Geri Stengel’s website here as an idea factory. Start fleshing out the answers to the ten questions above and solicit feedback from those you respect.

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
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Written by bniguy

December 17, 2017 at 6:30 am

Make a Difference

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“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” ~~John C. Crosby

Mentors provide leadership, guidance, and support. Their interest in our success may be unexpected or actively sought. It may be provided with patient step-by-step counseling or delivered in more fleeting, sometimes cryptic teaching moments. No matter the method it is offered in a sincere desire to help and received—when fully understood—gratefully.

Mentorship embodies the “Giver’s Gain” philosophy.

By serving as a mentor you have the chance to make a significant difference in someone else’s life. Less apparent is that a mentor has a golden opportunity to sharpen their own skills. In teaching we learn.

Think of your mentors. They took some time to help and made a difference. What feelings do you have for them? Gratitude is the most compelling emotion. If they called and asked for some help you would set other things aside and give this effort the attention it so fittingly deserves.

We have been together for fifty weeks and it is time to begin paying it forward to others while deepening your personal understanding, as well.

Characteristics of a Good Mentor

All successful business people do not necessarily make effective mentors; certain individuals are more effective in the role of developing others. Whether or not an individual is suited to the role of mentor may depend on his or her own stage of development and experience. For example, a fairly successful individual may have had a specific, or limited, background and may not have enough general experience to offer. Prior to entering into a mentoring relationship, the protégée should assume the responsibility of assessing the mentor’s potential effectiveness.

The qualities which are essential in an effective mentor include:

  • DESIRE TO HELP Individuals who are interested in and willing to help others.
  • HAVE HAD POSITIVE EXPERIENCES Individuals who have had positive formal or informal experiences with a mentor tend to be good mentors themselves.
  • GOOD REPUTATION FOR DEVELOPING OTHERS Experienced people who have a good reputation for helping others develop their skills.
  • TIME & ENERGY People who have the time and mental energy to devote to the relationship.
  • UP-TO-DATE KNOWLEDGE Individuals who have maintained current, up-to-date technological knowledge and/or skills.
  • LEARNING ATTITUDE Individuals who are still willing and able to learn and who see the potential benefits of a mentoring relationship.
  • DEMONSTRATED EFFECTIVE MANAGERIAL (MENTORING) SKILLS Individuals who have demonstrated effective coaching, counseling, facilitating and networking skills.

Your action step this week is to assess your own mentoring potential and seek suitable candidates that deserve your attention. In some cases you may need to break the ice and inform these candidates of your intention and availability.

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

December 10, 2017 at 9:04 pm

Hub Firm

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“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” ~~Jack Welch

Just as no man is an island, no (or almost no) business transaction takes place in a vacuum. There is usually a preceding and following event (or three.) In the book The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret the author, Ivan Misner, refers to the concept of a hub firm at the center of these events.

Hub firms take time to develop and rely heavily on trust and competence. In the hub firm model, one company has the relationship with the client and coordinates business across other companies in order to assist the client with those other transactions.

Hub firms cover a wide-range of situations—towing to a repair shop, power-washing before painting, and cleaning up after construction are a few everyday examples. These are simple partnership arrangements while the true hub firm is more complex. Let me give you two examples of these.

Consider the Financial Planner who works with a variety of clients. Some of these are people who are starting a new business. A typical Financial Planner might recommend that the client find some resources and may have a few loose recommendations. The savvy Financial Planner, however, has already aligned herself with a CPA, a business attorney, and a business banker, for example. These professionals can all meet the client at once and map out a cohesive startup strategy. Certainly, any member of the team can drive the hub relationship for their clients, as well. This team approach provides competitive advantage and can save the client time and (usually) money, as well. At the right point in the process they can introduce web designers, graphic designers, advertising specialists, and so on.

A second example has to do with a hub firm Realtor. In this scenario, we have a home-owner who is listing their house. The Realtor can mobilize a carpet cleaner, moving and storage company, and interior designer as follows. The moving and storage company gets “clutter” and bulky items out of the home and into storage. The carpet cleaner freshens up the floors and the painter does the same for the walls.  The landscaper improves curb appeal and the interior designer stages the home for quicker sale. The Realtor coordinates these efforts and can utilize these pros, as needed.

Both of these identify the power of the hub firm model. Not every client requires all the members of the team. The hub firm “quarterbacks” those efforts. Building a hub team takes time and commitment. These trusted partners must maintain the integrity of the whole team with each project.

Your action step this week is to begin to build your hub team. Consider some of your best clients and what needs they have and who you know that can help. In some cases you will need to coordinate existing relationships. In some cases you will need to replace existing relationships. In still others you will need to establish and develop new relationships. The effort is well-worth the trouble.

 

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

 

Written by bniguy

December 3, 2017 at 1:51 pm

With a Little Help For Your Friends

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“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” ~~Albert Einstein

I considered using the famous quote from The Three Musketeers by Dumas, specifically, “All for one and one for all” to open this week’s entry. It is also appropriate and reflects how a Master Networker, like you, is ready to back up your business partners when the opportunity presents itself. Trust me, they always do.
We talked about ten traits to develop in week seven. The bottom five include:
6: Commitment to networking 24/7. Master networkers are always tuned in…
7: Gratitude. The more you do this the more chances you will have…
8: Helpfulness. Master networkers actively seek out solutions…
9: Sincerity
10: Dedicated. The master networker is dedicated to working their network…
These five traits are wonderfully combined in this week’s strategy. The cornerstone is sincerity and integrity. If you do this just to gain a competitive edge, you will not have the success as it is designed. It is far better to wade in and help someone without keeping score. A friend of mine refers to this is NATO-Not Attached To Outcome. Golf certainly benefits from this attitude on some weekends.
In two weeks I will elaborate on reading the newspaper with the Giver’s Gain mindset. For now, consider many things that affect your business partners directly and have no apparent impact on you. These can include regulations, construction, events, etc. to simply name a few.
Let’s say that a local government initiative is underway to change how a strategic partner’s business is run. Imagine that the state board is holding a public hearing to discuss requiring that Realtors pay for property staging service. Right now, your Realtor friends may or may not use staging services, as needed. Some pay for this by building it into their fee. Others recommend the benefit and let the buyers negotiate directly with the stager. For others, staging is not likely to have significant impact on the transaction or not welcomed by the buyer.
If you see that the board will hold hearings about this you can mobilize your support by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about this. You can also send that letter to trade journals that are Real Estate specific and send a copy to every Realtor and Mortgage Broker you know. You can do the same for other professionals that work closely with these experts—such as Closing Attorneys, Home Inspectors, and so on. Home Stagers, too.
Again, check your motivation against the list of five traits above. If you do not have a strong opinion about home staging, do not dive in. If you are only doing this to shine the spotlight on yourself, do not join the fray. If, however, you feel strongly that this would have an impact and feel your voice will add value then dedicate yourself to the cause.
When professionals see this some will call to thank you. This is a great time to deepen the relationship and influentially make referrals to other professionals that can enhance the Realtor’s own Power Team.
We will go a little deeper in this arena in two weeks and your action this week sets you up to gain more benefit now and then.
First, figure out what your partners are reading—their trade journals. That is an easy question to ask and also stay tuned in while in their offices, in their cars, meeting them outside, too. Certainly, align their interests with your own. If you don’t care, don’t bother. When you do care, however, the passion will motivate you and cement your relationship, as well.
Second, once you have some background and find an issue that matters to you, ask your strategic partners if and how it might affect them. The process alone is valuable. Once you uncover an issue that resonates take the third step and offer to write a letter on behalf of their industry. One for all and all for one.
© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

November 5, 2017 at 9:47 am

Follow Your Dollars

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“If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us.” ~~Jim Rohn

My parents used to joke when I was a kid that we built our dentist’s new office. Braces were expensive, after all. Seriously, though, I am sure you have some businesses you support on a regular basis—veterinarian, auto repair, eyeglasses, lawn care, and so forth. When was the last time they returned the favor and sent you any business?

This is actually easier than you might imagine but is not without some effort on your part.

The first thing to do is actually assess the scope of the opportunity available to you. Rather than trust to memory I highly recommend you get your checkbook(s) and credit card statements and start working through them. Take the last six months as a representative sampling. You can add older, bigger ticket items later.

For each vendor (especially the personal local ones although grocery stores and power companies are worth considering, as well) fill out the following details:

  1. Name (business/contact)
  2. Frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc)
  3. Monthly amount
  4. Annual amount
  5. Five year amount

A monthly hair stylist at $40 per visit is $480 per year. How long have you been going? Five years? That is $2400.

You can see that this will add up quickly so do this for every business you work with. Armed with this you can move to the next step.

Many of these businesses would be willing to work with you; they just do not have a system or viable method. This is where you must be creative and find that solution for them.

Again, this is easier than it might appear. Look through your list and tackle those you do the most with and have the best rapport with.

Here are a few examples to get you started. Certainly, post any other ideas you have, too, to help others.

Let’s start with a Financial Planner that regularly uses the hairstylist (and looks successfully well-groomed as a result, by the way.) How can these two work together? As a customer, what does the Financial Planner do when in the chair? Read, watch TV, chat. Here is an opportunity—if you can see it. I recommend that the Planner meet with the Stylist away from the salon where they can talk. It might be good to actually buy them coffee (or lunch) and recap the relationship before pitching the idea. Here is a possible scenario.

Dawn: Thank you for joining me. I wanted us to get away from the salon to talk business. I have enjoyed being a client for the past five years and was very glad to refer some of my clients to you, too. I wanted to ask if you would be willing to help support my business, as well.

Carol: I very much appreciate your business and the referrals. What do you have in mind?

Dawn: As a client I receive your quarterly newsletter and see that you have local businesses advertising in there. Would you give me space for a year?

Carol: Gladly, Dawn. The annual rate is $500.

Dawn: Actually, Carol, I was hoping you would do that at no charge in return for the referrals and loyalty over the years.

Carol: I have never thought about that before, but it makes sense. I am glad to give you the space. Is there anything else you would like me to do?

Dawn: As a matter of fact there is. Could I leave one of my newsletters in your waiting area?

Carol: Please do.

Smart business people can appreciate that reciprocity works both ways. If your Stylist (in this example) is reluctant you might want to reconsider a different service provider.

What could a veterinarian do for a carpet cleaner? The carpet cleaner brings her pets to the vet and many of the vet’s other clients have animals that make a mess in their homes. The carpet cleaner could regularly clean the vet’s lobby. The veterinarian could include an occasional (or even regular) article on carpet care in his newsletter—written by the cleaner. The carpet cleaner could leave brochures and business cards in the lobby. The vet could sponsor a fundraiser or other event. They could share a business expo booth together. The possibilities are endless.

Your action step this week includes two components. First, do the analysis of where you are spending your money. This is great for budgeting, anyway. Then, brainstorm all the ways you can work with your biggest vendors and commit to approaching three over the next week. This is a strategy with a lot of upside potential.

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

 

Written by bniguy

October 29, 2017 at 2:47 pm

Elementary, my dear Watson

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“Every man at the bottom of his heart believes that he is a born detective.” ~~John Buchan

Continuing with the importance of communication think of yourself as a detective. Questions are your best resource. Listen much more than you talk. My friend, Marty Clarke, wrote an excellent book entitled Communication Landmines which goes into this in much more depth.

In this post I simply want to point out three main communications errors we all make and often experience. Master these and your networking skills will soar.

The first major problem is talking too much. We’ve all experienced this from the receiving end and felt trapped. Once you got locked in how much listening did you do after that? Most likely your attention was turned to finding an exit or trying to figure out how they are breathing or just focusing on the pattern their spittle makes. When the other person talks too much it is a horrible experience. That said, we are also guilty of the same mistake at least once in our life. As a detective turn your attention to assessing when the other person is starting to experience these symptoms. They start to avoid eye contact, begin stepping backwards, look over their (and your) shoulder, yawn, glance (or stare) at their watch. As soon as you see any of these reactions immediately turn the conversation to them and ask a question.

More importantly how do you avoid this landmine? Practice and preparation are the best tools you have. There are a few questions you often get at networking events and you should be prepared to answer them quickly and completely. When I am on the phone I count my words and always try to get to the point in 25 or less. Try that the next time you are in a conversation over the phone (tick your fingers up one-through-ten and then back down ten-through-one and finally once more one-through-five. Stop and consider, “What was the point of the last twenty-five words?” If you are just getting to it—accept the fact that you are taking the long way home. Find the shortcuts and tighten up your conversation.)

The second common communication error is reliance on jargon. We talked about that in more depth last week so I won’t elaborate. However, this week’s action steps meet each of these head on and we’ll examine it more in that section.

The third common communication error is vagueness. Many of these posts address that, as focus and clarity are keys to your success. When you ask a Realtor who they would like to meet and get the answer, “Anyone looking to buy or sell a home” who did you think of? Is that the result you want when someone asks you the same helpful type of question? If the Realtor is more specific we can be of more help. “I specialize in empty-nesters. This is a great time to move into a home more suited to their lifestyle without kids.” About twenty words and I imagine you actually thought of someone. If you are an engaged listener you may ask for more clarification of the term empty-nesters. “Their kids have moved out or are in college.” The more specific you are the wider the listener’s mind opens. In fact, if you know exactly who you want to meet this is an excellent shortcut, very appropriate for business-to-business clients or strategic alliances for any provider. A business banker may have a competitive rate to offer and knows of an automotive company looking to expand. She asks for Woody Toe, the owner of a local auto body shop noting that, “Our bank understands automotive equipment leasing and we work well with repair shops like Woody’s”

This week’s action involves meeting each area directly. First, develop a one-minute or less response to the following questions (from two weeks ago—repeated here.)

  • Who is your target market?
  • What sets you apart from your competition?
  • What is your most popular product (or service?)
  • What is new in your business?
  • Why did you choose to go into your profession?
  • What do you like best about what you do?
  • What is your biggest challenge?
  • What do you do?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Where are you located? Why there? If you could choose a perfect location, what would it be?
  • How do you generate most of your business?

Second, eliminate jargon. Create two columns and list every term you use (trust me; your company literature is rife with it.) Look for terms like full-service, turnkey, small business, and so on. Develop layperson language and simplify it so a twelve year old could understand it.

Third, write out a complete referral request identifying the person you want to meet—listing their company, department, title, and industry. I recommend doing as many of these as you have target markets. Once written, then practicing asking from the specific to the general, just as the banker example above.

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

 

Written by bniguy

July 30, 2017 at 5:37 am

Breaking (and Making) Bread Together

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“Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler.” ~~Albert Einstein

One of the most valuable times in every networker’s week is meal time. This is a wonderful part of every day when we can relax with someone over food and really get deeper into a relationship or strategy. If you stop and think about how many meals we enjoy every year, the opportunity to maximize this is incredible.

Let’s look at the numbers.

We eat three meals a day every day for 365 days each year. That is more than 1,000. Let’s back that down to weekdays only (5 days per week and go with 50 weeks for simplicity’s sake) leaving 750. I recommend cutting that into thirds where one third is for your family, one third for yourself and non-business friends, and one-third for purposeful food encounters. Let’s simplify the math once more and convert 250 to 20 per month. That is basically one meal per working day. These can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I personally prefer one dinner per week and four breakfasts and lunches. That is, four dinners and sixteen others mixed. Some months it is twelve breakfasts and four lunches. Some months it is the reverse.

What is a purposeful food encounter? It is a planned event with just a few select people. They typically include 2-4 people and fall into one of these patterns: one-to-one, one-to-two, or two-to-two.

One-to-one sessions are level one gatherings with one other person to set strategy and further existing relationships. I find it most powerful to select a single target market or single aspect of your business offer and focus on just that. Talk about the problems your target prospects experience, what phrases or comments would indicate their experience with these issues, what solutions you can provide, what common objections they might have, and how to move the introduction along. You should also discuss strategic alliances, good and bad referrals, and the typical cycle you encounter in this arena. In the beginning of the process, this may be the only type of session you do and twenty or even forty of these purposeful meetings carry strong results. As well as setting the stage for the next level up.

Level two meetings are when the actual introductions are done. These are usually three or four people together and put either the strategic alliance partners together or the problem holders and problem solvers. This is to establish a new relationship by bridging the gap between these two parties using an existing relationship to introduce a new one.

Think of this as a triangle. Let’s set the stage. We have Matt Plastic who represents a credit card company that works very well with the restaurant industry. As you may recall we considered that in Week Three Find the Perfect Customer. Matt has a very good friend named Mary Shields, who is a Commercial Insurance Agent. Mary’s friend, Wolf Davis, runs a restaurant and is a client. Matt and Mary got together in an earlier meal meeting and Matt talked about how he helped restaurant owners. Mary looked through her client list and arranged a meeting with Wolf.

As you can see, this can become a very productive meal meeting. The parties that already know each other (Matt-Mary and Mary-Wolf) strengthen their relationships regardless of whether or not Matt-Wolf clicks or not.

Your action item this week is to start having these powerful meal sessions.

  • Look over your schedule and carve out twenty slots
  • Create a short list of potential partners
  • Rank by most valuable
  • Start inviting, start meeting

 

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

 

Written by bniguy

June 4, 2017 at 4:57 am