The Franchise Expo

Posted by the7stages on October 29, 2015
Uncategorized / No Comments


What’s the difference between Strategy and Tactics?

Posted by the7stages on October 14, 2015
Uncategorized / No Comments

Many small business owners and operators do not spend much time planning for their business success. 

To illustrate, here’s some specific examples across different industries of how strategic goals can be communicated with clear tactical elements, in a linear and logical order:

  • Strategy: Be the market share leader in terms of sales in the mid-market in our industry. Tactics: Offer lower cost solutions than enterprise competitors without sacrificing white-glove service for first 3 years of customer contracts.
  • Strategy: Connect with customers while in our store and increase sales. Tactics: Offer location based mobile apps on top three platforms, and provide top 5 needed use cases based on customer desire and usage patterns.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”—Sun Tzu

Strategy Sets the Stage In real world business usage, the term Strategy actually is the thinking process required to plan a change, course of action, or organization. Strategy defines, or outlines, the desired goals and why you should go about achieving them.

Strategic Planning Process to understand the differences better, here are some notable points to consider, with respect to strategic planning. When doing strategic planning, you need to determine, specifically, what outcome you want to achieve (These are your Objectives) and how you will measure the results.

In Summary To sum up, strategic planning relates to issues pertinent to the mission of your small business—the purpose of its existence. The responsibility for strategic planning rests with you (and your partners and investors, if any). No one else is ever going to do that work for you, or without your involvement!

5 Major Differences Between Tactical and Strategic Intelligence

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ ( Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?


Apps that make international business travel easier

Posted by the7stages on September 09, 2015
Uncategorized / No Comments

Business travel is already a hassle, but international expeditions add an entirely new layer of  frustration.

Six main apps to always look for are:

  1. Exchange rates
  2. Translation
  3. Public Transit
  4. International Clock
  5. Seamless airport transportation
  6. International etiquette

Fortunately, apps for business travel are making it easier for professionals to stay at the top of their game in the international office. For international business travelers, mobile technology is a saving grace. There are plenty of apps that help travelers and fresh faced backpackers get around, but which apps should professionals working abroad have in their arsenal?

XE Currency: It’s safe to say that you likely won’t see prices in US Dollars when traveling internationally. With conversion rates for more than 180 countries, this app will come in handy no matter where you’re headed. Why we love it: It’s easy to use and updates frequently so you’ll always have access to the latest conversion rates – and avoid overpaying for that mid-morning latte.

Expensify: Whether you run your own business or travel for your employer, it’s important to keep track of your expenses. This useful app keeps track of them in one place and allows you to categorize expense reports separately. You can also scan receipts right from your phone and add information about cash transactions. Why we love it: It even has a tool to automatically convert currency after uploading a receipt.

Business Behavior – The International Guide: Every country has different policies when it comes to etiquette, and it can be hard to keep track of the customs when you’re jetting around the globe. The app itself is free and provides universal rules for over 40 countries as well as a complete guide to Japan. Each additional guide is $0.99, but is worth the splurge. Why we love it: The guides cover information such as dress codes, dining, how to act during business meetings, protocols on gift giving and more.

Skype: While most of us already have Skype on our phones, it remains the most popular calling app and with good reason. This app allows you to make international video calls and phone calls for free when connected to Wi-Fi.  In addition, Skype is constantly improving the messaging feature to make it easy to chat with all of your long distance contacts and keep in touch with your colleagues back home. Why we love it: With the latest updates, you can have a video conference with multiple users at once for no additional charge.

Hipmunk: This is still our go to app for trip planning because it allows you to quickly search for flights based on the things that matter to you.  The app doesn’t automatically sort by the cheapest flight; rather, it allows you to filter by things like number of stops, airline or flight duration. In addition to flights, you can search for hotels using “heatmaps” which allow you to choose a location based on restaurants or nightlife in the area.  Why we love it: The information is easy to read and organize, and the rates you find on the app are often offered at a discount.

Google Translate: Conducting business can be difficult if you’re unfamiliar with the local language. The latest version of Google Translate has automatic language detection while in conversation mode, allowing the app to recognize the language being spoken and translate in real time. Why we love it: In Camera Mode, you can take a photo and have the text instantly translated.

Smart Traveler: This official app of the U.S. State Department offers immediate access to country information, including U.S. embassy locations and detailed maps. It also provides you with the State Department’s latest travel alerts and warnings. Why we love it: You can enroll in the STEP program directly from your phone, which allows the State Department to better locate you in case of an emergency. Need assistance during any travel emergency? On Call members can call us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

New apps are released every day, so before you travel make sure you research cultural differences and prepare to manage your business while overseas.


Does size matter? The advantage of being a small firm in an emerging market

Posted by the7stages on August 19, 2015
Uncategorized / No Comments

The international economy encourages a wider distribution of goods between continents. An emerging market is an economy that has not yet developed at the same level as those in the first world.

CEO’s and top management teams of large corporations, particularly in North America, Europe, and Japan, acknowledge that globalization is the most critical challenge they face today. Most companies have stuck to the strategies they’ve traditionally deployed, which emphasize standardized approaches to new markets while sometimes experimenting with a few local twists. As a result, many multinational corporations are struggling to develop successful strategies in emerging markets. Many small businesses invest time and capital to take advantage of business opportunities in emerging markets in countries across the world.

The people who live in an emerging market, however, still have plenty of labor to offer and a need for the goods you sell, resulting in some big advantages for companies that establish outposts in these countries.

Deloitte, a worldwide financial firm, notes that companies in emerging economies must expand capacity and capability. As large companies build power plants, roads and dams, small businesses step in to provide the locals with the goods and services they need. As the region’s economy develops, the small businesses that open up shop earlier may have a better chance at building lasting relationships with customers.

The greatest success in emerging markets doesn’t come from simply establishing a sales office and selling their existing products and services. Instead, it are the special requirements of customers in each emerging market and the designed offerings to meet their needs at market appropriate prices that are key success factors. Another key ingredient in success is to establish company-owned production, service, distribution, R&D and other operations in emerging markets to become closer to customers and part of the local business community.

Executives see the greatest opportunities and strategies in the following:

  • Opportunities remain in the BRIC (minus Russia). Among 10 leading emerging markets, executives surveyed were most likely to expect revenue increases of 25 percent or more over the next three years in Brazil, India and China.
  • Bigger is better. According to respondents whose companies had revenues of $5 billion or greater—those larger companies were more likely to have exceeded their sales revenue goals in emerging markets over the last three years, while small companies (less than $500 million in revenue) were the least likely to have done so.
  • Go local. Companies that had company-owned operations in at least five of six major emerging markets were much more likely to have exceeded their revenue goals. In addition, some successful strategies were using local sales/service centers, employing company-owned sales and distribution and employing a company-owned supply chain. Local operations may provide advantages such as greater knowledge of customer needs and buying habits, greater brand awareness in the market and more experience in navigating government approvals and procedures.
  • Know your customer. Designing products specifically for customers in the local market and offering a different value proposition were considered as among the most successful strategies. When it came to challenges identified by survey participants, one of the top challenges in five of the six emerging markets studied was to provide products/services that meet customer needs at prices they can afford.

Small and mid-sized companies enter foreign markets with less overhead, flatter hierarchies and a more entrepreneurial approach to the market, says Ken Esch, a partner in Price Waterhouse Coopers’ private company services practice in Chicago. “They are more agile than larger firms,” he says. “They have the flexibility to try new products quickly, and if they don’t work, they can move on to something else.” Indeed, smaller firms must leverage these strengths as the race to set up shop in foreign markets heats up. According to a 2011 Price Waterhouse Coopers survey of 236 executives in the US, 51% of private companies plan on expanding overseas in the next one to two years, and 48% already have a global presence. Among these firms, 74% are focused on fast-growing emerging markets.

“There is a tremendous amount of commerce that is taking place among emerging markets,” said Broadman. “In 1970, South-South trade was about seven percent of world trade. Today, it is 20 percent of world trade.”

Additional readings: Competing with Giants: Survival Strategies for Local Companies in Emerging Markets


Ways Companies Can Encourage Smart Risk Taking

Posted by the7stages on July 14, 2015
Uncategorized / No Comments

There are two main types of risk. There’s the classic “let’s just go for it” risk that entrepreneurs take to build a new business (many of which fail). And then there’s constant risk, where entrepreneurs make small process changes but don’t bet the company on it.

Companies that haven’t embedded either form of risk into their core processes are likely dead. The world is changing too fast without constantly updating processes to stay relevant for long. Just ask Blockbuster.

Mark Zuckerberg agreed, noting, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.” Constant experimentation and process iteration are now the only ways to reduce risk.

There’s the classic “let’s just go for it” risk that entrepreneurs take to build a new business (many of which fail). And then there’s constant risk, where entrepreneurs make small process changes but don’t bet the company on it. Companies that haven’t embedded either form of risk into their core processes are likely dead. The world is changing too fast without constantly updating processes to stay relevant for long. Just ask Blockbuster. Mark Zuckerberg agreed, noting, the biggest risk is not taking any risk. Constant experimentation and process iteration are now the only ways to reduce risk. Just take look at fast-growing companies like Airbnb and Uber.

  • Risk-taking is not just for leaders. All employees must be willing to take risks to advance the company. Not just the executive team — everyone. Our business requires it. We have more than 30 offices around the world, and each is fully responsible for the development and delivery of trips in its region. Everyone must be ready to lead at a moment’s notice, from anywhere in the world, and that’s only possible if everyone has daily practice taking risks. Risk-taking builds character and employee confidence – a win-win for any company.
  • Risk-taking requires support. Risk-taking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and it can be hard for employees to embrace it. Managers can help by specifying what risk-taking looks like in their workplace. Employees should be expected to speak up, ask tough questions of leadership, move forward with decisions without always knowing the outcome, and accept new assignments gladly. At the same time, managers must identify and reward such behaviors. They must teach them. For us, this happens in the office, on team off-sites, and at our annual companywide training, which incorporates risk-taking exercises from Outward Bound and other experiential learning programs. In other companies, risk-taking might look different. For example, employees might be expected to speak in public, lead a cross-departmental team, or go after three new accounts a week. The behaviors may be different, but the support is the same: identify, teach, and reward.
  • Risk-taking must be embedded in a larger corporate culture. Of course, employees can’t just go off half-cocked, doing any risky thing they please. Risk-taking must be guided by the company’s vision and mission, and bounded by the company’s values. A company’s mission, vision, and values are its greatest assets, but they are worthless if you don’t cultivate them. Leadership must refer to them constantly, and employees must be held accountable to them in performance reviews. When the corporate culture is completely clear, risk-taking will always support the goals of the company.
  • Risk-taking means you will make mistakes. Every risk-taking organization will make mistakes once in a while. We’ve made lots of them. In the 1990s, we invested $11 million in a computer system that didn’t work for us. Around the same time, we divested financial operations on our overseas offices and got robbed – several times. Mistakes and losses are part of the risk landscape. To succeed as a risk-taking business, you must do two things at a minimum: You must create a safe environment for employees to make mistakes, and, when a risky decision is on the table, you must always be ready with a fast exit plan.

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ ( Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?


Business Etiquette

Posted by the7stages on June 09, 2015
Uncategorized / No Comments

Unprofessional behavior could lose your business.

As times change, so do social norms for personal and professional behavior, but that doesn’t mean basic etiquette doesn’t matter. Performance and quality are important, too, of course, but not exclusively. We sometimes forget that business is about people.

Allan Berger, principal with Berger Business Advisors, a business development consultancy, said “There is no shortage of competent and reliable people in the business world and manners can make the difference. Wouldn’t you rather collaborate with, work for or buy from someone who has high standards of professional behavior?”

The word “etiquette” gets a bad rap. For one thing, it sounds stodgy and pretentious. And rules that are socially or morally prescribed seem intrusive to our sense of individuality and freedom.

Office etiquette can be tricky in these days of in-house exercising, informal digital communication and open-plan workspaces. For help on figuring out how to behave properly, a new book by Vicky Oliver, a career consultant, offers tips on everything from cubicle conduct to e-mail etiquette. 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions also covers 21st-century table manners (they’re not that different from in the olden days) and what to do when seated between two bores at a business dinner (divide your time between them).

1. Send a Thank You Note

I work at a paper company that manufactures stationery and I’m shocked at how infrequently people send thank you notes after interviewing with me. If you’re not sending a follow-up thank you note to Crane, you’re not sending it anywhere.

2. Know the Names

It’s just as important to know your peers or employees as it is to develop relationships with clients, vendors or management. Reach out to people in your company, regardless of their roles, and acknowledge what they do.

3. Observe the ‘Elevator Rule’

When meeting with clients or potential business partners off-site, don’t discuss your impressions of the meeting with your colleagues until the elevator has reached the bottom floor and you’re walking out of the building. That’s true even if you’re the only ones in the elevator.

4. Focus on the Face, Not the Screen

It’s hard not to be distracted these days. We have a plethora of devices to keep us occupied; emails and phone calls come through at all hours; and we all think we have to multitask to feel efficient and productive.

5. Don’t Judge

We all have our vices—and we all have room for improvement. One of the most important parts of modern-day etiquette is not to criticize others.

6. Call or e-mail before you arrive.

Instead of making a beeline for your colleague’s cubicle, get in touch in advance, and ask what would be a convenient time for you to drop by.

7. Don’t leave voicemail messages when you know the person is out.

Midnight is not a good time to leave a voicemail or send a note. If you get a brainstorm in the middle of the night, write an e-mail and put it in your draft folder. Hit “Send” at 9 the next morning.

8. If you’re the boss, don’t send demanding e-mails on the weekend.

Unless your team is on a shotgun deadline, compose your instructions over the weekend, but don’t send them until Monday morning.

9. If you get a weekend e-mail from the boss, you may take a day to reply.

You can’t ignore a boss’s weekend request completely, but you can wait 24 hours before responding. It’s fine to set a boundary around your personal time.

10. Don’t wear headphones in the elevator or hallway.

“Wearing earplugs is like putting a Do Not Disturb sign on you,” Oliver says. It sends the message that you want to be left alone, an unfriendly gesture at best.

11. Don’t check e-mail in the lobby or elevator.

“That’s acting like you’re in an isolation tank,” Oliver points out. Elevators and hallways are great places to connect socially with colleagues. Use the opportunity.

12. Don’t touch your colleagues’ food in the office fridge.

Boundaries are important in today’s intense office environment. That includes respecting the fact that you didn’t buy that container of yogurt, no matter how hungry you are.

13. Dress one notch up from office casual.

Mark Zuckerberg may sport T-shirts, but you should wear a shirt with a collar.

14. Use humor to recover from a faux pas.

Did you say or do something that violates etiquette rules? Poke fun at yourself. Send an e-mail after the fact that’s part apology, part self-deprecating joke.

There could be many more tips like:

1. When in doubt, introduce others.

2. A handshake is still the professional standard.

3. Always say “Please” and “Thank you.”

4. Don’t interrupt.

5. Watch your language.

6. Double check before you hit send.

7. Don’t walk into someone’s office unannounced.

8. Don’t gossip.

9. Don’t eavesdrop.

10. Acknowledge others.

11. Avoid the “Big Two.”

12. Be on time.

13. No phone during meetings.

14. Don’t be a business card pusher.

15. Show genuine interest.

Additional Readings:

15 Business Etiquette Rules Every Professional Needs To Know
Skills – Workplace Etiquette – Columbia University

14 Tips on Business Etiquette: Setting a professional tone with co-workers, clients and customers

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ ( Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?


Things to Consider before expanding your business

Posted by the7stages on May 13, 2015
Uncategorized / No Comments

Never in the history of the world has the entrepreneurial spirit-the spirit of adventure-been more alive or in a more favorable position to reach out to the world for business. The economy is improving.

When you’ve got a thriving business, one of the toughest decisions to make is when to open that second location. Do you open one close by? Do you try to break into a new market? When is the right time to expand, and how much preparation does it take?

For many companies, expanding globally is essential to achieve success. But determining the best strategy can be difficult and depending on your goals and level of resources, it may change.

So, what is the main question here: What should go into the decision to expand?

The answer starts with your strategic plan. Are you building a company with the aim of selling within five years, or one that you hope will continue growing for the next 50? The shorter the time frame, the more you’ll need to focus on putting out a great product in lieu of diversifying or investigating new markets.

However, by establishing a set of guidelines, selecting the right export markets doesn’t have to be painful. To make your job easier, consider some of our guidelines below:

· Study Economic Indicators

Rank your potential country markets by how much of your product they import from the U.S. Then rank each by their total demand (domestic production plus world imports) for the previous three years. From this you can determine market size, its rate of growth, and U.S. market share.

If total demand for your product is increasing, review the country’s growth rate and per capita income. If indicators are positive, it’s likely that demand will continue to rise.

· Be Competitive and Adapt

Identify each selected market’s trade barriers. If excessive, they may out-price your product. Know your competitors, their products, prices, distribution methods, consumers, and after-sale service. If intense competition exists, consider smaller markets that may be unattractive for multinationals, but big enough for you.

Sensitivity to foreign cultures is not only polite — it’s good business. Study a culture’s wants and needs. If your product design is not suitable, adapt.

· Know Your Risks

Importers with soft currencies or insufficient reserves may find it difficult to pay you. Understand the risks, buy insurance or choose other markets. If you accept foreign currency, guard against fluctuations. Keep abreast of political risk. Civil unrest or policy changes may harm your interests.

· Investigate Infrastructure Needs

If your product requires a skilled support staff, make sure it’s available in your target market. If not, you may be forced to provide costly support from back home. The lack of physical infrastructure may also curtail exports. The inability to quickly deliver perishables due to inoperable roads or inaccessibility to refrigerated storage can be a deterrent.

· Research Legal Issues

Many countries claim to enforce intellectual property laws, but don’t. Investigate how piracy is handled. If protection isn’t a priority, you may want to avoid this market.

In some countries, the accused is presumed guilty until proven innocent, and judges may unfairly favor domestic sales agents or consumers. Assess each country’s legal practices and investigate safety and environmental regulations.

· Welcome Advice and Use It

By acquiring majority interest in a foreign firm, you can dictate policy — but don’t. Respect and value the input provided by existing managers. A sound acquisition strategy asks what management thinks of proposed changes and incorporates the input.

· Accurately Weigh Your Own Factors

Do your homework. Establish the factors you feel will best help you determine the markets to pursue and seriously weigh them. Success is best achieved if you calculate all the costs of doing business and understand the ramifications of each decision. If not, your efforts may turn into losses.

Two additional tasks to consider are:

1. Documented Systems and Processes

Every business needs to be created in a way that doesn’t require the owner or founder to be there every day. Your systems and processes must be documented so that a qualified person can deliver your product or service predictably without your direct input.

2. The Culture Question

Expanding companies often make the mistake of attempting to replicate the home office culture. First you need to take the time to understand if your business’s culture will replicate and if culture is an important component of your success. If so, how do you make it work somewhere else? While planning a quarterly event for all office locations may make sense, what makes up that event for an office in California may be very different from what a location in the South requires.

Bear in mind that successfully integrating with another company or expanding into new territory can take more than a year. It’s expensive, messy and more work than anyone expects, which leads me to my last piece of advice: Don’t forget to run your current business.


20 Factors to Consider Before Going Global
Consider Before Expanding Overseas
Connecting Entrepreneurs to the Global Marketplace

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ ( Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?


How to Overcome Fear of Risk

Posted by the7stages on April 14, 2015
Uncategorized / No Comments

How to Overcome Fear of Risk

It’s time to break the culture of fear and learn to welcome change.

Calculated risk is at the heart of every business decision; it’s what drives companies toward success. But many businesses stagnate because management is afraid to take the necessary risks to grow and prosper. What are the signs that your business is acting on a fear of change, and what can company leaders do to move forward?

When you become fearful and hesitant, your brain is focusing on loss aversion, meaning that it’s trying to protect you from harm. It’s an adaptive strategy that kept our ancestors from getting killed.

Related: How to Overcome Your Fears and Move Your Business Forward

Here are three tips to help you do that:

1. Don’t weigh the pros and cons. When you’re taking a risk, a bit of research and a gut reaction is all you really need to make a good decision. Wading in a swamp of pros and cons will only activate fear. “The more you go into an analytical mode, the more you activate the part of the brain that makes you fearful and demotivated,” Mehta says.

If your gut tells you to say yes, then prevent fear from taking over by simply diving in and adapting as you go. That doesn’t mean you should be reckless, but the sooner you start to take action, the less likely you are to get scared.

2. Set many small goals. To get comfortable with risk, start small by setting a series of manageable goals that you can accomplish in a short period of time. Include some that are a little scary, but the main purpose here is to experience success repeatedly.

Those early successes will motivate you to seek out bigger risks. “Every time we achieve success, our brains release dopamine, which motivates us to go back and tackle the next success,” Mehta says. If you approach a big risk at that point, you’ll be primed to take action and less likely to get bogged down in fear of potential losses.

3. Surround yourself with risk-takers. A big part of comfort with risk is exposure. If you have people in your social circle, or especially in your family, who have been willing to take risks, then you will be much more likely to do the same. “There’s a huge social aspect to entrepreneurship,” Mehta says.

Risk-takers will be more likely to encourage you to take chances, and they will also be living examples of what it takes to risk and fail and risk again. “If you look at the biography of a famous person, it all depends on where in the biography you stop,” Mehta says. “Success comes by way of many, many failures.”

2. Have a well thought out plan. We begin to worry and over analyze situations when we don’t have detailed and well thought out plans for our life. Set extremely clear goals with a detailed plan on how to achieve those goals. After you have a well detailed plan, take action. Taking action towards meaningful goals helps to relieve stress and gives you a huge sense of enjoyment. Fear creeps in and paralyzes us when we don’t take the time to plan our lives.

3. Do one thing every day that scares you. Living in our comfort zone is not the best way to live. Not doing the things that frighten you will increase the likelihood that your fears will become bigger – and taking over your life. It can even be something small that you choose to do, but do something daily that scares you. Step out of your comfort zone and work on becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable. When you form the habit of doing something daily that scares you, your courage grows little by little. Soon enough, the barriers that once were holding you back vanish and your potential maximizes tremendously.

Related: Four Ways Entrepreneurs Can Overcome Fear Of Risk

So, how do you erase these fears?

How can you keep your business fears from getting the best of you?

Here are 5 tactics that will help you keep your fears in business at a minimum:

  1. 1. Build a reserve. A reserve means you have more than enough of what you need. Whether it’s a shortage of cash or clients that has triggered fear in your business generating an excess in that particular area of concern immediately calms the nerves.

  1. 2. Set goals that are crystal clear. If I were to ask about your goals today, would you be able to give me an immediate response including the details? If you hesitate or need time to consider your response, your goals could benefit from some polishing to make them unambiguous to you.

  1. 3. Hang out with others to avoid isolation. This is especially important if you’re working from a home-office. Admittedly, I love the notion of the short commute in my bunny slippers when working from my home-office but even as long as I’ve been in business, it can get awfully quiet. Rubbing up against the world – whether it’s online or offline – keeps you sharp, sparks your creativity, and dulls any fears in business.

  1. 4. Focus on your strengths. If you spend a great deal of your time focusing on your inadequacies, you’re not alone. No wonder your business fears knock the wind out of your sails! Although it may seem that your shortcomings far outweigh your strengths, your strengths are much sharper and can easily cut through the thistles in your path. Lead with your strengths every day.

  1. 5. Appreciate what you have and who you are. Studies have demonstrated that appreciation is the quickest way to attracting what you really want which invariably the opposite of what you fear in your business. Spend the first and last 5 minutes of your day mentally listing all you appreciate about yourself and your life.

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ ( Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?


FREE Play time in workplace Don’t think about it!! Play about it!!

Posted by the7stages on March 18, 2015
Uncategorized / No Comments

The concept of work just doesn’t seem that fun. And sadly millions upon millions of people go into work, even work of their own creation, and get the life sucked right out of them.

What if work was more like play? Remember when you were a kid and you and your friends and siblings could get lost for entire days in the invention and implementation of play?

Play in the workplace can manifest in various forms. Businesses that support play may allow a recess-like period where employees can explore creative outlets and pursue independent activities. These workplaces may also offer playful amenities like rock climbing walls, game rooms, or scooters for transportation. When an employer does not support play, employees who recognize the benefits it has on their performance and well-being can still find ways to incorporate it into their workday. Creating a more playful environment at work can be as easy as putting a toy on your desk!

“Play” lights up employees. Why? It brings out such values as curiosity, learning, development, collaboration and being in co-creative relationships with others. Play speaks to the human side of business. It’s fun, developmental, positive and when freely initiated its self-organized. Play is a developmental and life-long activity.

Companies that are consistently rated the “Best Companies to Work For” by Fortune Magazine offer services and programs aimed to make the workday less stressful and more enjoyable for employees. Services such as high quality childcare, free laundry, on-site life coaching and health care, and afternoon yoga classes help the human connection within a company while reassuring the employees that they are valued. Most companies on this list have consistently seen an increase in productivity and revenue as a result of offering such perks. Another great advantage of allowing such programming is that employees feel more fulfilled because they are satisfying more than just a financial need by working.

Ranked at number forty-four, Intuit (makers of TurboTax) encourages workers to take four hours a week of “unstructured time” to play with new ideas and inspire creativity in their own ways. Google, number four on the list, also allows time for employees to pursue independent activities during the workday. This recess-like period provides employees with a time to be creative and to de-stress!

These innovative companies have redefined the workplace in terms of expected employee behaviors and the rigid, strict roles we have previously set for them. Encouraging playfulness strengthens social bonds, workplace satisfaction, and overall well-being in a way that has benefits for an entire company. By investing some time and effort into showing employees they are valued, companies can expect to see a decrease in turnover and absenteeism, and an increase in productivity, efficiency, health, and morale!

The bottom line is: a paycheck is no longer enough to satisfy the needs of working Americans! The workplace has the potential to offer programs, services, and an environment that can help balance our lives. Check out some of the qualities of these companies that make them the best…Fortune Magazine’s Top 100 Companies to Work For.

What adjectives come to mind when thinking about play? Some common responses may be: fun, imaginative, enchanting, elusive, and creative. What if I were to tell you that when play is incorporated into the workplace, it could also be described as: productive, healthy, innovative, and profitable? By shifting our business model to one that embraces play, we can revitalize the work environment, decrease stress, and promote fresh creativity and job satisfaction! Here are just some of the benefits of promoting a playful workplace:

1) Play can increase productivity, innovation, and creativity. Incorporating play into the workplace produces valuable results. Risk taking, confidence in presenting novel ideas, and embracing unusual and fresh perspectives are common characteristics associated with play that are also integral to a successful work environment.

2) Play can increase job satisfaction, well-being, and strengthen social bonds. Employees experiencing positive emotions are more cooperative, more social, and perform better when faced with complex tasks. Encouraging play will increase employee happiness, and happier workers have been shown to be more productive.

3) Play can decrease absenteeism, stress, and health care costs.Allowing play not only shows employees that they are valued, it also helps them lead a more balanced life. The activity and stimulation involved in play lessens the stress of work, which leads to less illness and a more positive attitude.

4) Play is a great way to connect

People are drawn to playfulness. It can be a defining personality trait of a brand or simply a way that you approach the things you need to do. Playful handbooks, emails and policies help people feel good about this thing we call work. Laughter is one of the greatest connectors in the human toolbox and study after study has proven the positive mental and physical health benefit offered by play. Who dictated that business and work was meant to be so darn serious anyway?

5) Play is super food for creativity

Creativity is the life-blood of any vibrant business and most of the work we end up doing leads to clogged creativity over time. Get the office together once a day and have a white board drawing contest or crank up Pandora and play name that artist and watch how the creativity begins to re-flow.

6) Play builds teamwork

The basic framework of most games depends upon teammates working together, within a set of rules, to achieve a common objective. Now that sounds like a healthy work environment to me. Take that up a notch and get people outdoors, into nature working together, playing a game and watch how quickly they resolve differences and work together.

7) Play reduces stress

Work can be downright stressful at times and play provides an outlet to reduce the physical and mental damages caused by stress. Play doesn’t have to mean a full-blown pick up basketball game in the warehouse either. We have two office dogs and I always feel recharged after taking them for a romp around the community garden that sits right outside my office. Dogs can teach us a thing or two about play.

8) Play doesn’t seem like work

When you are engaged in a game you enter what Psychiatrist and writer Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as a flow state. The state many gamers suggest takes over and allows them play for days on end. Now, I’m not suggesting that you install an X box 360 in every cube, but I do think you can add game like elements to just about every function. Creating sales contests, allowing people to win prizes for scoring points, and designing ways to turn reporting on objectives into games are just a few of the ways that organizations keep work fun.

Play is an attitude that can run through every element of what makes a company what it stands for. Playfulness has its own brand of attraction and every organization could benefit by creating a position responsible for keeping play alive inside and out.

9) Free play vs managed play

Free play equates to making it up as we go – improvisation – as many kids still have the freedom to do. They hang with other kids and they’re left to their own devices: lots of learning in that kind of play.  On the other hand, managed play is being part of an organized activity where there are coaches, parents and others with expectations: lots of different learning in that kind of play.

Free play is where we’re given free rein to use our imaginations, our inventiveness, our resourcefulness, and find our innate leadership, and followership.

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ ( Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?


How much can an Entrepreneur Delegate?

Posted by the7stages on February 18, 2015
Uncategorized / No Comments

Ready, Set, Delegate!

In most cases it takes good people to grow a business, and for an entrepreneur, this means delegating and trusting others to deliver the results that will grow the firm. Hiring the right people, engaging them in the pursuit of their dreams and giving meaning to the employees who are building the business requires different skills than those needed to launch a business. Readers will learn what those skills are and how the entrepreneur can use them to achieve smart growth.

Prove that you want to grow your business. Go ahead, tell us not how much you did today, but how much you didn’t do. Sound crazy? The key to growing your company as big and as fast as you want may be getting very good at not doing any work. Here’s why: “It’s impossible to grow a business without delegating. You can only increase your workload so much,” says Ralph Rubio, co-founder and CEO of Rubio’s Baja Grill, a $40 million restaurant chain based in San Diego that dominates the fish taco business on the West Coast.

Task At Hand

Steve Leveen, co-founder and CEO of Delray Beach, Florida-based Levenger, a $70 million catalog company specializing in upscale products for readers and writers, vividly recalls when he hired his first nonfamily employees. It was a year after start-up, and, says Leveen, “I felt great relief. The people we hired helped with packing orders. That was a great boost to my productivity because I could then focus on areas that would help us grow.”

Delegation 101

It’s easy to talk about delegation–but is it easy to do? “Delegation is very hard to do right,” says Susan Leeds, managing director of The Ayers Group Inc., a New York City human resources consulting firm. “Smart delegation takes thought and planning.” That means delegation isn’t simply sweeping your desk clean and blindly handing off all the tasks on your to-do list. “You need to approach delegation with a plan in mind,” says Leeds, who teaches a multistep delegation process to clients. The first step is careful thought about what to delegate.

That’s a crucial question, mainly because some tasks should be handled personally. There are tasks that aren’t suited to delegation, says Ron Riggio, a psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College’s Kravis Leadership Institute in Claremont, California.

What can’t you delegate? There’s no rule of thumb; let your instincts guide you. You probably wouldn’t delegate thinking about the products your company will offer next year, but you might delegate a survey of current customers regarding improvements they’d like to see in your products. Either way, a building block for effective delegation is knowing what tasks are yours and yours alone.

The next step in Leeds’ plan is to determine the results you want to achieve. That means not telling employees to make some phone calls about past-due invoices. That’s too vague. Instead, be specific. A more defined goal might be to get customers with past-due bills to agree to a payment schedule. Knowing the results you want is your job, not the job of employees to whom you delegate.

Step three is to decide which person is right for the task, says Leeds. A salesperson might not be the right person to make collection calls, but perhaps your bookkeeper is. Either way, match skills and personality to the task–that will maximize productivity.

The fourth step is to decide what controls and checkpoints you’ll put on the person to whom you’re delegating. How often will the person report back to you? What signal means it’s time to shout for help? Get very specific about these steps because that will make delegation work smoothly, both for you and employees.

Fifth, motivate the person to whom you’re delegating. If you’re handing off important work, you want the subordinate to be fired up to get results. “Link the new job to what motivates that employee,” says Leeds. If the employee is there to learn, present the task as a development opportunity. If visibility is important, present it that way. “Make sure what you delegate is appropriate [for the employee],” Leeds says. And sell what you delegate–don’t just hand out tasks.

The last step is accountability. “Effective delegation means holding people accountable for the jobs that are assigned to them,” Leeds says. A big mistake here is that bosses often expect the employee to fail–and readily take the task back to do themselves. Don’t. That’s a quick way to undermine employee effectiveness and, in the bargain, guarantee employees will never develop in the ways you need them to if your business is to reach the level you want.

Letting Go

Follow these steps and, odds are, your delegation skills will improve dramatically. There’s one more huge hurdle to jump, however. That occurs when employees start doing the work you’ve delegated, but they’re not doing it the way you would have done it. “This is a major issue for entrepreneurs,” says Dailey. “It’s painful for them to accept that there are other ways to get jobs done and that oftentimes, the way the employee did the task is good enough.”

Tasks that keep you from growing your business
When Levey and his team realized that the hours they spent on a bike en route to product samplings were not enabling them to scale to a nationwide platform, they hired a demo team. “Getting customers to trial something is important, but we also realized it wasn’t a good use of our time, because it wasn’t conducive to our long-term growth,” he says.

Independent contractors were brought on to handle sampling and inform customers about the products’ nutritional facts; that freed Field Trip’s founders to pursue new accounts, which today include several major grocery chains, as well as JetBlue Airways, Vitamin World and Costco.

Activities that will help speed up cash flow
As a small company represented in huge grocery stores with more than 50,000 SKUs, Field Trip found that its relatively modest invoices often would get overlooked. “Checks for $100 get lost against the $10,000 checks pretty easily, so we were hounding the stores just to get paid,” Levey explains.

The founders discovered that hiring distributors not only got them paid faster, it also enabled them to get paid with a few large checks rather than many small ones. The company now employs more than 25 distributors.

“By delegating that work to distributors, our accounts receivable have significantly improved, as has the timing of our working capital,” he says. “We’re getting our money faster, and we’re also getting checks that were previously going unpaid because we didn’t have time to follow up on them.”

3. Areas that are out of your wheelhouse
Ryan Fleming, co-founder of Long Beach,, delegates tasks that would require too much time for him to learn and master. That is one of the factors to which he credits the success of his 24/7 concierge service, which keeps a virtual eye on the well-being of loved ones.

Fleming has turned to services such as Elance and Fiverr to outsource web design, creation of video and web content, SEO, social media activities and PR. “The SEO stuff is well over my head, but when you have someone who can help you understand how the Google algorithm works, it’s a game-changer,” Fleming says, adding that he attributes many of his company’s 400-plus users to the success of the keyword “RemindGrams.” “It would take me about five years to create [animation] online, so delegating out those types of digital assets is a no-brainer for me. It definitely pays for itself.”

4. Tasks that are already streamlined
Hard work goes into developing processes that allow employees to increase their efficiency while still meeting in-house quality metrics. But once those processes are in place, there’s no reason to be the person who implements them on a day-to-day basis. After launching Venice, Calif.-based online inventory and order-management software Lettuce in 2012, CEO Raad Mobrem saw his staff expand from two people who did everything to 13 within three months.

While exciting, the period was fraught with organizational headaches and growing pains. So he divided the company into sales, marketing, customer support and product. In each of those areas, processes were put in place so managers could easily delegate tasks when needed.

“When something needs to be done, we can walk an employee through our current processes and say, ‘Here’s what we like to do, and this is how we do it.’ It’s a clear path of where we’re going and how we do things,” Mobrem says, noting that Lettuce now has 15 employees and thousands of users. “As a result, we went from chaos to really well-delegated processes and tasks that everyone is able to complete in a timely manner.”

5. Tasks in areas with often-changing regulations
Brian Fox, president and founder of Brentwood, Tenn.-based, is a CPA who tries to stay up to date on the latest changes in the field. But he says he “wouldn’t even think about” doing the accounting for his electronic audit confirmation services firm, even in the leanest of the startup days.

“The rules change so often that if you’re not in it day to day, you’ll miss something, from a tax standpoint or an accounting application standpoint,” he says. “You need somebody who does that as their full-time job.”

Fox outsources his legal, accounting and insurance needs to outside agencies that are current on specific regulations.

Waverly Deutsch, professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, says delegating to a specialist is a good call when the cost of making a mistake might be high. “When you’re dealing with a government agency like the IRS, EPA or immigration, you don’t have any power, and the risk of doing it wrong–and facing stiff consequences–is enormous. Those are areas where you definitely should delegate to an expert,” she says.

6. Projects that impede development
While Fox enjoys the product development side of his business, he has trouble presenting his thoughts in enough detail for a technology team to take over. Instead, he hands off that part of the process to avoid becoming a bottleneck within his own operation.

“I was holding up our development, so we brought in a product person that I could share the idea with, but then they could do all the legwork,” he explains.

Today the company has a team that takes ideas for new products, enhancements and modifications and writes detailed specs so the technology team can create them.

7. Anything you want your team to learn
Bob Marsh–CEO of Detroit-based Level-Eleven, which creates motivational software for sales teams–says one of the best ways to get employees to internalize something he wants them to learn is to let them complete the task themselves. While he could simply tell his sales team how he’d like them to do a specific task, he finds that it’s more effective to ask someone to take the lead on the activity so they can get the team together and come up with best practices.

“It helps people internalize it, because they’ve made their own thoughts and decisions on it,” Marsh says.

8. The stuff you simply hate to do
Many ‘treps agree that handing off the tasks they can’t stand helps them maintain their drive and enthusiasm, which is critical to their company’s success. After all, that’s why they work for themselves.

“I really believe you should do the things you enjoy and have fun doing, and delegate the rest,” says Fox of “That’s what excites you when you wake in the morning, and what you’re thinking about when you wake in the middle of the night with a brand-new idea. It’s not: ‘Oh my gosh, here’s a new tax law I can apply.’

You’re thinking about how to grow the business. That’s what gets you excited, that’s what gets you motivated, and that’s what helps you succeed.”

Source:Michele O’Reggio

The typical entrepreneur’s “Achilles’ Heel” is that they spread themselves too thin, work on too many tasks at the same time, start new projects constantly and micromanage projects and details that they should delegate. They become overwhelmed by the increasing demands on their time and begin losing the passion for their business and working harder without getting the results they want.

Your success and freedom as an entrepreneur depend on your ability to focus on what you love and do best and eliminating and/or delegating everything else. You should focus on the activities you’re brilliant at, passionate about and that will take your business to the next level.

Harv Ecker, CEO of Peak Potentials Training, offers this sage wisdom on how Poor vs. Wealthy Business Owners think about business. Which one are you?

Poor:  Struggle because their business is dependent on them.
Wealthy:  Set up a business that works without them; using teams, delegation and systems.

Poor:  Play it safe
Wealthy: Take risks

Poor:  Do everything themselves
Wealthy: Create teams and delegate

Many entrepreneurs know they should delegate but find it challenging to let go. So many fall into the trap of doing everything themselves – being a lone ranger. It takes a village to operate and grow a successful business.

How Can You Learn To Delegate?

The good news is that delegation is a skill that can absolutely be learned. The first place to start is with your mindset. To leverage the skills of others effectively, you need to be willing to:

  • Believe that success is possible
  • Examine your reality – what’s working and what’s not
  • Experiment and take calculated risks – engage in the process of growing your business and developing professionally
  • Assess your productivity – being busy doesn’t  always mean you’re being productive
  • Recognize that the primary purpose of your business is to serve your life, not the other way around

Dan Millman, in “Living on Purpose” tells us: “In the real world, those of us who are most productive, successful, and satisfied focus not on fixing feelings or manipulating thoughts, but on what needs to be done – and then doing it – no matter what thoughts or feelings arise.”

4 Common Myths About Delegating

Myth #1: “I’ll lose control of my business if I delegate and things will fall through the cracks.”

Are you a control freak?

Reality: There is a wide range of freedom and authority that you can give to your team member. When you use a delegation and team building system, it will allow you to manage the process effectively, instead of micromanaging people.

Myth # 2:  “If I want something done right, I have to do it myself.”

Are you a perfectionist?

Reality: Other people can do the tasks as good as, and many even better than you. Yes, really:)  Delegation will bring you massive results when you build a team that is focused on doing what they’re brilliant at and are the best fit for you.  Moreover, when you learn effective delegation techniques, you can ensure that things will get done the way you want.

Myth # 3: “I can’t trust anyone else with my business.”

Reality: If you want to achieve success, risks are necessary for business growth. Delegation requires a calculated risk where the potential benefits (ROI) and costs are weighed. Many of us have natural tendencies that can keep us from letting go. When I did my DISC Behavioral Profile I learned strategies to modify my perfectionist tendencies that would hinder me from delegating effectively. I got a comprehensive understanding of my gifts and weaknesses, which helps me with team building – to choose the right partners and teach others how to best communicate with me.

Myth # 4: “I can’t afford help.”

Reality: You can’t afford not to delegate! There is a simple formula that guarantees you a high return on investment in outsourcing.  You will need to know:

  1. How much your time is worth hourly or how much more revenue you could generate in a month if you had more time
  2. The hourly cost of outsourcing a specific task

Here’s an example of the formula:

Your Virtual Assistant spends 10 hours on tasks taken off your plate: Investment = $300 With 10 extra hours you’ve gained, how many new clients could you handle?
1 client = $300 you break even 2 clients = double your ROI 3,4, 5 .. clients? You get the idea!

You will get an even higher ROI when you delegate revenue-generating activities!

It’s important to recognize though, that ROI is not only about money. Often an idea is viable if: it moves you closer to your vision of success; if it will increase your credibility with clients that would lead to more opportunities, or if it will give you an emotional feeling of fulfillment or completion. I call this creating a “wealthy lifestyle”!

Prosperous entrepreneurs have gone through the growing pains of letting go to get the help they need. Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing, tells us “The moment you begin to think of time as precious and that it has a price, the richer you will become.”

Are you ready to make a change? What would it be like to enjoy more success, freedom and create a wealthy lifestyle with delegation? What resources do you need to help you? What is the first step you need to take?

About the Author

Michele O’Reggio creates freedom for purpose-led, conscious entrepreneurs and empowers them to transform into Wise CEOs. Michele helps them build a strong foundation for growth so they can do more of what they love, increase their profits and make a bigger impact. Learn how to scale your business, how to enjoy freedom and do more of what you love at