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Chris LoCurto

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April 4, 2011

Wow You’re Big!

The Census Bureau recently reported that over 98.3% of all businesses employ fewer than 100 people. Also important to know, 90% of all American businesses are family-owned or controlled, and they generate more than half of our annual gross national product. So small business is actually…big!

Sylvia Borken, at the family store, Knox Marke...

Image by Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest via Flickr

In other words, big business isn’t running this country! But for some reason we tend to think it does. We see how much they screw things up, and we believe they are the ones in control. We believe if they don’t get their act together, this country will collapse. And while their mistakes can have a major impact, the truth is, small business runs more of America. It’s the mom and pop shops that are making it happen.

Small business has played a huge role in the success of our nation. In fact, most big businesses started out in someone’s garage somewhere. So if you’re a small business owner or leader, and you think you don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, think again. If you’re a person working at one of those mom and pops and you think what you do doesn’t impact the nation, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Just the mere act of participating in commerce has an effect.

It kinda changes the way you think about who can make change in America. Hahaha – and I don’t just mean at the cash register.

Chris LoCurto

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April 1, 2011

Leadership Spotlight: Tony Bradshaw

April 1, 2011 | By | 3 Comments">3 Comments

The Leadership Spotlight continues this week with Tony Bradshaw. Tony leads a team of 60 internet professionals, including marketers, creatives and developers, whose goal is to make DaveRamsey.com a world-class internet site.

Since he took the reins of the Web Department in 2002, the amount of company revenue tied to internet initiatives has grown from 20% of total company revenue to over 70%. Even more recently, the team’s program with Omniture, a leading web analytics provider, have realized a 579% ROI on their first project and 400% in the first 60 days of their second.

Before he worked with Dave, Tony spent six years as an engineer and network administrator at a small business manufacturing company. He received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1993.

CLo: What is your role in leadership?

TB: VP, Internet Business and Technology. Basically run Daveramsey.com & Dave’s other web properties. Consult with the different business leaders on their business initiatives.

CLo: What is the best advice you’ve ever received about leadership?

TB: Listen. Listen. Listen. The best leaders listen more than they talk. Over the years, I thought I was a good listener. I believe a lot of us as leaders think we’re good listeners, but we’re not. As I get older, I’m continually reminded that I need to be a better listener. Listen to your mentors. Listen to your leaders. Listen to your team. Listen to your vendors. Listen to your customers. If there’s no one to listen to, then go find someone. You’ll learn something.

CLo: What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

TB: I’ll pick 2. (1) Time. I’m continually reminded  how short on time I am. Time for work. Time for family. Time to lead. Time to make decisions. Time to do work. The only thing we can do is become more efficient and effective in the use of our time.
(2) People. You must have quality people to grow a business. A shortage of quality people means your business is headed straight for a growth wall. You must be tenacious in focusing on, finding, developing, and retaining the best people.

CLo: How do you continue to improve yourself as a leader?

TB: I summarize this with the word “experiences”. You need to have experiences and you need to learn from other people’s experiences. I do this through reading, conferences, and meeting people. Over the last few years, I’ve become much more focused on attending a variety of conferences and reaching out to people in the industry. I would say the single biggest thing has been meeting people. A healthy balance of all 3 is best since it usually fits better with a busy schedule.

CLo: How do you invest in others?

TB: I do a few of things. (1) I tell them what I’m doing to grow and where I see myself headed. I find the open candor causes them to reflect on how they view themselves.
(2) I do my best to talk to them about the strengths and weaknesses I see in them. From that, I hope to guide them away from distractions and help them focus on developing their strengths.
(3) Ask them to develop an annual growth plan, and review it with them. This year, I’ve decided to make it a quarterly review so we can see how they’re doing quarter to quarter. I’ve got a couple of younger guys I’m want to see grow a lot this year so I’m spending more time checking their progress. It’s time consuming, but worth it.

CLo: What was the last book you read?

TB: How about 3. The First 90 Days – strategies on job transition and getting up to speed.
Tribal Leadership – ideas on leading teams and achieving success.
Inspired – guidance on developing technology products. The principles transcend to other product types.

Chris LoCurto

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March 31, 2011

I’m Sorry, Do I Know You?

March 31, 2011 | By | 3 Comments">3 Comments

In the restaurant business you always hear about how bad customers are. How they can be rude. How they don’t tip well. How they don’t even act like their waiter is standing right there. Some customers just give the rest of us a bad name.

My Favorite Parisian WaiterBut from time to time, waiters can do the same. In fact, one of the things that bugs me, is when waiters don’t spend time getting to know their regulars. There’s nothing like having the same waiter over and over again, and they never look at you, and they never remember who you are. “But Chris, they see so many people everyday!” Yes they do. And keep in mind, I’m talking about a place that you frequent. Not a place you go to a few times a year.

There is one place in particular where half of the staff knows who we are. But there’s this one guy (Ahhhh, the one guy thing.) who never remembers us. When he comes to the table, he never looks a single customer in the eyes and he always announces his name. I finally got to the point where I would call his name out before he got there, and he would still say what his name was.

Now I would normally think that there’s just something wrong with the one person. Except there’s one of those guys at another place that we go to regularly. Each time one of them serves us, I think, “What if my team was doing that to one of my customers!” I mean think about it, what if your sales person couldn’t tell you the name of any of the clients that he had worked with for a decent period of time. You would be concerned that you would lose that client, wouldn’t you?

The thing is, when six of your staff can remember me by name, job, even favorite type of music, you can back off of the one guy who can’t remember you if you danced on the tables singing you are my sunshine. But what if that’s the only person that I do business with? Then what? Studies show that you lose 68% of repeat business due to perceived indifference. In other words, they feel like your company doesn’t care about having, or even keeping them as a customer.

Therefore, it’s more important than ever to make sure your staff is doing everything they can to notice customers. Especially if they are repeat customers. Here are some things you can do:

  • Talk to them. Explain the importance of repeat business and how it makes it easier for you to pay a staff when you have customers. Let them know how word-of-mouth is the best form of marketing your fantastic product, or the best way to tell everyone else that you just don’t care about them enough to know their name.
  • Train them. Give them a pop quiz on the repeat customers that you already know. If they’ve worked with them at least twice, do they remember them? What can they tell you about that client that they should have picked up the first time? What are they doing to keep the information they’ve learned about the client, so it’s easily accessible next time?
  • Make it a group effort. Keep the whole team on their toes by pulling them together and discussing the clients that always return. What do you know about them? What makes them a good client and what can we do to make them a great client. Tell the team be on the lookout for returning customers, and be sure to inform everyone else so they can be prepared. Have the other team members say hi and call the client by name so they feel that the whole company feels they are a star.

These are just a few simple things that will help your team, but more importantly, help your customer feel like you really REALLY love their business.

Chris LoCurto

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March 30, 2011

Wow You’re So Powerful!

March 30, 2011 | By | 3 Comments">3 Comments

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand the test of adversity, but if you really want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Abraham Lincoln

Image by George Eastman House via Flickr

All too often I’ve watched someone be placed in leadership, and then they become a mean control freak. Or someone who feels the only way to lead, is to knock people down. The worst, is watching them try to destroy people to get what they want. In all cases, I see what Lincoln was talking about.

If power causes you to treat people like trash, then in my mind, that’s what you character is made from. As a leader, you should be lifting your people up! You should be looking for opportunities to grow them, not knock them down. You should be focusing on how to take your people to the next level, not how to get them out of your way.

I can never say it enough, a leader’s job it to make their people successful, not the other way around! If you can’t see how you’re doing that, then you’re not. If you’ve received your leadership from stepping on people, then that is what you will breed in your team; people who treat people like pavement.

Spend some time today just focusing on what your leadership looks like. Are you the kind of person that people love… or fear? If they love you, they tell you. If they fear you, they appease you. Try and be truthful with yourself about which it actually is.

Chris LoCurto

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March 29, 2011

Get That Thing Outta Here!

March 29, 2011 | By | 4 Comments">4 Comments

I’ve always heard the saying that good is the enemy of great. The thought that if you only focus on good, you’ll never experience what it’s like to do something over the top. Always shoot for and expect greatness!

The Passage of Time

Image by ToniVC via Flickr

However, I was listening to a military commander this past weekend discussing how long it took the White House to make a decision to take out Libya’s air defenses. In fact, he said that we were about 10 days too late. They spent so much time talking and trying to with the perfect plan.

Because of that, they had no surprise attack. They gave Gaddafi the opportunity to make a lot of decisions, and movements, that cost us more in time and money to complete the same plan we had 10 days earlier.

As he was talking, he dropped a line that resonated with me as an entrepreneur. He said, “Perfect is the enemy good enough.” Ain’t that the truth! (Sorry mom…I only used ain’t for effect.) You see we can spend an incredible amount of time trying to make something perfect, when what we really need to be focusing on is good enough.

Sometimes it just more important to get your product to market and let it fail a little, than to lose time trying to make sure that you have the right color bow for the packaging. Do you want excellence? Yes! Do you want it to be right? Absolutely! Do you want to miss your opportunity because someone else entered the market with you idea while you were shopping bows? Heck to the no! Ship it already.

Here are a few things to focus on when launching a product:

  • Get something out so you can be seen. Any blogger who’s been writing consistently for some time will tell you that the beginning is the toughest part. When you sit down to write your first post, you will have a tendency to spend days trying to make the first one perfect. The problem? You don’t have any readers yet! The only thing you should be focusing on is learning how to write and what it takes to get in a grove.
  • Don’t over-estimate your quality. While you can spend a ton of time making sure you have created a great product, you will soon find out where you messed up. Inevitably one of your customers, (Most likely a loyal one. They’re really the only ones who care to say something.) will send you a 3 page letter on all of the areas that you can improve your product. Hey, you can look at that person as being hateful or helpful. It’s up to you.
  • Expect the 2.0 version. One thing that Apple has done well is launch a product with the understanding that the public will love it, but they’ll love the next version even more. This way they have actually conditioned us to understand that the first blush will probably have some flaws. But since we’re too impatient, Apple’s just helping us out to have the product that much sooner. *wink wink*

Do all that you can to make your product the best that it can be, so in turn you can be great! But don’t spend so much time that you lose the opportunity…or for that matter, the stomach to launch.