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Friday, September 6, 2019

Lesson #317: The Best Employees Have These '31 Flavors'

Posted By: George Deeb - 9/06/2019

Having good employees will make or break a company’s success.  I have previously written about how best to read resumes and screen emplo...

Having good employees will make or break a company’s success.  I have previously written about how best to read resumes and screen employee candidates, but that is before they are actually working for the company and you get a chance to see their “true colors” when they are not “on show” during the interview process.  This post is designed to help you identify the best traits that most successful employees share, so you can “double down” on those best employees and “weed out” the rest, as nothing can take down a company faster than a bunch of toxic employees that don’t beat to the company’s drum.  The best employees have these “31 Flavors” blended into one.

The Basics for the Job

1. The Right Skillsets—Obviously, they have to have the basic knowledge and experience in how to do their job.  You can’t put a square peg in a round hole.

2. Smart Intelligence—The right combination of “book smarts” and “street smarts” should yield good business instincts to help manage the business.

3. Good Attitude and Passion—Someone that is passionate about their job will do much better than someone that is simply looking for a paycheck.  And you want someone whose enthusiasm as infectious to others.

4. A Good Communicator—Clear communications is at the core of every company.  You need someone that can clearly articulate their needs and listens well to others.

5. Detail Oriented and Organized—In most businesses, there are many moving pieces.  Whether you are managing a project or working your sales leads, the better organized a person is, the better odds they won’t let any of the needed details slip through the cracks.

6. Confident, But Knows Their Limits—Someone that feels confident in their own abilities is a lot better than someone that is unsure of themselves, provided they are not over-confident to the point of “driving right off the cliff”.

A Good Fit for the Company

7. Fits the Culture—Every business has unique drivers of the company culture.  You want employees that embrace the company culture and works well with others.

8. A Team Player—As the old adage goes, there is no “I” in “TEAM”.  Lone wolves that only listen to themselves and prefer to work alone won’t have a long life inside a company, where good team dynamics are critical and must thrive.

9. Hungry & Driven—I love employees that have something to prove, or are working for some grander cause outside of the office.  Nothing beats a good “fire in the belly”.

10. Loyal & Dedicated—Good employees know to put the needs of the business, before the needs of themselves.  They are loyal to the business in good times and in bad . . . especially the bad.

11. Can Neutralize Toxic Peers—Good employees do not engage with the “fire stoking” behaviors of toxic employees.  And, better yet, they know how to neutralize them, not allowing them an open forum for public criticisms.

12. Never Publicly Complains—If you have something on your mind that is bothering you, take it up with your manager.  Don’t take it up in the next all-company meeting, bringing everyone else down with you.

A Good Fit for the Manager

13. Highly Dependable—When a good employee is given a task, you can trust they are actually going to get the job done, on time and on budget.

14. A Strong Work Ethic—Good employees are hard-workers at their core.  They don’t mess around surfing the web while at work, or watching the clock, waiting for the hours to pass by.

15. Action-Oriented, Problem Solving Leader—The best employees are the ones that can identify problems within their domain, and actually fix them.  They don’t need to ask for permission or ask for help to improve the business.

16. Takes Direction Well—Good employees respect the chain of command inside a company, and follows the direction of their managers, who are presumably more experienced in their departments.

17. Autonomous & Self Motivated—Good employees don’t need their hands held.  They can work well on their own with limited supervision by their managers.

18. Focused—Good employees will stay focused on the goal at hand and are not easily distracted by the “flavors of the month”.

19. Accountable—Good employees take responsibilities for their own actions, even when something goes wrong.  It is not about trying to get an employee in trouble, it is more important how they learn from those mistakes and take the business forward.

20. Not Afraid to Speak Up—If something is on your mind, say it.  The worst thing that can happen is if you bury hard feelings or strong desires deep down inside, where no one knows about them, and can solve for them.

A Good Fit as a Person

21. Likable Personality—Nobody wants to work with mean people or hermits.  They want to be surrounded by nice people that are easy to work with.

22. Honest With Integrity—There is no room for dishonest people or criminal behavior in your business.  Period!  If you can’t trust your employees, they need to go.

23. Flexible & Adaptable—Most businesses, especially startups, are pivoting to take advantage of new market opportunities.  Your employees need to be nimble in their thinking to be able to “go with the flow”.

24. Humble—Good employees never put themselves first or brag about their successes.  There is fine line between confidence and cockiness.

25. Optimistic—Always look for employees that can see the glass as “half full” and not “half empty”.  Good employees see the opportunity to improve a situation and not harp on what they are missing, with a positive mental attitude.

26. Creative—Business solutions are not always easily identified. Employees that can creatively think “out of the box” are the ones that often have the biggest impact on moving a business forward in new directions.

A Good Fit Emotionally

27. Okay With Delayed Gratification—This generation has become too driven by immediate gratification, without actually putting the hard work in that is required to achieve that “pay day”.   It is less about, “what can you do for me today”, and more about “what can you do for me next year” in building a long-term and meaningful pay day for all involved.  Patience, young Jedi!!

28. Can Tolerate Conflict—Things don’t always go smoothly in business, and often times, personalities can clash.  Conflict can often be good, as it often means people are passionate about the issue.  But, the best employees can easily endure and solve for conflicts inside the business.

29. Doesn’t Need Ego Stroked—Good employees do their jobs without the constant need for being complimented.  Good managers will praise their employees for jobs well done, but don’t expect to have your ego stroked for every action you do.  Good work is normally well rewarded in the long run.

30. Never Settles for the Status Quo—When things are going smoothly, it is really easy to sit back and do nothing, or simply keep running in place on the same “hamster wheel”.  Good employees are always looking for improvements, tinkering and fiddling with the business with each iteration of their role.

31. Willing to Take Smart Bets—Yes, businesses need good “lead-off hitters” that are capable of getting on base with “singles”.  But, sometimes, you need a good “clean-up hitter” to “swing for the fences”, taking calculated gambles with a high odds of paying off for the company.

Phew, what a list.  The odds of finding all “31 Flavors” in one person is the equivalent of trying to find a needle in a haystack.  But, if you can find as many of these traits as you can in your employees, the company’s performance and morale will certainly benefit from it.  And, when necessary, you must prune out the “bad apples”, before they spoil the whole “bushel”.  After writing this post, I suddenly have a  hankering for some Baskin & Robbins ice cream!!  ;-)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

[VIDEO] George Deeb Discusses Entrepreneurial Mindsets for Success on ASBN

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/15/2019

I was recently interviewed by the  Atlanta Small Business Network  (ASBN), an online "television network" serving the small bu...

I was recently interviewed by the Atlanta Small Business Network (ASBN), an online "television network" serving the small business community, about how to choose the right entrepreneurial mindset to maximize the odds of success.  This includes comparing the differences between "driven to win" vs. "fear of failure".  I thought this video turned out great, and I wanted to share it with all of you, to help you assess your startup's "psychology".  I hope you like!!

The embedded video player didn't give me the option to change the size of this video.  But, if you want to see a bigger version, simply click the expand size button in the player above, or feel free to watch it on the ASBN website.

Thanks again to Jim Fitzpatrick and the ASBN team for having me on the show.  I look forward to our next interview together.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

How to Pitch Your Business Investment Case

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/08/2019

Chief Financial Officers are often the gatekeepers to a company’s cash coffers. And, as you can imagine, they have a lot of people tuggi...

Chief Financial Officers are often the gatekeepers to a company’s cash coffers. And, as you can imagine, they have a lot of people tugging on their sleeves looking for investments into various projects. Perhaps the CEO wants to make a big strategic acquisition, the CMO needs to scale up sales and marketing efforts or the head of product wants to launch a new business line. The ways capital can be invested are limitless, and the asks are endless, so you better make sure your pitch breaks through the clutter.  Below are examples of the best ways to pitch for internal funds in several common scenarios.

Read the rest of this post in Entrepreneur, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter: @georgedeeb.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Lesson #316: Decision Making Only as Good as Quality of Data Studied

Posted By: George Deeb - 7/18/2019

Over the years, I have become a “data hound”, looking for every morsel of wisdom I can get about my business, to help make smarter decis...

Over the years, I have become a “data hound”, looking for every morsel of wisdom I can get about my business, to help make smarter decisions.  The good news here:  data is king.  You can’t effectively manage your business with it.  But, using accurate data is critical, and getting that is not always easy.  And, if you don’t have accurate data, you may be making the wrong business decisions that could end up hurting your business, when you thought you were helping it.  Allow me to explain.


In most B2B businesses that have a long sales cycle, the only way assess the effectiveness of your sales team and predict future revenues is based on data your sales team enters into your CRM.  Here you would be looking to see a salesperson’s number of accounts growing, see how those leads are working their way through the sales funnel from qualified lead to closed sales and the total dollar value of the pipeline being managed.

But, think about what I just said: you are valuing the success of your sales team based on the data that they themselves are entering (or not entering) in the CRM system.  That creates multiple problems.  First, I have seen situations where salespeople will actually enter false information, to make it look like their efforts are more successful than they really are, trying to save their jobs.  And, second, any time you are reliant on humans for data, there is plenty of room for error.

For example, did the salesperson remember to enter a new lead into the CRM?  Did they remember to update the status of a lead (e.g., from active to dead)?  Did they update the dollar value of that lead from $20,000 to $10,000 after they learned the client didn’t need as many products as they first thought?  Did they update the expected close date from April to June, after they learned the project has been delayed?  You get the point.  Most businesses are making mission critical decisions based on future expected revenues from this data.  And, more often than not, the data in the system is not very accurate, updated or reliable.

If your CRM suggests you are working with over $1,000,000 of potential leads, and your normal conversion rate is 20%.  You would think there is a reasonable chance to close $200,000 in sales.  Monies you would be running the business with and paying your bills and payroll.  If that $200,000 doesn’t show up on time, as predicted, and you don’t have cash in the bank in reserve, bad data could put you in an illiquid position and potentially take you out of business.

So, when managing sales pipelines like this, you need to do to your best to scrub the data.  Every week, remind your salespeople to update their data in the system for any changes?  In your one-on-one meetings with the team, talk through their list, line by line, to ensure what the system data is telling you, is actually the reality.  And, where you can, build automated systems that updates data for any actions made (e.g., as new email leads come into business, they automatically get entered in CRM).  This includes building in automated tasks and reminders for each lead, to make sure the leads are actually being moved forward and the salespeople are getting system-triggered actions they need to take for each lead.  Most good CRMs or sales enablement tools can help you here.


The quality of your marketing efforts is also dependent on the quality of the data being managed and studied.  Here are the two most-typical problems: (1) is your marketing team managing towards the right data metrics in the first place; and (2) is the appropriate credit being given to the marketing channel that actually drove the lead, in a multi-device world where getting the proper attribution is not always easy (e.g., first learned about you through Google paid advertising on their office PC, but came to you direct from the mobile phone where you lost the Google tracking).

Let me talk through a recent example I lived through.  We recently hired an ad agency to manage our paid search campaign.  We told them immediate return on ad spend (ROAS), defined as clearly attributed revenues from the campaign divided by marketing cost of campaign, as the key metric to drive.  A strange thing started to happen in our business:  our low ticket, online ecommerce transactions started to take off, but our desired high ticket, offline B2B transactions were not growing at all.  By telling our agency to focus on “immediate” ROAS, the only way they could hit the desired target was by focusing on smaller orders that were immediately ready to book online.  That excluded the desired longer sales cycle leads we really wanted to be growing.

So, after six months of these learnings, we switched directions.  We told the agency immediate ROAS was no longer the goal.  We would be happy waiting our three month sales cycle, before studying our ROAS.  Instead, the leading indicator of future desired B2B sales, was immediate B2B leads that came in from that marketing effort.  That would be the key metric to manage for.  And, as soon as we made that change, our quick, low ticket sales started to fall back to more normal levels, and our desired B2B leads started to reach record heights.  We were thrilled, thinking we had finally “cracked the code” to scaling our business.

But, did we?  A B2B lead is only valuable, if they ultimately convert into B2B transactions and revenues.  So, in April, we did a retroactive cohort analysis of all B2B leads that came into the business in January (our normal three month booking window).  And, what we learned was concerning:  the B2B leads were coming into the business in record numbers, but very few of them were actually converting into sales, at levels far lower than our typical conversion rates.  And, after researching this further with our sales team, we learned the leads that were coming in, were very price sensitive, shopping many websites at once looking for the lowest price, and were often looking for last minute deliveries that were impossible to get the products to them in time.

So, now we are back to the drawing board, trying to figure out the right metric to be managing to?  Or, if the same B2B lead metric, how to optimize the campaign trying to find leads we can actually work with.  And, making sure we are given proper attribution to all the leads coming into the business, to ensure we are not missing anything important in our look at the data.  We also want to be careful not to “throw the baby out with the bath water”.  Maybe there is something going on operationally, that is getting in the way of sales not converting, and the marketing agency is actually doing a great job.  Time well tell.


So, any you can see, data is critical to managing your business.  I gave you examples in sales and marketing.  But, I easily could have given you data-driven examples in other areas of your business, like operations, finance, human resources or technology.  So, make sure you are living in a world where data is king.  But, more importantly, accurate data is king with the business being driven by metrics that are the most important and reliable for predicting and driving future success and desired outcomes.  The data is only as good as the effort you put into it!!

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Lesson #315: Why We Turned Down a Chance to Double Sales

Posted By: George Deeb - 7/03/2019

As you may remember, back in 2018, we acquired Restaurant Furniture Plus , a B2B ecommerce business that sells foodservice furniture to ...

As you may remember, back in 2018, we acquired Restaurant Furniture Plus, a B2B ecommerce business that sells foodservice furniture to restaurants and other hospitality companies.  We recently received a request for proposal from one of the most-recognized restaurant brands in the world.  If secured, the project would have doubled our sales overnight.  We walked from the opportunity, which may sound silly to you.  But, here’s why.


First a little background on our business.  To date, our core business has revolved around two key things.  First, we are marketing company first and foremost.  Which means we resell the products of others and don’t typically take part in product design, manufacturing, importing or warehousing.  And, second, our average B2B transactions are typically in the $5K-$200K range, sold most typically to up-and-coming chains that have yet to build in-house procurement departments like the national brands.  In no year has any one of our customers comprised more than 10% of our sales.


The proposal we received is summarized as follows.  First, it was a huge order for over 1,000 franchise locations of the chain, which meant it would have been a huge multi-million dollar order, around 25x bigger than any other order we have ever closed.  Second, it was a complex order that involved custom manufacturing new designs exactly to the customers’ exact specifications, where the customer required us to build prototypes upfront at our own cost.  And, third, it was not an ideal contract, where the customer was not buying from us, their individual franchisees were (one at a time), and the contract included a 10 year product warranty.


If we had closed this sale, yes, we would have loved doubling our sales.  But, all of a sudden, we now have a customer that comprised more than 50% of our sales.  Which is a really high concentration of sales in one customer, especially since the nature of the transaction was a “one and done” project.  Those sales would have evaporated in the following year.  So, instead of showing nice growth in 2020, we would most likely have shown sales declining in that year.  Which was not an optic we wanted to share with banks or other investors down the road.

And, when you have a client as large as this one, it is really easy for that project to become “all-consuming”, at the expense of all of our other long-term clients.  We didn’t want to risk mis-serving our loyal base of customers, by investing the vast majority of our energy into this one big project.  Which is what this project would have required.


If we had been selling “off the shelf” products from our typical vendors, this project would have been a layup.  There would have been no new product to design or warehouse.  But, the fact we needed to custom manufacturer a specific solution meant we needed to go around $50,000 out of pocket to build the required prototypes for the customer to approve, as they would not fund prototype development.  To us, that was a big number to swallow without any guarantee of a sale on the backend.  And, this particular product had to be manufactured with required components only available from one overseas manufacturer, which would have made assembling the product with other U.S. or China based components a logistical challenge.


This $5,000,000 project wasn’t going to be funded in one check from the customer.  It was coming in $5,000 at a time from 1,000 individual global franchisees over the course of a year.  Which meant going out of pocket on around $3,500,000 worth of inventory day one to get the best-priced manufacturing terms, without any financial support or guarantees from the customer, and then, crossing our fingers all the franchisees actually buy the product over time as there were supposed to.

Then, there was the issue of having to send the orders individually to 5,000 locations across the globe; it wasn’t simply going to one customer warehouse.  So, the warehousing of the items and the shipping logistics for heavy furniture going overseas, would have certainly created its challenges, operationally and financially, as that was not part of our core competency of selling only to U.S. based customers to date.

And, the final deal breaker was the 10 year warranty.  How many products have you purchased come with a product warranty of 10 years.  And, this was for outdoor patio furniture getting baked in the sun, and being used in a commercial setting where things could naturally go wrong.  The last thing we needed, were warranty claims showing up in years eight, nine and ten, that could have bankrupted the company down the road.


So, as you can see, there were a lot of reasons we decided to pass on this opportunity.  It would have been so tempting to close the sale, and pat ourselves on the back for doubling sales.  But, the downside risks here were way too high to swallow:  the upfront prototype costs, the upfront inventory financing, the global warehousing and logistics, the 10 year warranty, etc. were all potential pitfalls that we were unwilling to take that risk.


So, the lesson here:  be careful what you ask for, because it could be your undoing.  Don’t get so romanced by the idea of driving revenues, that you don’t think through the operational or financial challenges it is going to result in.  Only bite off what you can easily chew, otherwise your business will “choke”.   Know what your core competencies are, and stay firmly focused on what you can do best.  It is perfectly acceptable and prudent to say no to a sale, if there is a high odds it will end up capsizing your boat.  For more insights here, be sure to read this companion article:  Pitfalls to Avoid When “Reeling in the Whale”.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Friday, June 14, 2019

[VIDEO] George Deeb Discusses 'Pain Killer vs. Vitamin' Business Models

Posted By: George Deeb - 6/14/2019

I was recently interviewed by the  Atlanta Small Business Network  (ASBN), an online "television network" serving the small b...

I was recently interviewed by the Atlanta Small Business Network (ASBN), an online "television network" serving the small business community, about how to make your business a "need to have" painkiller and not a "nice to have" vitamin.  I thought this video turned out great, and I wanted to share it with all of you, to help with your product strategy needs.  I hope you like!!

The embedded video player didn't give me the option to change the size of this video.  But, if you want to see a bigger version, simply click the expand size button in the player above, or feel free to watch it on the ASBN website.

Thanks again to Jim Fitzpatrick and the ASBN team for having me on the show.  I look forward to our next interview together.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.


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