Amazing Partners!

August 18th, 2014 No Comments   Posted in Business Growth, Business Stories

handshake 300x110 Amazing Partners!George Santos, a Managing Director with Colliers International in Columbia Maryland has little left to prove. A superb and accomplished commercial real estate expert, he has been an award-winning, top producer for years. Yet 15 months ago he made an incredible partnership offer to  23 year old, just-started in real estate, Ryan Miller. George, have you lost your marbles?

Not a bit. With the exception of a few years and a few pounds, George and Ryan have a great deal in common: good manners, squeaky clean ethics, commitment to family, friends and community and an unstoppable work ethic – these guys want to DOMINATE and the scary thing is they believe they can do it and they ARE doing it!

Okay, so far so good but tell us more. “Everybody has strengths and weaknesses and with the world changing there were 3 things I really wanted in a young partner:  strong relationship-building skills, expertise to make full use of social media and someone who is really organized and efficient because that’s not my strength. Ryan has all 3 of these things in spades. He genuinely cares about other people, constantly introduces us to new people, works smart and hard, does all the background research and schedules all of our meetings.”

So, why did 23 year old Ryan want to do this? “I have a lot to learn to become an expert in commercial real estate and wanted to work closely with a top broker who really loves the business. My goal is to gain knowledge and experience the next few years, for the two of us to build a dominating business together and when George retires, keep the business growing by developing the next generation.”

How do they differentiate themselves from competitors? “We are all about what can we do for YOU, not us.” says George. And Ryan adds “we love making prospect introductions for our Clients and with our growing network can make a real difference.” And, we are truly a local, full-service group with subject matter experts in every area of real estate right down the hall.”

I wouldn’t want to compete with these guys, would you?

Garbage in…

April 14th, 2014 No Comments   Posted in Business Growth, Business Stories

finacial statements Garbage in…Financial information can be invaluable as input to decisions when it is accurate and timely. And the reverse is true: inaccurate and/or untimely financial information can lead to terrible decisions.

Here are 3 common problems I’ve seen over years of reviewing financial statements. It’s well worth the effort to get these right:

  • Gross Profit calculation: it’s common to not include all of the direct costs required to deliver a product or service. Often, direct labor is missing – and lumped in with other payroll – or understated. The loss of quality Gross Profit information can lead to underpricing, hiding productivity challenges and making poor prioritization decisions.
  • Project costs: real time or daily time tracking by person by project is the only accurate way to capture hours actually spent. Many companies require this information weekly, or worse, monthly. I can barely remember what I did this morning let alone last week so why is it okay to do this? Inaccurate information may lead you to make poor decisions and/or deceive your customers. Not a good path to follow.
  • Liability recognition: all material liabilities belong on the Balance Sheet. A no-brainer, right? Well, creative thinkers are all around us and any auditor can tell you stories of liabilities that someone rationalized as not being necessary to recognize. Strictly internal statements damage only you but as soon as you share them with banks, investors, partners and government, you are risking more.

You don’t have to be an accountant to use common sense to get these processes where they need to be.

Demand accurate accounting….. and grow!


Hero Marketing

marketing zero to hero Hero MarketingMy marketing strategy has served me well for many years. It requires a great deal of constant effort but it is surprisingly effective, professionally satisfying and requires only a small annual marketing budget. But despite recommending it to countless others, there have been few takers. Do you want to pound it out vs. competitors or stake out new ground? Your choice.

There are many volunteers who lend their time, attention and experience to worthy industry causes via board and committee participation. A subset of these enjoy high visibility. Fewer still position themselves as authentic and legitimate industry champions – that’s where the benefits are much greater!

Here’s how to become a local, regional or national industry champion:

  • Select an industry whose members are excellent prospects for your business so that your business will thrive as you seek to deliver value
  • Adopt and retain an attitude that “failure is not an option”
  • Become a subject matter expert on that industry over time by staying abreast of key trends and by speaking with industry players
    • The more expert you become, the more opportunities you’ll have for public speaking and writing and being approached to provide guidance
  • Investigate leading trade groups to find one that would make the best platform for your efforts
    • The best fit for you may not be the strongest organization but rather one with weaknesses that need fixing – be a fixer!
  • Commit to helping that trade group improve its results in a high priority area making sure that you receive high visibility to members by doing so
  • As you travel this journey, build relationships with valuable movers and shakers so that you will be able to not only tell prospects that you are working hard on their behalf but can introduce them to valuable new relationships

In a “what’s in it for me” world, be a Hero to others and thrive!

Don’t Waste Time

time hands 300x207 Don’t Waste TimeToo much time on your hands? Yeah right. You’re swamped, aren’t you? Wouldn’t it be great to bring down the noise a few notches and take control of your day again? Here are 3 of my all-time favorite time-management techniques distilled into just a few key points. Try them and you will be stunned at how much better things can be.

  • Establish a healthy work/life balance and keep it simple:
  • Produce outcomes using operational best practices
    • accumulate, prioritize, estimate time required for all potential and in-process tasks and projects in only 1 place
    • build/update your production schedule frequently
    • before starting an action item, determine the fastest way to accomplish it
    • perform difficult work during time periods when you have the most energy
  • Embrace efficiency with zest and passion
    • we are human beings, not robots, after all and when we enjoy things we are far more likely to stay the course so don’t be half pregnant
    • celebrate your ability to get things done faster
    • have fun figuring out shortcuts that work well
    • when “good enough” is called for, don’t waste your “perfection” efforts

If you’ll excuse me, I have results to produce by 5pm today. Thanks for quickly stopping by…

The Referrals Most People Only Dream About

PassingReferrals The Referrals Most People Only Dream AboutMy favorite referrals come from clients and colleagues with whom I enjoy a mutual admiration and who know WHAT I do, WHO I specialize in helping, HOW I do it and WHY I’m a great option – Way beyond the call of duty. Few business people have a small army promoting them and I believe it’s because of a lack of understanding of how to generate these wonderfully fulfilling relationships. They think that by promoting themselves that word will get around about how great they are and that quality referrals will come flying – Strategic, Maybe Not.

I’ve found that what works far better to generate very high quality referrals is to deeply understand and be able to articulate the value of selected others well – Give and Give and Give some More. You’ll find that when you support the right people, far better results occur for you.

Here’s how to accelerate your movement down this far more satisfying and rewarding path:

  • Commit to all out/pedal-to-the-metal improvement. Don’t be half pregnant!
  • Identify quality companies whose offerings are closely complementary to yours and who serve the same market
  • Meet with them and learn a lot about what they do and what makes them great
  • Gently, in the right circumstance, demonstrate – without even saying it – what makes you great
  • Actively make an effort to make good things happen for them

In the 1950s, Don and Phil Everly recorded “All I have to do is Dream.” 60 years, all you have to do is stop networking, start collaborating.

Maryland’s Next Governor is…

growth Maryland’s Next Governor is…… someone who recognizes that high-paying job growth is the #1 success factor to ensure that Maryland’s economy thrives for years to come and deliver the high quality of living that we have all come to expect. We can send more kids to college but without high-paying job growth they will not be able to find quality jobs here. Even essential infrastructure spending (bridge repair) will continue to decline as cash flow to meet needs becomes a scarcer commodity.

In my view, the next Governor and his/her Administration will be well served to embrace the work of the Maryland Competitiveness Coalition led by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce (http://tinyurl.com/lng3pnt). Here are 3 of the biggest challenges we face today in Maryland:

  • 1/3rd of Maryland’s economy relies on the Federal Government which is reducing work and squeezing margins out of contractors. We have disproportionately benefited from Federal dollars for decades and will continue to enjoy some benefits but cannot count on the Federal government to such a great extent going forward
  • Maryland has already “exported” $7.4B of high paying jobs over the past 10 years and increased employment only through low wage gains. This is a significant erosion of not only our tax base but also impacts local consumption spending and even charitable giving
  • Regional, national and global competition is bigger, stronger and getting better and will continue to make gains at our expense unless we compete more effectively. It should be no surprise that Maryland has few large corporations headquartered here and many high potential companies sell to out of state acquirers.

The high-paying jobs of the future are primarily in the innovation industries including cybersecurity, healthcare IT, big data analytics and mobile devices.

I’m excited at the thought of the next Governor of Maryland leading smart public/private initiatives to facilitate job creation where it will do the most good.

An old saying in business is that strong sales cures a lot of problems. The same is true for Maryland’s economy.

Growing sales is the only viable way forward. Thank you for listening, Governor!

Competitive Edge: 1776

 Competitive Edge: 1776You probably know that the Revolutionary War would have ended badly if not for the support of England’s archenemy, the French. But did you know that the Culper Spy ring created by George Washington 2 years after the 1776 capture and hanging of Nathan Hale was another essential element in our success? I didn’t until reading historian Alexander Rose’s remarkable book “Washington’s Spies: the Story of America’s First Spy ring.”

The outcome of many events throughout history have turned on what might appear on the surface to be relatively small factors and our Revolution is no exception. After barely surviving the battle for control of New York, Washington, a superior battlefield tactician, realized that he could not prevail head-to-head with the bigger, better British forces and needed an edge. That edge turned out to be superior intelligence.  And it required only a few people to execute it.

We owe a great debt to Major Benjamin Tallmadge, Abraham Woodhull, Robert Townsend, Caleb Brewster, Austin Roe, James Rivington and a woman known only to this day as Agent 355. Using what would today be considered rudimentary spycraft methods, they endured the constant fear of likely capture while collecting, transporting and delivering information valuable to Washington.

Their accomplishments included uncovering British plans in 1780 to ambush the just-landed French army in Rhode Island in time to avert disaster and obtaining a copy of British naval signals that enabled the French fleet to outmaneuver Cornwallis and force his surrender at Yorktown VA. No other intelligence group accomplished more on either side of this war.

A story with “wow” written all over it.

Between Visits to the Dentist

smile Between Visits to the Dentist

When you have time to sit back and think about who you spend your time with, ask yourself “who makes you smile?” Who are the employees, customers, vendors, colleagues, mentors, mentees that provide an enjoyable experience? Chances are there are common reasons why: shared values, shared experiences, common goals and mutual respect. Sometimes people make us smile because we learn from them. That counts too.

And for those who don’t make you smile, some of these benefits are probably lacking.

Armed with this information, do these 3 things and make your business life even more rewarding:

  • Spend more time with your smile team
  • Spend less time with folks who don’t make the list
  • Find new “smile makers” and add them to your list

I’m convinced that we experience the greatest success when we spend our time with folks we enjoy.

As you collaborate your way through the week (stop networking. Start collaborating), stay tuned for like-minded others.

Yes, you have fierce competition and have to work very hard to succeed. The good news is that you can do this surrounded by people you really enjoy.

That’s why I’m sitting here looking at my schedule for the week and can’t wait to be with each and every person listed.

Are you here for business or pleasure? Both!

The World is Flat, Don’t get Pancaked!

flatworld 300x156 The World is Flat, Don’t get Pancaked!Blink your eyes – 9 years have already elapsed since Wall Street Journal columnist Thomas Friedman wrote about globalization and the 10 “flatteners” that are changing how business is done in his best-selling book “The World is Flat.”

Blink your eyes again – imagine its 9 years in the future and ask yourself:

  • How well has my company monitored and responded to change over the past 9 years?
  • What changes were inevitably coming and how well did we respond to maintain or improve our strategic advantages?
  • What changes caught my business completely by surprise and required scrambling to adapt to?

In a flattening world, the margin of error is shrinking – your business can absorb fewer mistakes than 9 years ago – without serious damage.

Constant vigilance – being a real time subject matter expert on your industry, its trends, direct and indirect competition – is critical to achieve great success.

Pay closer attention because 9 years from now, you’ll be thrilling or grilling

The Mad Scientist Within

mad scientist The Mad Scientist Within“Good morning Vietnam!” belted out Robin Williams in the role of base radio announcer in the movie of the same name. His boss wanted him to follow strict rules of conduct but he just couldn’t help himself. The mad scientist within couldn’t hold back.

Every one of us has a mad scientist within, a conjurer with untapped abilities to contribute in bigger and better ways. Many people do not do the best job of cultivating this mad genius because they are afraid of how others will perceive them and frankly with good reason. Those who are trapped in “norms” and hardened ideas about what is and isn’t acceptable can be harsh judges of those who express new, innovative approaches.

But please, don’t be suppressed. Don’t hold back. Life is scary short. Don’t you want to bounce out of bed in the a.m. and go do something special, make a meaningful difference? Who cares if Ms. Stuffed Shirt or Mr. Know-it-all discount you, your ideas or what you are doing?

Dismiss dismissive people. Ask “how” not “why not” and persevere with your crazy notions. Don’t let others dictate your direction. Create the better world the way you want it to be.

Don’t be lulled into complacency. The world is alive with opportunities to shine and YOU can play a role in that.

Nurture the mad scientist within. The world will be a far better place for it and you will smile much more often.



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