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The Secret to More Success

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I want to encourage you today with this quick thought exercise that could radically shift where you are spending your time and how much revenue you are producing.

Click on the video above to check it out.

You Were Not Created for Drudgery

You Were Not Created for Drudgery

The Real World

Somewhere between adolescence and our mid-20’s we get the message — life isn’t easy.

We aren’t kids any more.  School ends and we have bills to pay. We gradually get the message that we are finally in “the real world”, and we don’t expect things to always go our way.

The vital thing that we don’t realize until years later, and this is so subtle that it is practically evil, is the gradual erosion of what we tolerate.

We get into some situation at work and things get a little difficult. Perhaps there are some budget cuts that affect you.

You were counting on more tools to do your job, a new computer this year (finally) to replace the 5-year old model now on your desk.  You tighten the belt and continue on.

You get used to it.

This is the new normal.  Things are inconvenient but doable.

Then things at work get a little tighter.  One of your co-workers leaves for greener pastures and the company decides not to rehire.

That workload now gets shared between the remaining people in your department, including you.

You work a little harder and continue on.

You get used to it.

This is the new normal.  This is the way of things, isn’t it?   Companies are always looking for ways to be more efficient.  Work isn’t supposed to get easier, is it?  It’s supposed to get more productive.

Slowly, over time, you notice that any joy that you had for your work is slowly being squeezed away into the push to churn out more units.  Something inside seems wrong, but we can’t quite put our finger on it.

You Notice the Tension

You start to develop this groaning sense that work should be different some how.  You remember when you used to have time to do quality work, something that you were proud of.

Now, because of workload you just are not comfortable with half of what you have to pass off as “done”.  You want things to be just a little bit, and I struggle to find the right word here, better.

Secretly you wish that you just had more time, or more budget. You want the freedom to create. You don’t want to feel like a cog in a machine. You start to feel that life happens to you instead of the other way around.

There has to be a better way somewhere, somehow, right?

Yet, and here is where the tension starts, you feel that sharing these thoughts with your coworkers is dangerous, that you would be derided for being too idealistic, too Pollyanna.

You get visions of some old-school boss saying, “We don’t always get what we want.  Work is hard.  That’s just the way things are! By the way, the department is going to be working Saturdays for the next few months.”

Choose to Shine!

Some part of us needs to be reminded that you were not created to trudge through life, living small.

You were created to shine.

That tension you are feeling between the work you are doing and the work that you wish you could do probably won’t go away any time soon.

Press into it.  See where that desire takes you.

This doesn’t mean that you should quit your job tomorrow, but you should start paying attention to those desires.  You were not created to be continually pushed and pressed into a more efficient human machine.

The Surest Way to Triple Your Productivity

The Surest Way to Triple Your Productivity

How Managing Your Emotions Can Put You Ahead

This Means You

For some of my male readers out there, this article might seem easy to dismiss. The topic of emotions seems just too touchy-feely. Rest assured — this article is for all of us. We are all creatures of emotion. Just look at some of the things that our emotions affect:

  • the relationships we form
  • the car we choose to drive
  • how we feel when someone cuts us off
  • the clothes we wear
  • what neighborhood we live in
  • the employer we choose to work for
  • the kind of business we start
  • the relationships we choose to end

Emotions and Small Business Owners

Emotions can cause us small business owners to quit long before we should. It is a form of self-sabotage. Unless we break out of these endless circles we’ve created, we are bound to keep our light from the world. We won’t be able to create more jobs, and we won’t be able to help clients with our unique contributions. Here are just a few examples of self-defeating behavior I have witnessed in small business owners:

  • You don’t go to the business networking function because they “never amount to anything.”  Instead you sit at home under some level of anxiety as you wonder how you are ever going to find the “one thing” that is going to make a difference in your marketing efforts.
  • You compare your 2-year old business to Rebecca’s 6-month old business and get the impression she is doing better than you.  Afterwords you sulk at home for the rest of the evening wondering why you “just aren’t any good at this.”
  • Your competitor’s website makes you feel like you are using finger paint and crayons when you do yours. Then you beat yourself up for not hiring it done.  This beating session causes you lost time from wanting to start on the speech you have to give next week.

How to Break the Cycle

Addressing this could take an entire book.  Here I’m going to focus only on breaking the cycle of negative self-talk.  It takes a certain level of self-awareness to begin the process of keeping yourself in good head space.  Here’s the simple test I use.

Pick a thought or a feeling you are having right now about your business.  Ask yourself this question:

Is what I am thinking right now making me feel better or worse about myself?

Just follow the thought for a moment and you will become very aware of where it is leading you.  If the thought is building you up and making you feel more confident about where you are, then you are in good shape.  If the thought is wearing you down and making you feel diminished, then it is time to get it out of your head.  Time to give yourself a mental reboot.  I have literally developed the habit of not dwelling on things.

No Longer a Dweller

In the past I used to get really worked up about things that were not going according to my plan, which means I was worked up most of the time.  I spent so much time on “if only”, “what if”, and “woulda, shoulda, coulda” that I nearly dwelled myself into exhaustion.  I was spinning my wheels yet going nowhere.  It took me a LONG time to realize how much time I was wasting.  What’s worse is that dwelling is a double whammy.  Dwelling usually puts you in an emotional hole that you have to climb from, AND it keeps you from spending time on reaching your goals.

The Payoff

Managing your emotions means that you stop losing time.  You are not digging your self a hole that takes time to fill. Managing your emotions means that you believe in yourself.  You care enough about yourself to invest only the best thoughts and feelings.

Remember this:  If you wouldn’t let someone else treat you badly, then don’t treat yourself badly.


Make the Most of Your Salespeople

Make the Most of Your Salespeople

Your Employees Rule (or at least they should)

A bit of warning before we go any further: on the surface this is going to look like an ordinary get-some-support-staff-for-your-salespeople letter.  Resist the urge to go there as I unpack how autonomy is the most powerful force you have in your business.

The answer to getting the most out of your employees is the easiest, yet scariest thing you will ever do — let them decide.

Here’s what a traditional sales role typically looks like:

  • Rep is expected to develop relationships with key accounts, identify sales opportunities, and put together deals.
  • Also responsible for entering all weekly activities, i.e., meetings, phone calls and all respective notes into company’s customer relationship management (CRM) software.

There is only one problem with this scenario — most sales people can’t stand documentation.  It is the bane of their existence.  After come cajoling and back-and-forth with leadership, the sales team gets a support person to help with the data entry part of the job.

Here is what the revised roles look like:

  • Sales reps – see people and write deals.
  • Support personnel – enter meeting notes, track details and handle paperwork.

From here  let’s introduce two of the company’s top salespeople – let’s call them Frank and Michelle.  Frank fits well into the new system because he hates anything that looks like paperwork.  Frank would rather be out on the golf course with a big prospect any day rather than being trapped behind a desk.  Frank actually lobbied heavily for the new support person, so, of course, he’s loving the new arrangement.  Michelle, is a different story, however.

Michelle came into sales after having spent 5+ years in marketing, so she knows what customers want.  Michelle likes the pressure of performing and keeps her own score card.  After the sales jobs were redesigned to account for the new support staff, Michelle now feels like she has less time to track her own score.  Just last week she decided to take time to do her own numbers, but was caught by one of the members of the sales management team.  She was reminded of the investment in the new support person and encouraged to hand off to her score tracker to the new support person.  Michelle now gets her scores, but they are at least a week behind, half the data she wants is missing and the report is no longer in a format that she likes.  The new system appears to be working well for Frank, but Michelle is quite demotivated because her touchstone — her own version of the score tracker — is gone.  Not only is it gone, she is actively dissuaded from doing the work herself.  Without this touchstone, Michelle’s work started to slide to a point where she was no longer a top performer.

Let Them Do What They Want

Autonomy is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.  This isn’t about designing jobs for a department.  It is about designing jobs for individual people.  People who bring their own likes, dislikes and preferences to a role.  In order for Frank to do his best work he really needs to have a support person handle the details.  Michelle needs to have her hands on her score tracker every day.  Once Michelle was able to break the ice with her leadership team, she was able to get control of her sales tracker.  Less than a month after the change, her numbers started to climb and her performance has fully recovered.

New Financial Advisor Success – Time Orientation

New Financial Advisor Success – Time Orientation

New Financial Advisor Success Tactics

Time Orientation

This is NOT another article on time management.  Far from it.  Instead, this is an article on preventing stress in your new job.

New Financial Advisors have enough to tend with during their first few months — licensing, class room training, computer-based training, filling the calendar with initial appointments — it can be overwhelming at times.   In the midst of this there is one important thing to keep in mind.  What is your time orientation?

Researchers Weeks and Fournier (2010) studied how a person’s time orientation contributed to the stress that a person experiences as a sales person.  The picture below says a thousand words.  There are essentially four major types of time orientation.  A person can naturally fall towards a long-term orientation (LTO) or a short-term orientation (STO).  Meaning a person’s thoughts and actions fall somewhere on the spectrum between short-term and long-term.  There is a second measure that a person needs to consider as well — multitasking.  Some people love it.  Others can’t stand it.  One the graphic you will see the terms polychronic (multitasking) and monochronic (one thing at a time).

Time orientation is important to consider because a sales person who is accustomed to taking a long-term approach to sales will not fit well in an environment that demands short-term focus. The same can be said of task orientation. Some roles demand that the individual focus on many things at once. One could consider a person who does not enjoy multitasking as a poor fit for a job that requires such.



Weeks, W. A., & Fournier, C. (2010). The impact of time congruity on salesperson’s role stress: A person-job fit approach. Journal Of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 30(1), 73-90.

Sales Managers: How to Get What You Want

The Secret to Motivating Employees Toward Peak Performance

From time to time we are lucky enough to hire a shooting star, that one employee that is worth 5 or 10 regular players.  The holy grail, of course, is getting our regular players to perform like shooting stars.  Most of them are quite capable of reaching higher, but year after year they settle for being, well, regular.

The key to employees who are continuously motivated comes from three components:

  • Competence – belief that one has the ability to influence important outcomes
  • Autonomy – having a choice and fully endorsing what one is doing
  • Relatedness – having satisfying and supportive relationships

When all 3 components are at work, employees have higher levels of motivation and put forth more effort.

I am drawing from an impressive body of research from Deci and Ryan who have put their Self-Determination Theory (SDT) to the test in industries as varied as “business, education, sports, medicine, entertainment and leadership” (Stone, Deci & Ryan, p. 76, 2009).  The researchers offer the following six practices to creating the environment where continuous motivation will flourish

  1. Ask open questions and invite participation in problem solving
  2. Actively listen and acknowledge employee perspectives
  3. Offer choices within structure including the clarification of responsibilities
  4. Provide sincere, positive feedback that acknowledges initiative and factual, non- judgmental feedback about problems
  5. Minimize coercive controls such as rewards and comparisons with others
  6. Develop talent and share knowledge to enhance competence and autonomy (Stone, Deci & Ryan, p. 80, 2009)

I do not mean to trivialize how important or easy it would be to grow your culture towards continuous motivation, but the rewards are well worth the bumps along the way.


Stone, D., Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (2009). Beyond talk: Creating autonomous motivation through self-determination theory. Journal of General Management, 34(3), 75–91.

3 Emotional Management Tips for the Small Business Owner

3 Emotional Management Tips for the Small Business Owner

Emotional Management for the Small Business Owner

The Path Out of Desperation

Years ago while in the throws of running a business there were times when I absolutely needed a deal. I was desperate. I needed to generate revenue, and the big fish prospect right in front of me had a legitimate need. If I timed this just right I could get myself out of a tight spot. The problem is that the deal never, and I mean never, materialized when I needed it. I was left to scramble to find money elsewhere. I doubted both my calling and my ability. After experiencing this emotional and financial roller coaster enough times I realized that there was only one way out of the doom loop — I had to have more than one big deal in my funnel at a time. I worked extra hard and started putting more and more medium deals in the funnel. These were far easier to get and I started to get good at it.  It was a LOT of work, but I managed to do it. I did it so well that I won a sales conference trip that year.

The Secret of Inventory

One of the tools that I found invaluable is a simple low-tech tool called a follow-up file.  This is NOT your to-do list for closing a deal. Instead think of this a long-term follow-up.  This is where you capture every last time a client says “I’m not interested now, but after (insert reason here) the vacation is over, school starts, the beginning of the year, etc.  I would write it down.  Every one of them.  Try this yourself.  If you are in a business where you talk to new prospects 5-10 times per week, you will amass a good inventory in about 90 days.  The great part about this that once you get into the rhythm of entering items into your follow up file, you won’t want to stop.  My big surprise was looking back on this list from a harvest perspective after 3 months.  I had managed to stack up several pieces of low hanging fruit.  Many of those “call me later” deals were ripe for the picking.  It worked great.

What Exactly is a Sales Funnel?

In this case a picture is worth a thousand words. For the uninitiated a sales funnel is simply a list of all your deals, and the list is segmented by stages.  Some deals are just at the beginning stage while others are just about to be closed.  When you get up each day, take a look at your funnel and ask one important question – “What do I need to do today to move each of these deals to the next step in the funnel?”

What do I need to do today to move each of these deals to the next step in the funnel?

It is a simple question that cuts through all the clutter and distraction.  If today’s to-do list does not include directly moving all of your deals an inch closer to your wallet, you are working on the wrong things.


Take Aways

Here is a  list of the top things you can do to keep your head in the game.

  1. Commit to building an inventory.  No technology required.  Just use a yellow pad of paper or a white board in your office.  Write down every deal that you see, no matter how far out in the future it may be. Revisit this list often.  You’ll be glad you started.
  2. Track all your prospects in a sales funnel.  Make it your mission everyday to move each deal one step closer to completion.
  3. Work hard.  Yes, that’s right.  Work hard.  Your dreams are in reach.

5 Things Entrepreneurs Can Do to Boost Confidence

Ways to Boost Your Confidence

  1. Do something.  The worst part about telecommuting or working from home is that it is far too easy to lose momentum.  Get out of the house.  Most importantly, do some prospecting.  Do a few walk-ins to local businesses.  Pick up the phone and make 4 or 5 calls to previous clients with whom you have lost touch.  Send the email campaign that you have been procrastinating on for weeks.
  2. Do the unpleasant stuff first.  If you tend to procrastinate on tasks that you don’t like, just do them first and get it over with.
  3. Grab a quick coffee with a colleague.  I’m not talking about time wasting idle chit-chat or rehashing the big game last weekend.  Meet with a purpose.  Take 3 conversation starters with you.  Confide.  Be vulnerable.  “What 2 or 3 things do you do to get new clients?”  “What was your longest dry spell?”  “How did you overcome the difficult times?”  You may find out that you are not alone.
  4. Get to bed early.  Sometimes fatigue can lead to all sorts of performance issues.
  5. I know this last one is tired, but I mention it because it bears repeating — exercise.  Your endorphins kick in after about 20 minutes and everything starts looking up.

New Financial Advisors – Fail, Observe, Recover

How New Financial Advisors Can Recover from Failure

In my previous post on What to do with Failure?, I mentioned that new financial advisors tend either to internalize their failures (it is always my fault) or to externalize their failures (it is always the prospect’s fault).  We move toward one of these two extremes naturally; however, you stand to learn a ton by just taking a moment to carefully examine what led to the failure.

Consider the list below.  At one end is self-blame, and at the other end is blaming everyone else.  The sweet spot is right in the middle.  You stand to gain the most from the failure by pausing for a moment to take stock of what happened — observe and recover.

  • Internalize & overwhelm
  • Observe & recover
  • Blame & avoid

As a New Financial Advisor, How Do I Recover From Failure?

There are several age-old formulas that can be used to take stock of the situation.  Here are just two:

  • Start, Stop, Continue.
  • What went well? What didn’t? What would you change?
  • Phase by Phase postmortem

Start, Stop, Continue

This one is most common in performance evaluations.  For your latest prospect meeting, seminar or other client facing moment, simply write down what actions or behaviors you would like to see yourself starting, stopping or continuing for the next time you perform this activity.

What went well? What didn’t? What would you change?

This is quite similar to start, stop, continue from above, and is most commonly performed with a coach or any person who has an outside perspective.

Phase by phase

The phase by phase postmortem is perhaps the most thorough.  This method is often used when you are critiquing a client facing meeting and you are using at least one step in your sales funnel.  What you do here is simply to document what you learned at every step of your sales process.

  • Did you transition well between your opening small talk and your initial discussion?
  • Did you transition into your fact finding segment well?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • Did you find enough emotion when drilling down into what the client wants to achieve in their future?


When you encounter your next failure, don’t blame yourself.  Don’t blame others.  Just take a minute to assess what happened.  No matter what path you choose, at least do something to write down and capture what you experienced.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can hold all of this in your head.  You must write it down.  I have known new financial advisors who have a bit of a library of lessons they have learned.  It takes a bit of discipline, but the paybacks are well worth the investment.