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Why Most CEOs & Entrepreneurs Fail?

Times are tough. The economy is in a constant state of upheaval. Is your company doing better than most? Are you placing greater emphasis on pure performance?

If you haven't maybe it's time for a serious round of intense corporate soul searching. But do you know how?

Business consultant Chet Holmes says that beyond pure financial performance, most companies can really benefit from finding out what it really means to be a great company.

And the answer lies within.

Holmes is a man who is heavily engaged in corporate introspection with Fortune 500 companies.

He is widely credited with bringing a consultant's passion for rigorous self assessment and performance measurement with him.

Now, however, Holmes is obsessed with more than just the numbers. He's saying that companies must examine the company's culture and inner workings to find ways to be more than just profitable.

He's discovered that the breakthroughs can be achieved only if you figure out how to can tap into the incredible treasure trove of knowledge, harness the energies and then channel the efforts of your employees to help you become great.

Just think, you may have invested millions in automated systems.

Have you any real idea how they are being used?

Ask the employees.

Your people may know how to make money for you, but are the procedures and processes based on intuition, personal and professional experience, and corporate memory? Can these systems be readily duplicated or transferred in the event of accidents, sickness or major changes in personnel?

Ask the employees.

"It's possible to become the world's most efficient, relentless, and competitive machine," says Holmes. "But you have to find out what your company is really doing."

How do you do that?

Ask the employees.

Holmes is regularly brought in to lead companies through a discussion to find out what this really means. He has mastered the processes needed to identify the changes needed to make a company better. His skills are in demand.

Usually, he gets permission to hold a series of strategy sessions. He starts by asking employees to tell the boss how the company is doing.

How are we doing?

Is the top management strategy on track? What are we doing right? What hurts? What needs fixing?

Holmes helps the company identify specific items that reveal the things that standing in the way of becoming a much better company.

"Even one process improvement meeting can give you six months of things to fix in your company," Holmes says.

Case in point: Too Many Exceptions to the Rule?"

In one company session one of the items that came up was a vague notion:

"Too many exceptions to the rule."

Holmes asked people for specific instances or situations where this occurs. In an hours time he facilitated creation of a list of specific examples to document what people meant.

The list revealed 19 different situations where this company had never bothered to create procedures, policies or standards by which people operate.

Turned out that very few people really had any concrete idea how things were done across the company. The shock and pain was deep and felt company wide.

Holmes then asked the very same people how to fix it or make it better:

"What can we do to make the pain go away?"

They used a whiteboard to capture all the brainstormed ideas. Then they focused on culling the list of possible actions until they came up with two viable correction strategies for each problem. Using consensus, they went for the reasonable solutions that could reduce the most pain first.

The employees worked with management and implemented the corrective actions until all the 19 problems were fixed within two weeks.

Some of the solutions involved simple form letters. Some involved putting up a section on their website where many of these questions were answered (the customer service people would then send an email with the link).

Some solutions required setting boundaries by which the customer service people could operate, even creating a tiered approach to what they could do. (Meaning, try this, if that doesn't work, do this, if that doesn't work do this, etc...)

Virtually every area where they once had to go to a supervisor was fixed, creating some standard operating procedure for people to refer to and follow that didn't involve the supervisor to the same extent.

The results were astonishing. The entire company runs better now. In two weeks, they solved problems the company had had for a decade.

Many of the problems went all the way up to the president of the company. And when they solved all these problems, it lightened his load, and that of his direct reports, very significantly.

One major benefit was that top management was free to work on more important things.

Case In Point: Lead Generation

Holmes guides companies through process improvement on other pressing business development needs, including lead generation.

One initiative showed just how powerful a process improvement can be.

The first session initiated a discussion that resulted in ideas to drive lead generation. The employees also decided it would be beneficial to tune up communication pieces.

They decided to meet once a week for one hour to work on process improvement.

Next meeting, they looked at how prospects and customers interact with the company.

They identified all possible interfaces and zeroed in on the first point of contact. Whenever a prospect touches the company via the web, email, phone call, personal interaction or whatever they took each area and asked the simple question,

"What would make this more potent?"

The employees worked their way through the complete sales process.

The issues that resulted focused on:

"How can they establish quick rapport?" "How can they build even more rapport?" "How much do they learn about the prospect?" "How do they create desire?"

A couple of meetings later they decided to looked at how they close the sale.

The employees identified and worked through the issues:

"What could we offer to sweeten the deal?" "How many different ways could we cost justify?" "How could we make it so it was painful NOT to buy?" "Could we offer risk-reversal at the point of sale?"

But they weren't done there-They were so enthused they wanted to look at what happens after the sale is made. So they developed more issues:

"What is the follow up?" "What else can we offer?" "How can we get something going that creates an annuity?"

Holmes said, "Over a five month period, every aspect of the sales process was examined and systematically improved. They totally re-invented the entire sales process."

Before the process improvement sessions the company was getting one sale for every 100 internet leads After the sessions that changed to six sales out of 50 leads.

One year after the process improvement effort the Internet had become their primary source of prospects and sales.

Working On The Business

We've all heard the saying: "work ON the business not just IN the business." Here's how you work ON it:

You have to ask people three questions:

Where's the pain? What needs to be fixed? What can we do to fix it?

Process improvement can be a very profound and beneficial experience for your company.

"However, the most difficult task may for you to let your people speak freely and let them tell you what they think. You have to resist the desire to tell them what you think."

Many companies have never asked their staff "what's broken?"

Holmes warns however, "Top management has to be prepared to deal with difficult responses without retribution. Ask these questions and the employees will tell you.

But you have to be willing to respond with care, sensitivity, and immunity.

Employees will remain loyal and enthused only if the CEO and management demonstrates respect, integrity, honesty, and forthrightness through the process."

Externally, the company profits and earnings determine the company's net worth.

Internally, it's an achievement when employees can say "I believe in my company and they believe in me and that's why I'm proud to be an employee."

It's pretty difficult for companies to manage process improvement without professional help. Having a trained improvement specialist will help make sure that no one can get hurt by what they say and no one will be made to feel stupid or intimidated.

The ideas matter, not who says them. Give people time to think and write some notes before they share their ideas. Capture ideas but not who says them. That way you'll get way better quality answers.

"If you have a good staff, the only thing the CEO needs to bring to a meeting is his good judgment and the willingness to see things through the eyes of the employees."

"When you do process improvement, for management it's KMS Time (Keep Mouth Shut). It may be difficult but you have to stop talking and listen carefully. You have to let the data tell you what's happening.

Your people will fill you with valuable information and ideas on how to fix problems you didn't even know existed, and lead you to unimagined profits, if only you let them."

Chet Holmes is President of Jordan Productions, an international multimedia firm that helps companies accelerate growth.

Chet Holmes doubled the sales of every company given to him as a line executive working for billionaire Charlie Munger. He has conducted training for more than 50 Fortune 500 and other prestigious companies and is author of The Mega Marketing & Sales Training Program, Business Growth Masters Series and Guerrilla Marketing Meets Karate Master.

For more information visit www.howtodoublesales.com

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