Podcast Q&A: The Top 5 Mistakes That Businesses Make That Can Cripple Their Growth & Success

Business owners often make similar mistakes that impact their growth and success. As a business coach and strategist, I find that many of the businesses I interact with struggle with some of the same problems.

I approached Kim Brandley, CPA, a partner at the accounting and consulting firm J.H. Cohn, and asked her to share her expertise to help business owners overcome some hurdles in growing their businesses. My Q&A with her provides insights for businesses that may be making these mistakes and how to avoid them.

At the end of the blog post there is also an audio podcast of our interview where Kim gives more detailed responses to the questions.

Q1 – What are the top 5 mistakes that businesses make that can cripple their growth and success?
  1. Not having a strategic/business plan
  2. Not understanding cash flow
  3. Not understanding your competition
  4. Losing focus of core business
  5. Not asking for professional help
Q2 – Why is “not having a strategic/business plan” important and how does it hurt the business not to have one?

The business plan is like a roadmap. It’s not much different than when you’re driving down the road and you follow a map and you know where you’re trying to get to. Have a realistic business plan in place and goals that you know you can accomplish and things that you know you can get done.

Q3 – The second mistake is “not understanding cash flow. “Tell us why cash flow is king.

Cash does not equal net income and there are other metrics within the business that affect cash. There are times when you’ll have a good year in a business and you should probably either reinvest that in capital assets or things of that nature or try to put some money away, because inevitably there’s probably going to be a year that’s not a very good year compared to that one. Some questions I would ask are “do you measure your metrics on a weekly basis?  What are your average days to collect for accounts receivable?

Some areas which impact cash flow are depreciation, taxes, people not paying you on time, taking out a loan, and how quickly you pay your own payables.  Business owners need to have up to date financial information because it’s hard to base decisions on stale information.

Q4 – Why is “not understanding your competition” a key mistake?

Underestimating your competition is a mistake that business owners make often. It starts with a thorough understanding of target market and recognizing who the business leaders are, where they are located and what their needs are.  Business owners need to know who else is capable and qualified to provide those clients with the products and services they are looking for.  It is easy to track your competition’s activity through websites, social media, Google alerts, industry publications and associations.

Q5 – You mention the 4th mistake as “losing focus of the core business.” Why is that important?

It’s important to have a focused vision to remind you what you do best and why you’re in business. I think you have to be very careful not to take resources away from the core business or at least understand what resources you are draining from the core business and what impact that could have. If you’re going to take a risk and do something a little bit different, you need to manage very proactively rather than managing by crisis.

Q6 – The 5th mistake is “not asking for professional help.” Business owners think they can do it all themselves! Why is this a mistake?

In many cases businesses, particularly in this economy, don’t want to spend money, but sometimes spending money with the right professionals is clearly going to save you money in the long run.

You need to surround yourself with a group of professionals, whether that’s legal, accounting, consulting, and be willing to at least hear what they have to say and listen. Do what you do well and bring in professionals to do what they do well. Trying to do everything yourself as a business owner is most likely going to lead to many sleepless nights and probably a very exhausted business owner.

You need to have an open mind and be willing to listen to what the professionals are telling you. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to take every piece of advice, but you at least have to be open-minded that you’ll listen to some of the ideas. And be willing to take a step back and realize that you’ve probably made some mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

On an internal basis, are your people giving you what you need? Be willing and brave enough to make hard decisions to let someone go.

All these things tie together and are often not mutually exclusive. Often times these mistakes happen together.

Q7 – So what are some steps a business owner can take to grow their business?
  1. Have to have an open mind and be willing to listen to those people around you, whether it’s a formal board of directors or a personal set of board of directors where you have set up an advisory group.
  2. Be willing to think differently so that you can look at what you do well and try to turn that into additional revenue streams in some way. Look at the things with respect to the business that you know are going well.
  3. Make sure you provide excellent customer service.
  4. Ask for referrals.
  5. Get proper sales training.
  6. Focus on what you do best.

Kimberly Brandley, CPA is a partner with the accounting and consulting firm J.H. Cohn LLP. Kim has extensive experience providing audit, accounting and consulting services to privately held businesses and their owners. Kim can be reached at kbrandley@jhcohn.com or 732-380-8618.

Generate Buzz for Your Business By Becoming Semi Famous

In a crowded marketplace, we are all looking for ways to stand out from the crowd and generate publicity for our product or service. Burke Allen, CEO and President of Allen Media Strategies, joined 30 Minute Business Dig on Blog Talk Radio to share his tips on getting free media exposure in print, radio, television and online through what he calls “Becoming Semi Famous,”  which is also the title of his book. Allen brings three decades of entertainment business experience as a radio and TV host, writer, top-rated morning show personality, radio station owner, national booking agent, broadcast consultant and educator.

Allen shares some incredible stories of how his clients have used this technique to generate sales and create buzz for their businesses. He gives examples of how becoming semi famous works; who can benefit from this strategy; how to become a media darling so you continue to get calls for interviews; and some basic interview do’s and don’ts.

Listen to this entertaining and lively discussion – and implement some of these great ideas to help you and your business get free publicity and sales for your product or service.

An Edgy Conversation with Dan Waldschmidt

Edgy conversations are the backbone of Dan Waldschmidt’s approach to making a difference.  According to Dan, most of our conversations are lame and we’ve forgotten how to be intimate and real in our dialogue. His blog, the Edge of Explosion, was rated by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top seven sales blogs anywhere on the Internet. Dan doesn’t settle for corporate speak and instead challenges us to have intimate conversations that truly make us pause. Can you even remember the last conversation that did that for you?

Dan joined 30 Minute Business Dig on Blog Talk Radio to share his story and insights to getting “edgy.” He states, “It’s not what we do, it’s who we are.”

The End of the World as We Know It – Really?

Will the world end tomorrow?  If you haven’t heard, “judgment day” is May 21, 2011. Harold Camping, an 89-year-old California multimillionaire who runs one of the largest Christian radio networks in the world, believes the world will end at 6:00 p.m. with a massive earthquake. Did R.E.M. know something when they wrote their song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It?”

According to the Huffington Post article, Harold Camping: The Man Behind ‘Judgment Day,’ May 21, 2011, in the last week, variations of “End of the World May 21st” and “Harold Camping” have remained among the top search terms on Google. On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control released a mock guide to the “Zombie Apocalypse” on its web site that quickly went viral.

While we can allow ourselves to get caught up in such silliness, (sorry to anyone who actually thinks the world will end this way – but it is silly), when I hear of such proclamations, it does make me pause to consider the “what if” and have I lived my life in such a way that has made a difference.

Do I live my life with purpose, passion and values? How do I want to be remembered? Have you ever written your own obituary? When I was in college, one of my professor’s had us write our obituaries. Granted, this was used as a writing exercise, but I have remembered how powerful it was to write down the things that I hoped would be a part of my legacy.

So while we can ponder if the world will really end tomorrow, I challenge you to think about how you are living your life, and if the world were to end for you, have you really lived your life’s purpose?

Answer these questions –

If you could have anything you wanted in life, what would that be?

What could you do to improve the quality of your life?

What could you change to improve the quality of your life?

What are your strengths, talents and gifts?

What is your purpose in life?

You exist for a purpose. What will your obituary say? Write yours today – and if you don’t like what you see, you still have time to change it. The world is not ending tomorrow, but there is one thing we all know, it will end for all of us at some time.

I invite you to share your purpose or obituary in the comments.

Coloring Outside the Lines Without Falling Off the Page

Jeff Tobe, author and speaker, joined 30 Minute Business Dig to inspire businesses to think more creatively when interacting with their customers. In today’s economy, we can no longer continue to do what we’ve always done and expect different results. We need to be innovative and step out of our comfort zones to gain the competitive edge.

Jeff shares stories to illustrate his point throughout the interview. It’s entertaining and informative at the same time! After you listen, please comment with how you are creating unforgettable customer experiences!

Are You a Victim of Limited Thinking?

Have you ever wondered how athletes break records? How millonaires make their millions?

Simply put, they accomplished what many of us think is not possible by believing they can do it.  We are conditioned from a very young age to accept patterns of limited thinking – much like “the world is flat” or ” no one can break the four minute mile“.

Roger Bannister Breaks the Four Minute Mile


We are all a product of our past, which may have resulted in a limited belief system. We have many beliefs that we have accepted over time as true and have never challenged whether they are valid or not. If you don’t believe you can break a record, you won’t. If you don’t believe you can earn what you are worth, you won’t.   We allow our beliefs to stop us without even challenging them.

Here is a three step process to break free of outdated mindsets, practices and limiting beliefs.

  1. Question Your Belief – Just because you believe it doesn’t mean it’s true. They are only true because you’ve decided  and agreed they are true.
  2. Change Your Belief – If it’s not true, change your way of thinking. This may mean you’ll need to also make an attitude shift. Beliefs are formed through repeated thoughts that you most likely learned from an early age. Now that they are a part of your subconsciously, you need to make a conscious effort to think differently.
  3. Take Action –  Roger Bannister did not break the four minute mile because he simply believed he could. He practiced! For you to achieve your goals, dreams and aspirations, you need to take some form of action.

What are some of your examples of how your beliefs and limited thinking stop you from achieving what you really want? Add your comments and ways you’ve overcome them!

Seth Godin Got it Right – This is Broken

On April 5, I received an e-mail from US Airways as one of their frequent flyers. They said I had 1000 frequent flyer miles waiting for me in my account -because they know I love to travel and they love seeing me happy – yes, it says that right in the e-mail. A typo in the subject line did catch my attention, but other than that, I figured this was a nice PR effort.

Fast forward four days, and on April 9, I received a second email from US Airways – with Oops! in the subject line. They explained they inadvertently sent me the previous email and were now taking back the 1000 miles they had originally promised because “they love seeing me happy.”  In Seth Godin’s terms, this is broken.

To give you some context, a few years ago, Seth Godin gave a speech called “This is Broken” that was featured on Ted TV. (you can view the entire video below). Seth gives a tour of things poorly designed, the seven reasons why they are that way, and how to fix them. The seven reasons are 1) not my job, 2) selfish jerks, 3) the world changed, 4) I didn’t know, 5) I’m not a fish, 6) contradictions, and 7) broken on purpose.

In the case of US Airways, not only is this a PR nightmare, but someone had to have done this! The first sign of trouble was in the typo in the subject line of the first e-mail. When you are sending an e-mail to thousands of your frequent flyer customers, attention to detail is critical. Sending a second e-mail with “Oops” in the subject line- and taking back what you promised is just wrong. Does US Airways realize that something is broken here? Do they care? I say not since they mishandled the opportunity to get a positive reaction instead of a negative one.

Now, the manager or director who took the heat from this faux pas may have immediately chastised some poor intern that they burdened with this responsibility of communicating with some of their best customers. But that is not the answer. The best strategy for any business is to retain their loyal customers. It costs five times more to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer.

As a business owner, you can take the proactive approach to create a culture and processes that keep these things from happening, or you can react by taking the steps to make the culture and processes better. Either way, it’s a win  for your business, brand and customer.  All factors that impact negatively on the customer must be identified and corrected if you wish to compete most effectively and profitably. You must develop appropriate customer-oriented strategies, design and implement customer friendly policies/processes, develop your employees to create and sustain customer relationships, and constantly monitor and continuously improve your progress for the issues that are most important for your customer. For more information about creating a customer loyalty program, click here.

Here’s Seth’s video on “This is Broken.”

Seth Godin at Gel 2006 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

 

Podcast: Strategy CPR – How To Breathe Life Back Into Your Organization’s Game Plan

Does your organization have a strategic plan?  Is is sitting on a shelf collecting dust or is it truly a living, dynamic document that is guiding your business forward? Companies large and small spend significant time and resources developing strategic plans. But how many of them truly get the return on the investment? The best of intentions can be sidelined by the day-to-day tasks of taking care of business.

Creative strategist Dianna Sadlouskos shares her advice for how to take swift action to breathe life into your company game plan. Strategy CPR sounds like a “life and death” situation for an organization, yet if a business is showing symptoms that keep them from implementation and execution, they can end up stagnating and falling behind the competition.

This informative interview provides business leaders with concrete steps and actions to take to prevent “cardiac arrest.”

Podcast: Are You a Transformational Leader?

Today, the emphasis is on being a transformational leader so your organization can thrive in today’s economy. The transformational leader taps into the discretionary energy, creativity and potential of their followers.  Henna Inam, CEO of Transformational Leadership Inc. shared her perspective and insight about these trends, especially how they are affecting women as they ascend to transformational leadership in their organizations. She shares four things that differentiate the transformational leader:

  1. Sense of purpose
  2. Treating people uniquely
  3. Intellectual stimulation
  4. Instilling trust

The need for organizations to embrace transformational leadership is directly proportionate to three major trends that are now shaping organizations:

  1. The pace of change we are seeing is dramatic and unpredictable
  2. The move to more transparency
  3. The need to increase creativity and innovation

Henna shares some startling statistics about women leaving the corporate America and the impact that has and will have on organizations. According to the Center for Work Life Policy, at the entry level, 63% of the workforce is women.  In the executive ranks, this drops to 20%. In Fortune 500 CEO’s, only 3% are women. This huge “brain drain” is a loss for corporate America.

Listen to the entire interview for more. Do you think these statistics are true and what can we do about it?

Podcast: PR 2.0: What Business Professionals Need to Know About the Changing Communications Landscape

Are you using PR 2.0 to tell a different brand story…a more human and customized story connecting directly with stakeholders?  Today’s business professionals can’t look at the old traditional broadcast model and expect that from sender to receiver the model will be successful in a social community. On the contrary, social communications is a peer-to-peer approach with people wanting to speak to people, and trusting information more from their peers and less from the media, big brands or the government.  The rise of the citizen or journalist and democratized content has forever changed the strategy behind brand communication and smart business professionals know that they are planning for engagement and deep connections, which lead to everything from conversations, education and authority to participation, endorsements and relationships.  The tables have turned and the CEO, CFO and CIO are not the C-Suite that matters, rather consumers are the new C-Suite and brands must pay attention. Brands are learning to embrace ways to participate with them by sharing meaningful information that answers questions, solves problems and helps with decision-making.  The business professional who support PR 2.0 communication build better relationships, stronger communities and loyal customers for their brands.

Deirdre Breakenridge, President and Executive Director of Communications at Mango! Marketing, is a veteran in the PR industry. The author of four Financial Times books, “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations,” co-authored by Brian Solis and published in March 2009; “PR 2.0, New Media, New Tools, New Audiences,” “The New PR Toolkit” and “Cyberbranding: Brand Building in the Digital Economy.” During this interview she shares her knowledge of how communications is changing in our digital world and provides insight to businesses on how to manage and participate in PR 2.0 and social communications.