7 Stages of Growth and Hidden Agents (Pt 2 of 3, Organization Rewilding)

Do you ever feel like there are times in your business that you keep bumping up against an invisible force field?  Something that holds you back regardless of how hard you try to grow or move forward?  What you may be experiencing is something James Fischer, in his book Navigating the Growth Curve, calls Hidden Agents or growth Transition Zones. Hidden Agents are obstacles to growth that were not easy for a leader to identify. Additionally, as companies move from stage-to-stage, they experience Transition Zones that complicate growth and can create business chaos.

In this blog, we will continue to reveal insights and wisdom from the book “Navigating the Growth Curve” that help leaders understand and manage the increasing complexity at every level of business growth. These materials were reviewed, discussed, learned and made actionable in the February 2020 Executive Forums Silicon Valley mastermind sessions. 

 

Hidden Agents

Sometimes on the surface, issues look unclear and may only really show symptoms or side effects which can make it difficult to identify the real cause and design and implement the correct solutions. The three hidden agents identified by Fisher are shown in the graphic below and are obstacles to growth, hidden below the surface and difficult to diagnose.

 

27 Classic Challenges

One of the hidden agents identified in James Fischer’s research are the 27 Classic Challenges that companies face at one time or the other.  Many times, several of these Classic Challenges were critical for business to address at a specific point in time – related to the company’s current stage of growth.  The successful companies took the time and energy to focus on a critical few at any one time.  They addressed the most critical challenge for their stage of growth and moved on.  Take a look at the graphic below and identify your company’s stage and assess the challenges you might want to address. The key is for the leader and team is to stay focused on the right things at the right time.

 

Builder Protector Ratio

A second hidden agent identified in James Fischer’s research is the builder protector ratio. The B/P Ratio can be explained by understanding that in every company there are Builders (risk takers) and there are Protectors (risk averse).  The Builder/Protector aspect of the Stages of Growth is a measurement within a company of confidence vs. caution.  

  • Builders (risk takers) create new ideas and take new initiatives, find ways to expand revenue and profits, challenge the way things are done, and are highly confident.
  • Protectors (risk averse) are cautious and slow-paced, seek stability, may not feel confident in company’s financial strength, and tend to be suspicious of new markets.

As navigating the growth curve materials are about growth companies, you can see in the graphic below that the ratio of Builders to Protectors is greater than one for all of the stages except for the Delegation – Stage 3. Are you hiring enough Builders to achieve the right ratio at your stage of growth?

 

Three Faces of a Leader

The third hidden agent is called the Three Faces of a Leader Blend and is reflective of the leader within an organization. Depending on a company’s stage of growth, the leader must deliver a different blend (mix) of leadership attributes to make the company successful and keep the company growing. The three leadership attributes that must be blended in each stage are being a Visionary, a Manager and a Specialist.

  • Visionary Leader - makes sure the company knows where it wants to go.  
  • Manager Leader – grows company through managing the work and the people.
  • Specialist Leader - delivers work to make sure the product meets clients’ needs.

As seen in the graphic below, the Visionary Leader is extremely important in a company’s early and late stages while the Manager Leader is dominated in a company’s middle stages. Note that the Specialist Leader decreases continually as a company grows.

 

 

Transition Zones

Finally, let’s look at what happens as a company transitions from one stage to another. A Transition Zone is a phase of chaos that the organization goes through to prepare for the next Stage of Growth. Rarely does it go smoothly, however, it does always go predictably. You can expect confusion and some chaos with your staff as you work through these zones, but if you aren’t prepared for them, they can take a toll on you and your leadership team.

Transitions between stages occur as either predictably as Flood Zones or Wind Tunnel. A Transition Zone is a phase of chaos that the organization goes through to prepare for the next Stage of Growth. Without this chaos, the organization would not be able to sustain itself or be able to compete in the next Stage of Growth.  These zones can sometimes be identified by the mumbled complaints at leadership for putting the company in this ‘mess’. In truth most often the chaos couldn’t have been avoided and was a natural result of the company preparing for its next Stage of Growth.

 

  • Flood Transition Zone - a transition where the organization experiences a FLOOD of activity. It is being overwhelmed. The feeling inside a company is that you don’t have enough people to handle all the work. You feel like you can barely keep your head above water.

 

To address the chaos during a flood transition zone, you must

    • Communicate to people the upcoming increase in workload
    • Avoid the temptation to add new staff (hire at last resort)
    • Focus on the WAY your company manages workload

 

  • Wind Tunnel Transition Zone - is defined by a condition where the company needs to let go of ideas and processes that no longer work and create new ones that do. Often times the leadership of a company will have a difficult time realizing that what worked in the past is not going to work any longer.

 

To address the chaos during a wind tunnel transition zone, you must

    • Communicate growth and processes must change
    • Evaluate (measure) which processes must change
    • Don’t blame people for issues that require new processes
    • Consider the use and implementation of technology

 

As you can see in the graphic below, the Flood Transition Zone occurs leaving Stages 1, 3 while the Wind Tunnel Transition Zone occurs leaving Stages 2, 4 and 6.

 

The Stages of Growth material is very rich and challenged each leader in the Executive Forums Silicon Valley community to think deeply about the current state of their business and how to shore up the foundations for future growth.  Having the knowledge to predict what is coming next and be able to align leadership and company focus to address these challenges can keep growth on track. We have discussed in pars 1 and Part 2 of this blog the following concepts.

  • Stages of Growth – the number of people drive complexity and growth stage
  • Gates of Focus – profit, process, people – where to focus and when
  • Four Key Messages – if you are not growing, you are dying
  • Hidden Agents – Classic Challenges, Builder Protector, 3 Faces of a Leader
  • Transition Zones – how to address the Flood or Wind Tunnel transitions

 

Part 3 of this blog, we will discuss the “Building Blocks of infrastructure, Culture and Leadership” and how to “Rewild” your business to get it back onto a high growth trajectory.

Here is the link to Part 1 of this Blog - 7 Stages of Growth and the 3 Gates of Focus.

 

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At EFSV, selected business owners and leaders work together to gain clarity, insight and accountability to ignite their leadership engines, grow their businesses and improve their lives. If you are interested in learning more about the Stages of Growth or becoming a member at Executive Forum Silicon Valley, please contact gperkins@executiveforums.com or call 408-901-0321. For more information visit http://execforumssv.com/ 

7 Stages of Growth and 3 Gates of Focus (Pt 1 of 3, organization rewilding)

In February 2020, Executive Forum Silicon Valley (“EFSV”) members feasted on the insights and wisdom from the book “Navigating the Growth Curve” that helps understand and manage the increasing complexity at every level of growth. They each take back to their own organization the tools acquired at the Forum for engaging the people in their own company to deal with challenges at their particular stage of growth.

EFSV is a platform where business owners, CEOs and executives act as their fellow collaborators, co-inventors, partners and even “co-conspirators”, in getting clear picture of where they want to go, what stands in the way, and how to achieve their respective business growth goals. Forum members share resources, conduct self-assessment and identify opportunities. Upon getting clarity and insights, they hold each other accountable with support and encouragement.

Based on the research of over 650 successful companies with up to 500 employees, “Navigating the Growth Curve”, by James Fischer, describes a model for successful growth and identifies insights, behaviors, and focus areas that the leader needs to manage and balance. 

People, Profit, Process “3 Ps” for Successful Growth Companies

Fischer found in his research that successful growth companies are light, agile and intelligent, and throw out the old model of “business as a machine”. These companies flourish by using the lens of the following “Three Gates of Focus” in addressing challenges as they arise:

  • Growing people
  • Growing profit and revenue
  • Growing processes

Conversely, unsuccessful Companies often share these three traits:

  • work environment without staff satisfaction
  • lack of a sustainable profit model
  • cannot understand, predict, and manage their growth

Understanding Where You and Your Company Are Today: The 7 Stages of Growth

You can identify your appropriate Stage of Growth from the graphic below. As shown a company’s Stage of Growth is directly proportional to the numbers of employees as that drives complexity into every phase of the business. As a company grows throughout the 7 stages, the complexity level of that company increases based on the most challenging aspect of managing any organization – people. Not profits, not processes – but people.  The higher the number of people in a company, the more complexity.

A description of the what the company needs from the CEO, the typical priority challenges and the personnel balance needed, and the lenses of focus to keep a company growing in each Stage of Growth are as follows.

Stage 1 – Startup (1 – 10 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – Profit, People, Process
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 40 % Visionary, 10% Manager, 50 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Chaos, Inadequate Sales, Limited Capital to Grow
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 4 Builders to 1 Protector

Stage 2 – Ramp Up (11 – 19 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – Profit, Process, People
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 40 % Visionary, 20 % Manager, 40 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Hiring Quality People, Inadequate Sales, Leadership – Staff Gaps
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 3 Builders to 1 Protector

Stage 3 – Delegation (20 – 34 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – People, Profit, Process
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 10 % Visionary, 60 % Manager, 30 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Core Values Unclear, Culture Change Resistant, Lack of Staff Buy In
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 1 Builders to 1 Protector

Stage 4 – Professional (35 – 57 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – Process, Profit, People
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 10 % Visionary, 70 % Manager, 20 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Diagnosing Problems, Employee Turnover, Lack of Systems
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 3 Builders to 2 Protectors

Stage 5 – Integration (58 – 95 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – Profit, People, Process
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 30 % Visionary, 60 % Manager, 10 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Cost of Lost Expertise, Difficulty Diagnosing Problems, Inadequate Sales
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 2 Builders to 1 Protector

Stage 6 – Strategic (96 – 160 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – People, Profit, Process
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 45 % Visionary, 50 % Manager, 5 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Hiring Quality People, New Staff Onboarding, Lack of Staff Buy-In
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 3 Builders to 1 Protector

Stage 7 – Visionary (161 – 500 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – People, Process, Profit
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 75 % Visionary, 20 % Manager, 5 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Inadequate Profits, Changing Marketplace, Differentiating Products
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 2 Builders to 1 Protector

There are four key messages associated with growth principles that a leader needs to understand as your company progresses from one stage to another:

Message 1 – Movement from stage to stage is not clear-cut.  In business, there is no black and white, there is only gray. You don’t simply BECOME a Stage 2 company overnight. You begin to be a Stage 2 company as soon as you enter Stage 1. Preparation for the next stage begins as you enter the current stage.

Message 2 – What’s left undone from prior stages must be dealt-with. What you don’t get done in a specific stage of growth DOES NOT GO AWAY.  -Not solving People, Process and Profits challenges during your current stage will simply put harder demands on you as a leader in the next stage of growth.

Message 3 – Length of time a business has been around can make a difference. Slower growth is usually easier to manage. Many companies choose to stay at a certain size (usually for the lower stages). They prefer to grow in other dimensions, not in employees. Simply assuming that you have “taken care of business” because you have been doing business as usual for some time isn’t the same thing as addressing your current stage challenges.

Messages 4 – If you are not growing, you’re dying. Stagnation will not allow you to be successful in an ever-changing competitive world. Something has to continue to grow and change for your organization to thrive. However, humans tend to gravitate toward a state of equilibrium because it is safe and understandable. But if we stay in that state too long it leads to slow decay and death, just like in nature.

More on the Three Gates of Focus: People, Profits, Process

Every issue found within a growing enterprise can be understood through one or more of these Three Gates. When looking for clarification with an issue, ask yourself:  is it a Profit problem? People problem? or Process problem?

Then you can FOCUS on the right thing at the right time. To that end, the Three Gates of Focus shift priorities based on your stage of growth. 

At the Executive Forum Silicon Valley, members first determine which of the Three Gates of Focus they most focus on today, by list and assessing priorities. Next, they compare with the following chart, “Three Gates of Focus and Stages”, to find the IDEAL Gates of Focus priorities to line up with each of their companies’ stage of growth. The members discussed how to get their focus back in alignment with their particular stage’s priority and identified a set of initiatives focused on each member’s key areas of concern. 

The above Gates of Focus are always stacked in order of the most important focus for that particular stage of growth. For example, Stage 1, the Profit Gate is the primary focus, with the next focus being the People Gate and the last is the Process Gate. 

Different stages of growth require different types of focus. Once you’ve identified your own stage of growth, the model below helps you do the right things at the right time by shifting among these three key focuses: people, profits and process

In Part 2 and Part 3 of this blog, we will discuss the Hidden Agents that can hinder and hold back your growth. Three Faces of a Leader, the Builder Protector Ratio, the Classic Challenges will be discussed as well as how to “Rewild” your business to get it back onto a high growth trajectory.

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At EFSV, selected business owners and leaders work together to gain clarity, insight and accountability to ignite their leadership engines, grow their businesses and improve their lives. If you are interested in learning more about the Stages of Growth or becoming a member at Executive Forum Silicon Valley, please contact gperkins@executiveforums.com or call 408-901-0321. For more information visit http://execforumssv.com/ 

Ray Dalio’s Four Guiding Principles for Business and Life (Part 2 of 2)

In Part 1 last week, we shared about Ray Dalio’s first two principles: 1) Embrace reality and deal with it, 2) Practice radical open-mindedness. Today in Part 2, we are continuing with Dalio’s 3rd and 4th principles, all of which have provided clarity and insight to members of the Executive Forum Silicon Valley (EFSV.)   

Principle #3: Use the 5-step process to evolve

Dalio´s third Principle is a 5-step process that he uses to evolve both personally and in his company. Some of these may seem obvious to you but according to Dalio, what inhibits most people´s growth and evolution is the flawed execution of one or more of these steps.

Let’s look at each in greater detail:

1. Have clear goals

  • Prioritize
  • Be audacious
  • Great expectations create great capabilities

2. Identify and don’t tolerate problems

Identify the biggest problems first
Don’t avoid them because they are rooted in the harsh realities of your business. Once we identify a problem, don’t tolerate it

3. Diagnose problems to get at their root causes

  • Focus on “what is” before deciding “what to do about it”
  • Distinguish symptoms from the true root cause
  • Root causes can be found with honest effort

4. Design plans to get around them

  • There are typically many paths to achieve a goal
  • See the plan as a movie script and be creative
  • It may not take a lot of time to design a good plan

5. Do what’s necessary to push through results – Push through to completion

  • Great planners who can’t execute go nowhere
  • Good work habits are vastly underrated
  • Establish clear metrics to follow your progress

The 5 steps must be completed in order. To evolve, we need to do them fast and continuously. Weaknesses don’t matter if we find solutions by either getting better at it yourself, or finding others to cover your weakness.

Principle #4: Understand how people are wired

Both genetics and environment make people think and act in very different ways. Everyone is unique and people often are not aware of which type of person they truly are. People end up not understanding each other and ignoring others’ points of views and values. Our brains are unique in the way they work. Some of the different ways people are wired are:

Big picture vs Detail-oriented

• Big picture thinkers think detail-oriented people have no imagination

• Detail-oriented people think big-picture people are dreamers

Extroverts vs Introverts

• Extroverts love talking out ideas

• Introverts prefer thinking privately and sharing after they’ve grappled with a problem

Planners vs Doers

• Planners stick with a plan and are rigid to adapt

• Doers change direction often based on new information

Left brained vs. Right brained

• Left-brained people reason sequentially, analyze details and excel in linear analysis

• Right-brained or lateral thinkers think across categories, recognize themes and synthesize

The power of knowing how you and others are wired.  Be curious to understand how people who see things differently came to see them that way, try to understand where they came from. Then, seek to understand our and others’ strengths and weaknesses to get the best results out of everyone. One of the ways is using behavior and personality assessments to get a clearer and more objective reading of people and yourself.

The Power of Habit. Habit is inertia, the strong tendency to keep doing what you have been doing. It can take time to change a habit, yet habit is the easiest way to change our behavior. In nurturing new habits, be patient with yourself and others, provide incentives that are tailored to the individual, and celebrate small wins to create positive momentum.

Putting it all together: “Evolution is life’s greatest accomplishment and reward.”

EFSV members’ insights

Members at the EFSV found the above four guiding principles for business and life tremendously inspiring and helpful. They shared with each other their own new insights and discussed the value of establishing, recognizing and evolving key principles as leaders of organizations. 

Some principles of leaders of the Executive Forums Silicon Valley Forum that have contributed to their business and personal success include: 

  • “Do Right by Others”, 
  • “Be Open to Perspectives that Questions Your Assumptions”, “
  • “Care About People”, 
  • “We Don’t Win Alone”, 
  • “Be Comfortable Holding Multiple Conflicting Points of View”, 
  • “Be Grounded in Reality and Discover Others Points of View”, and 
  • “Never Be Outworked by Others.”

Through learning to specifically identify and declare our principles, we as leaders can respond to the challenges of the day in a consistent and principled manner to help our companies thrive. 

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If you are interested in participating or learning more about becoming a member at Executive Forum Silicon Valley, please contact @GlennPerkins at gperkins@executiveforums.com or call 408-901-0321. For more information visit http://execforumssv.com/ 

Ray Dalio’s Four Guiding Principles for Business and Life (Part 1 of 2)

At the Renaissance Executive Forum Silicon Valley (“EFSV)’s January 2020 Forum, business owners, CEOs and executives learned about Ray Dalio’s four guiding principles for business and life. As always, each Forum member and the group as a whole received great value through executive level discussion that inspired each leader to recognize and distill their own principles. The four guiding principles from Ray Dalio include:

  1. Embrace reality by overcoming your ego and blind spots
  2. Be radically open-minded
  3. Use the 5-step process
  4. Understand how people are wired

“My hope is to prompt readers to discover their own principles and ideally write them down to keep refining them as they encounter more experiences.”- Ray Dalio

About Ray Dalio, some of his quotables

Ray Dalio is one of the 100 most influential people in the world, according to Times Magazine 2012, and is ranked on Forbes 2018 as the 30th richest in the US with a net worth of $17.7 billion. He joined Bill Gates and Warren Buffett vowing to donate more than half of his fortune to charitable causes during his lifetime. He is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling book “Principles: Life and Work”.  Ray Dalio is the founder, co-Chief Investment Officer and co-Chairman of Bridgewater Associates, which is a global macro investment firm and is the world’s largest hedge fund with $160 billion.

What contributes to success, according to Dalio?

Dream + Reality + Determination = successful life/business

Ray believes that reality works like a machine and that principles for dealing with reality are required to be successful. “Whatever success I have had in life has more to do with knowing how to deal with my NOT knowing that anything I know.” 

Principles help with systemizing decision-making

Every day, leaders are bombarded with blizzards of situations. With principles, decision-making can be systemized to avoid erratic and unpredictable reasoning and behaviors. Principles are the foundation for our behavior and reasoning that helps us achieve our life and business goals.

Principle #1: Embrace reality and deal with it

There are two barriers to get to know reality: ego and blindspot.

The 1st barrier – a leader’s ego. Sometimes referred to as “pride”, “fear to be wrong”, or “saving face”, ego makes it harder for us to accept/admit our mistakes and weaknesses. Every leader wants to be capable and be seen as such. But you must not let your need to be right be more important than your need to find the truth.  Being blind to truth disconnects you from the feedback loop that helps you make good decisions.

On the other hand, taking responsibility for your own weakness or mistakes can lead to solving a problem, which gives you the knowledge to adjust and avoid the same obstacles in the future,  – “never let a good crisis go to waste,” as the saying goes. This allows you to move your company to a higher level where the stakes become ever greater.

“The biggest difference between leaders who guide their own growth and achieve their goals and those who don’t, is that those who make progress reflect on what causes their amygdala hijackings,” says Ray Dalio. Reflecting on and refraining from fight/flight and other reactions is key to a leader’s evolution.

The 2nd barrier – our blind spots. We all see the world through our own biased lenses and we all have limited observational skills. Besides, focus can create blind spots – the more we focus on a topic, the harder it is to see alternatives.  We can’t appreciate what we can’t see, so we need to be open to people who see things we do not, and that leads to:

Principle #2: Practice radical open-mindedness

Motivated by accepting that we all are partially blind, being open-minded is the ability to explore other points of view without the interference of our ego or blind spots.

How do we open our eyes?  If we believe that seeing more will only help us make better decisions and accept the possibility that others might see something differently than we do, then  instead of “I’m right”, ask “what might I be missing?”

Look for believable people. Believable people are those who 1) have repeatedly accomplished the thing in question, and 2) can explain their approach when probed. Be open-minded with the most believable people we have access to. Business owner peer groups like Executive Forums Silicon Valley are made up of successful, experienced, believable business owners who will tell you the hard cold truth, without any personal agenda. 

Appreciate the art of thoughtful disagreement. If the goal is to find the truth, not to convince others you’re right, let disagreement trigger curiosity, not explosions. Agree to disagree, and agree how you are going to be with others. 

To make open-mindedness a habit, we need to keep our ego in check, get to know our blind spots, be open to mind training, hold two or more conflicting concepts in our mind to assess their relative merits, honestly believe we could be wrong and ask genuine questions, and be more interested in finding the truth than in looking good. Let disagreement trigger curiosity and

calmness and appreciate the art of thoughtful disagreement.

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We will continue next week in Part 2 about the remaining two Ray Dalio Principles – the  5-Step Process and Understanding How People are Wired.

At EFSV, business owners gain clarity, insight and accountability through sharing collective experience and wisdom in a group setting, to ignite their leadership engines. They learn from the best like Ray Dalio to clarify their own principles upon having new insights sparkled from group interactions.   

If you are interested in participating or learning more about becoming a member at Executive Forum Silicon Valley, please contact @GlennPerkins at gperkins@executiveforums.com or call 408-901-0321. For more information visit http://execforumssv.com/ 

Six Steps to Build a High-Performance Sales Team

As the new year 2020 just started, business leaders are planning sales and growth for the year. There is no better place to help leaders with accountability and execution of sales plans than at Executive Forums Silicon Valley (EFSV), where business owners, CEOs and executives “ignite your leadership engine.” EFSV is a confidential peer advisory board where selected business owners and executives work together to create clarity, insight and accountability that improves their business and accelerates their personal leadership, learning and growth.

Steve Johnson of Scaling Sales, a sales specialist and consultant, recently presented at the Executive Forum Silicon Valley (EFSV) business owner forum about “Six Steps to Build a High-Performance Sales Team” that 

  • Maximize quarterly, monthly and yearly sales
  • Are scalable and repeatable; and 
  • Find and win “good’ deals

The “Six Steps to Build a High-Performance Sales Team” focused on people, process and systems, as summarized follows:

Step 1 – How much do you want to sell within a time frame? This step focuses on developing clarity around sales goals and quotas, more than mere spreadsheets. Establish key parameters such as leads to qualified opportunities, average sales per deal, deal closing rate, sales per salesperson, lead value, etc..

Step 2 – What are your customers biggest problems? Prior to selling, first gain insight about a customer’s specific problems. For instance, when a customer is running from alligators they are trying to save their life and are not worried about price.

Step 3 – People – Who can best sell to my customers? This key step provides the insight for aligning the sales team to the customers buying process and risk tolerance.

The illustrations below show how to identify and use the right salespeople for different sales types:

Step 4 – What processes best support these people? Simplified and well-defined processes enable consistency, repeatability and personnel interchangeability necessary to scale sales, such as:

  • Sales Process mirroring customers’ decision process with step by step actions
  • Lead Generation, Accurate Sales Forecasting & Pipeline
  • New Employee Onboarding, Accountability and Coaching

These processes must also be reinforced with accountability as shown in the following graphic.

Step 5 – What systems enable and enforce the processes? With all of the tools available in the marketplace to support the sales process, a key discussion point was to keep things simple and aligned to the size of your team and the complexity of your sales process, using some of the key system tools such as: 

  • Dashboard, CRM, Data & Reporting
  • Intelligent Sales Assistant/Coach, Call Recording
  • Sales Enablement, Forecasting and Pipeline Tools

When building a sales team, to establish accountability, it is necessary to measure individual performance (as shown in the graphic below) and the performance of the team. 

An example of a salesperson’s dashboard:

Step 6 – Execution – Getting it done. Building sales teams and scaling sales requires focusing on activities that have the largest impact and adjusting your efforts as you learn:

  • Make a plan & prioritize
  • What’s the one thing that if implemented would have the biggest impact?
  • Only introduce ONE improvement or change every 2-4 weeks
  • Test and adjust as needed
  • Follow through – Do what you say you’re going to do
  • Rinse and repeat

The educational component in the “Six Steps to Build a High-Performance Sales Team” allowed the business owners at the monthly Executive Forums Silicon Valley (EFSV) to take something away to improve their sales. 

To learn more about Steve Johnson’s “Six Steps to Build a High Performance Sales Team”, about his background and how to apply these techniques to building your sales teams, please contact him at steve@scalingsales.com, 415-259-7882, or visit www.scalingsales.com.

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If you are interested in participating or learning more about becoming a member at Executive Forum Silicon Valley, please contact @GlennPerkins at gperkins@executiveforums.com or call 408-901-0321. For more information visit www.execforumssv.com.

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Don’t Bottleneck Your Business: The Top 5 Tips to Get Out of Your Own Way

The majority of CEOs and business owners focus myopically on growing profits, increasing margin and expanding sales. Likely even more CEOs believe that they are personally responsible to make those things happen. What do you think would happen if you removed the CEO from the business? Disruptive as it may sound, one of the most dynamic goals you can is to do just that – setting up your business so that it can thrive and grow without you.

After all, isn’t that the point? A business not dependent on its owner is the ultimate asset to own. Like the perfect self-driving car, it works without you and is a vehicle to get you where you want to go (and the freedom to choose the project you want to get involved in, when you want to get involved).

An owner-dependent company can end up strangling its own potential, as it can be challenging for top dogs to get out of the way and let others drive the sled. In order to create a business that can succeed without you, these five recommendations are key:

  1. Share the success and the shoes

“The opportunity to think like the business owner, to face the decisions the owner faces, and to have a stake in the outcome, is what creates top-notch senior employees who can lead the company in the owner’s stead,” said Glenn Perkins, executive coaching and forums leader for Renaissance Executive Forums in San Jose and Silicon Valley. “The CEO or owner needs to let others walk in their shoes.”

Jack Stack, the author of The Great Game of Business and A Stake In the Outcome wrote the book on creating an ownership culture inside your company: being transparent about financial results and allowing employees to participate in the company’s financial success. Employees who have a piece of the action are more invested in the outcome, and the results are consistently superior to companies who are less inclusive.

“Pilots have their names painted just beneath the canopy of their aircraft,” observes world-reknown leadership pundit Simon Sinek. “This gives the pilot a sense of ownership for his or her jet. What's more, like cars, each aircraft has its own personality, so it's important for a pilot to get to know and love his aircraft.” Truck drivers do the same, and they don’t own the truck the same way the pilot doesn’t own his or her jet. Ownership thinking is the key.

If you’re not quite comfortable opening up the books to staff, consider a simple management tactic instead. Try responding to every question your employees bring you with the same answer: “If you owned the company, what would you do?” Encourage your employees to walk in your shoes, get them thinking as you would and build the habit of starting to think like an owner. Pretty soon, employees are solving problems with a broader perspective and with less direct involvement from the owner. If there’s nobody but the owner who can address a particular issue, instead of getting in line for an appointment, progressive leaders start to ask: who can be trained to handle this in the future so that we don’t have to bother or involve the owner? Then, with the owner’s support, they get those people trained.

  1. No more CEO micro-managing

Stepping back and allowing others to lead the company takes trust, and trust often takes time. An easy phase to stop owner micro-managing is this brief exercise: identify the products and services which require the owner’s personal involvement in either making, delivering or selling them and stop selling those. It might seem revolutionary, but to get out from under the day-to-day responsibility of carrying the company, you have to do it. Score everything thing the company sells on a scale of 0 to 10 on how easy each is to teach an employee to handle (NOT the CEO or owner). Assign a 10 to offerings that are easy to teach or hand off to employees and give a lower score to anything that requires the owner’s personal attention. Stop selling the lowest scoring product or service on the list. Repeat this exercise every quarter.

“A true leader steps back, trusts his or her people, and allows them to succeed,” as it’s in the DNA of most leaders and owners to never step back. This counter-intuitive owner behavior, to step away, is “the only way to give others an opportunity to make decisions and gain confidence in their abilities. If you don’t do that, you can’t be sure whether your talent strategy is working. You can’t be sure if your succession plans are solid. You can’t be sure that the decisions you made a week ago or a month ago or a year ago were the right ones or not.”

  1. Scrub your sales and set up a system

If you’re the owner, are you also the company’s best salesperson? If so, you’ll need to fire yourself as your company’s rainmaker in order to get it to run without you. One way to do this is to create a recurring revenue business model where customers buy from you automatically. Consider creating a service contract with your customers that offers to fulfill one of their ongoing needs on a regular basis.

Next, look at your systems and procedures. If you had a system or a set of rules in place, could issues run smoothly without the owner involved? At least give employees a set of rules to follow in the future, as many are nervous about out-pacing the top officer of the company (think “exceeding the speed limit” set by the owner).

Those rules can even include controlling spending, another sure-fire bottleneck for owners. Even if employees know what to do to move forward or help customers, they may not have the means of paying for the fix they know the owner would want. Empower employees to do what’s right (within boundaries), and get out of the way. For example, you could put a customer service rule in place that gives your frontline staff the authority to make a customer happy in any way they see fit provided it could be done for under $100. You might allow an employee to spend a specific amount with a specific supplier each month without coming to you first. Or you might give an employee an annual budget, an amount they can spend without seeking your approval.

If you develop systems and training that allow employees to act on their own, you’ll find the investment is well worth it: your company will increase in value as it becomes less dependent on you personally.

  1. Write an instruction manual for your business

Make sure your company comes with instructions included. Write an employee manual or what MBA-types call Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These are a set of rules employees can follow for daily operational tasks in the company. This will ensure employees have a rulebook they can follow when you’re not around, and, when an employee leaves, it’s easier to onboard new talent to handle the duties the company needs.

Business experts agree that having “an actual written training and orientation plan so your employees know what is required of them” is crucial. “Use an incentive-based rewards system, and maintain a no-problem attitude about issues that crop up” and you’ll be able to step back and let the company run itself.

  1. Take a LONG vacation

A recent survey by The Value Builder Score found companies that would perform well without their owner for a period of three months are 50 percent more likely to get an offer to be acquired when compared to more owner-dependent businesses.

There is no better justification for taking a blissful, uninterrupted holiday than to see how your company performs in your absence. The better your company runs on autopilot, the more valuable it will be when you’re ready to sell.

Start by taking an off-grid vacation. Leave your computer at home and switch off your mobile. Upon your return, you’ll probably discover that your employees got resourceful and found answers to a lot of the questions they would have asked you if you had been just down the hall. That’s a good thing and a sign you should start planning an even longer respite from the office.

It's a proven method for a managerial boost. “The only people who can really determine how things work in the near-term are the managers closest to clients and daily operations. If that’s not you, stop worrying and start trusting. If you’ve done your job right, you’ve hired the right senior leaders and given them the direction and resources to do that work well. If you didn’t do that by the time you got on the plane for your vacation, a few emails from the beach or the links won’t do the trick.” Yes, it might seem risky, but it’s a sure-fire way to find out if you are a crutch for your top team. “If your business can’t survive your vacation, you’ve got a bigger problem.”

You’ll also likely come back to an inbox full of issues that need your personal attention. Instead of busily finding answers to each problem in a frenzied attempt to clean up your inbox, slow down and look at each issue through the lens of a possible problem with your people, systems or authorizations.

A company that is not bottlenecked by an owner’s involvement is much more attractive than the alternative. Try getting out of your own way, simple steps at a time, and you might find a higher ROI than you expected. You also might find that you’re more suited to stepping back than you might think. Let your team surprise you, and even pass you on the right.

Renaissance Executive Forums draws Silicon Valley’s diverse business leadership community together, allowing business leaders to readily learn from each other and sharpen their CEO skill sets. As an active business advisor and multi-faceted business executive with deep-rooted experience across numerous industries, Glenn Perkins is the leader of Renaissance Executive Forums Silicon Valley, and a conscientious resource for the business leaders and owners in the area. He is continuously spear-heading the formation of new executive peer groups, innovative workshops and business education opportunities as the local, national and international markets continue to evolve. If you are interested in participating or learning more about becoming a forum member, please contact Glenn at gperkins@executiveforums.com or call 408-213-9513. For more information visit www.execforumssv.com

4 Business Leadership Strategies to Grow Your SMB

For small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), 2018 has been a roller coaster of a year so far. Political upheaval is rampant, unemployment lingers at record lows and many other economic indicators looking promising, while tax reform, trade wars, and healthcare costs are breeding fear in certain sectors. Through it all, there is a steady path to follow for SMB leaders who are looking to grow amidst the larger turmoil, concentrating on key elements that can lower hurdles to growth. While there are many forces outside the control or management of individual business leaders, these four strategies can help you gain a leg up on the competition (and help you navigate potential roadblocks).

1 Use Different Lenses

Many business owners, presidents, and CEOs consider themselves experts. After all, they’re at the top of their organization’s food chain. Theirs is the vision that the whole organization depends on, and that responsibility is a weighty one. Just as massive trucks have multiple mirrors to see small obstructions in their view, business owners, presidents, and CEOs should consider having other perspectives to rely on when they’re trying to figure out how to adjust the trajectory of the business. Management teams and board members can’t be involved in every decision, and some of the more sensitive issues about the organization’s future shouldn’t be biased by opinions that are too agenda-driven. Forbes describes the conundrum and how business leaders need to consider other perspectives beyond their own: “The sheer magnitude of all the information out there, much of it conflicting, makes it overwhelming to understand what you can trust and what you can’t, and who you can trust to see through the data clearly. Anyone who has gotten multiple opinions on a medical condition knows that the opinions of world-class experts can vary wildly. Judging expert judgment has become a key leadership skill today, guaranteed to only grow in importance over the future.”

A growing number of business owners, presidents and CEOs are seeking out advisory boards or executive peer groups to gain access to knowledge and experience beyond their own. “Working with the right executive peer group can be invaluable,” said Glenn Perkins, executive coaching and forums leader for Renaissance Executive Forums Silicon Valley. “With distance and neutrality, the feedback provided around challenges and how to solve them can open up new perspectives and opportunities, learning from others who have ‘been there done that’.” Relying solely on your own perspective, or even that of your management team can be extremely limiting. Like the infamous “10th man principle”, outlying opinions can open up new trains of thought, new potential solutions. Seeing the world through different lenses can broaden your perspective and help the business, relying on a more extensive set of information. No strategy is foolproof but, as Forbes points out, “with several sources of intelligence and data, we can better triangulate on our risks, and better avoid them.” “Don’t underestimate the value of internal opposition,” added Perkins. “Looking through different lenses or agitating the discussion to dig deeper can be confrontational, but it often leads to new ideas being shared and potentially developed.”

2 Care About Culture

The one environment that’s manageable for a business leader is the environment inside his or her own business. Any people-centered enterprise these days relies on certain cultural elements to keep superstar employees on board and build motivation behind the vision of the organization. “Organizational culture is the foundation of employee engagement, empowerment and motivation. These elements can translate to improved citizen satisfaction” according to the PA Times. With employee churn being one of the most disruptive and costly expenses for SMBs, culture matters, regardless of the specific demographic of your employees. Creating memorable moments of community and bonding is what keeps employees engaged beyond a paycheck. In his book, Start With Why, renowned author Simon Sinek talks about the importance of culture on employee morale: “There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it. Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief - WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” The same goes for the environment inside a company, as it has the power to motivate and inspire employees who believe in the same WHY that the business owner, president or CEO does. Does your company have a culture that supports a clearly articulated WHY? If not, look to that as a top priority.

3 Focus Enough (but not too much)

In the classic Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll wrote “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” However, if you focus too strongly on a single path, small twists and turns may take you by surprise and cause problems. Have your plan, pursue your vision, but be flexible in order to grab unexpected opportunities or avoid pitfalls. Focus with a sprinkling of flexibility is even more important for SMBs, who are expected to be more nimble than larger corporate entities. Middle market business development experts caution that “the business world is changing faster than ever; if you develop the perfect strategy in December, it may be obsolete in six months. Defining a strategy will always be an important, necessary process, but flexibility has never been more important. If your strategy doesn't allow for adaptation when assumptions are no longer valid, then it's bad, no matter how perfect it was initially.”

4 Be Open to Learning

Lifelong learning, even once you’ve reached the c-suite, can be a significant advantage as innovation and technology continues to change the global market landscape. But where or who to learn from when you’re the decision-maker at the top? Again, boards of directors and management team members are seldom the answer, as they are too close to the situation and may find it difficult to offer neutral counsel. As popular as MBA degrees are for business people who are starting their climb to the top, executive coaching has become a learning resource for many who have reached the pinnacle. Finding a trusted advisor who can strategically see situations from a distance can be immensely helpful. “Not all CEOs come to the table with the full set of skills they need to build their companies to last for the next decade,” reports Entrepreneur magazine. “These days, a strategic plan may only span three years as the markets are changing and shifting so quickly,” added Perkins. “Utilizing the strengths of an executive or business coach can empower the business owner, president or CEO with the resolve, insight and confidence to address project management, or organizational structure challenges, or whatever the need of the moment might dictate. It’s a tactical as well as a strategic move to look at executive coaches who challenge the leader to get more out of themselves and, in turn, get more out of their top team.” Executive coaches can be found in markets all over the country, so beyond the skillset needed for the particular business, the relationship fit is what most top business leaders look for. For example, the executive forums run by Glenn Perkins concentrate on bringing small groups of top executives from non-competing companies together to form peer advisory groups through which each member can gain fresh ideas and new insights. Business Owners, Presidents, and CEOs join the groups to gain advice, support and insight from members who have faced the similar business and personal challenges. The peer advisory board process also employs one-on-one Executive Coaching opportunities to focus not only on individual goals and objectives but also on leader personal growth and by exploring new ways to address challenges. To the four strategies outlined here, it doesn’t hurt to add two tactical recommendations to add to the mix. The first, have a healthy trust in your gut instincts to navigate the choppy waters of SMB leadership. Though fortune favors the prepared, sometimes circumstances align against even the best laid plans and failures happen. Keep your tolerances in mind and try to balance instinct with intelligence to lead you towards success. The second tactical recommendation is to embrace technology. SMBs are usually small and nimble enough that technology adoption or innovation isn’t overly daunting or costly, and the tech tools you have available can help catapult you past the competition if you’re willing to use them. Renaissance Executive Forums draws Silicon Valley’s diverse business leadership community together, allowing business leaders to readily learn from each other and sharpen their CEO skill sets. As an active business advisor and multi-faceted business executive with deep-rooted experience across numerous industries, Glenn Perkins is the leader of Renaissance Executive Forums Silicon Valley, and a conscientious resource for the business leaders and owners in the area. He is continuously spear-heading the formation of new executive peer groups, innovative workshops and business education opportunities as the local, national and international markets continue to evolve. If you are interested in participating or learning more about becoming a forum member, please contact Glenn at gperkins@executiveforums.com or call 408-213-9513. For more information visit http://execforumssv.com/

How Coaching Can Help Create Champions in the C-Suite

The NBA Championships, the Stanley Cup and the Super Bowl aren’t the only arenas where billions of dollars are invested in coaching. As individuals, we hire fitness coaches, golf coaches, nutritional coaches and life coaches, among others, to tend to our personal goals. If you’re a business executive, according to Entrepreneur magazine, corporate America spends more than $1 billion each year investing in executive coaching for leaders. But why? It’s understandable to hire visionary expertise and guidance to focus on the big picture or fill in knowledge and skills you don’t possess. But what could business owners, presidents and CEOs derive from the advice and counsel of someone who couldn’t possibly know their business as well as they do? The answer is a considerable amount, as those companies who work with a business advisor, mentor or leadership coach are proven to be more productive, delivering greater results, and adapting to organizational shifts with greater resiliency. How Coaching Can Help Create Champions in the C-Suite Having the right business advisor can even boost your market performance, according to the American Management Association. The average Return On Investment (ROI) for companies investing in coaching is over seven times the initial investment, according to a global survey of coaching clients conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Association Resource Center. For 25 percent of the companies that participated in the survey, the results were even greater, experiencing multiples of 10 to 49 times their investment. The more a company is reliant on people, the greater the marginal returns on an executive coaching investment. It stands to reason, as athletes, musicians and artists employ coaches to stay at the top of their professions. Their skills, including how to shoulder leadership, are developed over years, sometimes decades, of practice in their discipline. Business owners, presidents and CEOs often work their way through daily challenges and operational difficulties, scattered across multiple disciplines with too many distractions to focus on just one thing. “Not all CEOs come to the table with the full set of skills they need to build their companies to last for the next decade,” reports Entrepreneur magazine. “The best executive coaching relationships resemble the relationship between a conductor and their train. The conductor (coach) can help keep the train (the executive) on the tracks.” How Coaching Can Help Create Champions in the C-Suite “Business coaches are driven to get people and teams to think through a full spectrum of elements and make choices, so that they’re focusing their energies in strategic and necessary places,” said Glenn Perkins, executive coaching and forums leader for Renaissance Executive Forums Silicon Valley. “Often times top business leaders and their teams find they are too close to the day-to-day operations to see the bigger landscape, and the horizon they’re aiming for. Business coaches are critical guideposts to help many busy executives keep their long term aims in mind as they work to get there.”   Some of the most-recognized CEOs recommend finding a business mentor, including Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, who says the best advice he ever got was to get a coach. Microsoft chieftain Bill Gates agrees that everyone should have a coach. Regardless of what you think of Tom Brady and the whole New England Patriots team, they and you would likely agree that the right coach makes a difference. Many question the value of a business mentor for those who have already reached the top. What could a business coach teach them that they don’t already know? “There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what a business coach does,” added Perkins. “Coaches don’t duplicate the skillset of the CEO or company owner. We observe and interact, looking for new ways that the team can interact and find their own inspiration to choose the best solutions and strategies. It’s not about copying what others have done and trying for a similar success. There’s value in looking at situations with a different set of eyes, discussing other interpretations and analyzing problems with a trusted advisor who has a bit of distance.” How Coaching Can Help Create Champions in the C-Suite There are countless resources available to list the tips and advantages of working with an executive coach. Some of these resources preach about the process or longevity of a particular executive coaching program, but times are changing and many top level executives are looking for more personal, customized options. It’s not as easy as picking a coach off a menu, or at least it shouldn’t be. “With a multitude of resources available online and elsewhere, finding a business coach is rather easy. However, finding the right coach for you and your business is another matter” Trust is huge in a coaching relationship, and it doesn’t form instantly. CEOs are encouraged and cautioned to find an experienced coach with diversified skills, detail oriented and ethical, with a passion for each particular business or company they champion. Perkins points out: “Many top leaders I work with have sacrificed continuously for the sake of their companies and they’re rightfully proud of what they’ve built. Their companies are an extension of themselves, and their choice of a coach is a distinctly personal one. There’s nothing more satisfying than helping a CEO owner positively impact the lives of their employees and their families, adding horsepower and effort to what they’ve been doing for years. I truly love my job!” How Coaching Can Help Create Champions in the C-Suite Perkins continues to build programs for San Jose and Silicon Valley business owners, presidents and CEOs, bringing small groups of top executives from non-competing companies together to form peer advisory groups through which each member can gain fresh ideas and new insights. Business owners, presidents and CEOs join the groups to gain advice, support and insight from members who have faced the similar business and personal challenges. They also employ one-on-one executive coaching opportunities to focus on individual goals and objectives by exploring new ways to address challenges. “Accountability is a large part of the coaching relationship,” concludes Perkins. “Dealing with uncomfortable truths are often part of progress, and getting through those discussions professionally can lead to stronger, better decisions all the way around. It’s quite a journey, and you have to trust the person you’re taking that journey with.” It goes without saying that confidentiality is a must, as sensitive personal and company information is often revealed as part of the coaching process. Just like a top sports team, where the coach serves individuals on the team as well as the whole, business coaches serve both the CEO and the whole enterprise that he or she leads. After all, it’s the team and the coaching staff that is responsible for getting to the championships. And they, together, are heralded for the win. Renaissance Executive Forums draws Silicon Valley’s diverse business leadership community together, allowing business leaders to readily learn from each other and sharpen their CEO skill sets. As an active business advisor and multi-faceted business executive with deep-rooted experience across numerous industries, Glenn Perkins is the leader of Renaissance Executive Forums Silicon Valley, and a conscientious resource for the business leaders and owners in the area. He is continuously spear-heading the formation of new executive peer groups, innovative workshops and business education opportunities as the local, national and international markets continue to evolve. If you are interested in participating or learning more about becoming a forum member, please contact Glenn at gperkins@executiveforums.com or call 408-213-9513. For more information visit www.execforumssv.com  

Peer Power: Building Your Business Fantasy League Team to Gain New Perspective

If championships teach us anything, it’s that experience matters and that nobody gets to the top and stays there on their own. Luck can certainly help you cross the finish line first, but critical too is drawing from the collective successes and failures of those who have played the same game before you and knowing when to infuse new thinking and new strategies into the game you thought you’d mastered. To be a championship team, you need strategy and planning, solid offense, amazing defense, a deep bench and smart coaching. Shouldn’t the same requirements hold true for business growth and success? With fluctuating economic pressures, consolidating retail power, unstable tax and employee healthcare costs, and a host of other factors including a shortage of skilled workers, it’s nearly impossible to manage every issue with the necessary confidence that you’re making the smartest decisions you can. If you had a fantasy team of business executives that had different expertise than you, who could fill in the knowledge and expertise gaps and share their own advice for avoiding mistakes, you’d be strides ahead of your competition. The reality is: you can have your own business fantasy league team. It’s called an executive peer group, and it’s the not-so-secret weapon for top performing business owners, executives and their companies.

You don’t need to lead a billion-dollar conglomerate to benefit from executive peer groups. As a matter of fact, these powerful think tank opportunities are best suited for business owners and executives leading small to mid-size businesses ($5 million to $50 million) who are looking to grow and gain personal independence amidst competitive pressures.

“There is exponentially more power and insight in a group as opposed to individual learning, and companies large and small need focused executive teams that can strategize and win together” observed Glenn Perkins, executive coach and forums leader for Renaissance Executive Forums Silicon Valley. “Some of the most powerful learning opportunities, especially for business leaders, occur when ideas or problem patterns get agitated by outside perspectives or contrary opinions. The discussion automatically expands and deepens, and new solutions arise for consideration.”

Executive peer groups might seem like an oxymoron at first. We’ve all heard “it’s lonely at the top” and other phrases that point to the CEO or owner being the sole individual responsible for their company’s fate. However, if you take ego and competitive pressures out of the mix, seeking advice and counsel from differing perspectives that are not close to yo

ur business operations can be hugely beneficial.

Colin Powell summed it up nicely by advising leaders to seek out peers, especially those that can offer a vastly different perspective: “Use the tools that are out there. Use the digital world. But never lose sight of the need to reach out and talk to other people who don't share your view. Listen to them and see if you can find a way to compromise.”

Business owners and managers who are part of an executive peer group outperform their competitors, showing an average 5.8% compounded annual growth rate average over the last five years versus negative rates for the majority of other businesses. With the added motivation of peer accountability, most companies grow at twice their pre-joining percentage rate after they align with an executive peer group.

Beyond the business growth numbers, there are four qualitative reasons why executive peer groups are being sought-out by growth-minded business leaders.

1. Risk-Free Resource Diversification

It’s expensive to hire and retain senior-level talent, and if you take a chance on an agency or external expert, you might be investing a lot in a singular source when you need expertise you don’t have in-house. With an executive peer group, you can gather a host of experienced opinions to help guide critical choices. One of the core purposes of an executive peer group is to process issues which the members of the group bring up to tap into the collective wisdom of the group to help solve. Like seeking second or third opinions from doctors and medical specialists, executive peer groups give executives other opinions to consider, from those who have been (or are) in similar circumstances. No strings attached.

  1. Strength in Numbers

The more people who have attempted a solution or been through a business crisis situation, the more data points you have to draw from (and the more reliable the conclusions). Similar to the above, more opinions and informed recommendations are better than less, and if you can get quarterback advice from Tom Brady, Payton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Steve Young and Joe Montana, versus just one of them, there’s no question which is the better strategy. Beyond steering the ship, executive peer group members lend each other support too, regardless of the situation that each member is in. The whole goal is to keep business owners and executives from being isolated at the top of their respective organizations, and with non-partisan peer group members, it works very well. A big plus is that each member’s network will grow, not just by connecting with their peer group members, but indirectly connecting to every other members’ network and the multitude of connections those can offer. We live in a connected world, and in each executives’ case, that can be thousands of new contacts.

  1. New Strategies and Perspectives

Many business owners and CEOs already believe they’re the best at what they do. So, what do they need outside input for? Well, fresh input for one. The same strategies that put you at the top, or got you to double-digit growth, may not be the same that you’ll need to keep you there. Organizations can get stagnant, especially if they’re comfortable at the top of the food chain. To disrupt entrenched thinking, new perspectives are needed, and they’re easily accessible with peer group interactions. If you ask others who are NOT focused on your day-to-day operations for input, the results may surprise you. Dynamic ideas can come from seemingly mismatched industry strategies: retail learns from tech, food and beverage from overnight delivery (and vice versa)… There may be legions of ideas on how to improve that you might not see because you have blind spots in your vision (or you never thought to look in that direction). These dynamic ideas from others outside your business area can be differentiating and provide competitive advantage against your industry peers.

4. Tough Love Teammates

Probably the most valuable reason why executives join peer groups is their search for the truth. That might sound high-minded and somewhat spiritual, but truth without agenda is hard to find these days, especially when it involves money, growth, business and power. Executive peer group members have no agenda in providing feedback. They’ll tell you where you’re falling short and share with you “the cold truth others won’t tell you.” Peer executives will ask more pointed questions than many sheepish internal employees might (since you sign their paycheck, that plays a factor in every interaction you have), and they’ll help you kick the tires on strategies that may or may not work so you don’t waste time or money chasing your tail. With truth, comes clarity. Even if there’s disagreement, the direct back-and-forth that executive peers share with you can help clarify your values and what you’re really willing to fight for, which leads to confidence and conviction. Like crash-testing a car, put your most critical strategies and ideas up for debate to see which can best withstand the fire. Peer groups are a priceless testing ground.

“Whatever your goal as a business owner, whether it’s to provide the personal freedom you once imagined, grow your business 30 percent over the next two years, improve the performance of a mid-functioning team, or other objectives you may have, it’s much more effective and efficient to learn from other executives who have already gone down that path,” added Perkins. “Being part of an executive peer group is a powerful tool that, process-wise can help you side-step challenges and get to your next level much faster.”

Renaissance Executive Forums draws Silicon Valley’s diverse business leadership community together, allowing business leaders to readily learn from each other and sharpen their CEO skill sets. As an active business advisor and multi-faceted business executive with deep-rooted experience across numerous industries, Glenn Perkins is the leader of Renaissance Executive Forums Silicon Valley, and a conscientious resource for the business leaders and owners in the area. He is continuously spear-heading the formation of new executive peer groups, innovative workshops and business education opportunities as the local, national and international markets continue to evolve. If you are interested in participating or learning more about becoming a forum member, please contact Glenn at gperkins@executiveforums.com or call 408-213-9513. For more information visit http://execforumssv.com/