The Five Principles Performance


Much of success is about performance. It’s about what we do and what we are able to inspire others to do. There are some simple performance principles I have learned in my life, and I want to share them with you.  They really bring success, and what it takes to be successful, into sharp focus. They are also the basis for developing and maintaining an expectation of success.

The Five Principles of Performance

1. We generally get from ourselves and others what we expect. It is a huge fact that you will either live up or down to your own expectations. If you expect to lose, you will. If you expect to be average, you will be average. If you expect to feel bad, you probably will. If you expect to feel great, nothing will slow you down. And what is true for you is true for others. Your expectations for others will become what they deliver and achieve. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

2. The difference between good and excellent companies is training. The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is to not train them and keep them! A football team would not be very successful if they did not train, practice, and prepare for their opponents. When you think of training as practice and preparation, it makes you wonder how businesses survive that do not make significant training investments in their people.

Actually, companies that do not train their people and invest in their ability don’t last. They operate from a competitive disadvantage and are eventually gobbled up and defeated in the marketplace. If you want to improve and move from good to excellent, a good training strategy will be the key to success.

3. You find what you look for in life. If you look for the good things in life, you will find them. If you look for opportunities to grow and prosper, you will find them. If you look for positive, enthusiastic friends and associates who will support you, you will find them. On the other hand, if you look for ways to cheat, you will cheat. If you look for ways to justify leaving your spouse, you will find them. If you look for justifiable reasons to hold a grudge against another person, you will find those, too. It is a natural tendency of us all to look for things that will justify what we think we need or want. If you are not living by the foundation stones of honesty, character, integrity, faith, love, and loyalty, you will be drawn to seeking selfish gratification, and that leads to misery and unfulfilled dreams. Whatever you have will never be enough. Always look for the good and for ways to help others. 

4. Never make a promise without a plan. Far too many people make promises they can never keep. They may have the best intentions in the world to keep their promise, but if they have not made a plan to keep it, they will not be able to do it. Business leaders who make promises to their employees will not honor them if they do not create a plan on how the promises will be kept. If you make a future commitment, you must understand and be willing to do whatever it takes to complete that commitment. One of the reasons marriage commitments fail so frequently is because the husband and wife do not understand what it takes to have a great marriage. They do not plan for or understand the sacrifices each must make for the other to enable a long-lasting relationship.

5. Happiness, joy, and gratitude are universal if we know what to look for. I believe you can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want. All people want happiness and joy in their life, but you have to know what produces real happiness and how to do the things that produce it. The moment you begin to worry about the things you want and the things you don’t have in life is the moment you will lose your gratitude for what you actually have. If you are ungrateful, you will never be satisfied or content or joyful about your life. The greatest source of happiness is the ability to be grateful at all times.

The Right Attitude 

Obviously, the right attitude to expect the best in your life is a positive attitude. But I want to be very clear that the kind of positive attitude I describe is not one that is contrived or falsely manufactured to impress or manipulate others. The positive attitude I talk about is one that you are filled with, and when you are jostled, it just spills out! What I’m saying is that a genuinely positive attitude is part of who you are at your core.

If you have a bad attitude, it is a reflection of who you are, as well. It’s a “heart condition,” and to get rid of that bad attitude, you need a change of heart. I would be remiss if I did not encourage you by saying that God is the most amazing heart surgeon available to us all. He does not just repair a bad heart; He can give you a new one that your body will not reject. The new heart He provides will produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in your life. When you have those characteristics and qualities in your life, you will be rightfully positioned to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are truly born to win.

Zig Ziglar was known as America’s Motivator.  He authored 32 books and produced numerous training programs.  He will be remembered as a man who lived out his faith daily.


The 75 KPIs Every Manager Needs To Know



The 75 KPIs Every Manager Needs To Know

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be the vital navigation instruments used by managers and leaders to understand whether they are on course to success or not. The right set of KPIs will shine light on performance and highlight areas that need attention. Without the right KPIs managers are flying blind, a bit like a pilot without instruments.

The problem is that most companies collect and report a vast amount of everything that is easy to measure and as a consequence their managers end up drowning in data while thirsting for insights.

Effective managers understand the key performance dimensions of their business by distilling them down into the critical KPIs. This is a bit like a doctor who takes measures such as heart rate, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood tests to check the health of their patients.

In order to identify the right KPIs for any business it is important to be clear about the objectives and strategic directions. Remember, navigation instruments are only useful if we know where we want to go. Therefore, first define the strategy and then closely link our KPIs to the objectives.

I believe KPIs have to be developed uniquely to fit the information needs of a company. However, what I have leant over many years of helping companies and government organizations with their performance management and business intelligence is that there are some important (and innovative) KPIs everyone should know about. They will give you a solid base of knowledge. However, there will be other, more specialized measures designed for your specific strategy or industry context. Take for example the network performance KPIs for a telecom operator or the quality indicators for healthcare providers. These will have to be included in your list of KPIs but will not be found in the list below, at least not in their industry-specific format.

The list of 75 KPIs includes the metrics I consider the most important and informative and they make a good starting point for the development of a performance management system. Before we look at the list I would like to express an important warning: Don’t just pick all 75 – You don’t need or indeed should have all 75 KPIs. Instead, by understanding these 75 KPIs you will be able to pick the vital few meaningful indicators that are relevant for your business. Finally, the KPIs should then be used (and owned) by everyone in the business to inform decision-making (and not as mindless reporting references or as ‘carrot & stick tools’).

To measure financial performance:

1. Net Profit

2. Net Profit Margin

3. Gross Profit Margin

4. Operating Profit Margin


6. Revenue Growth Rate

7. Total Shareholder Return (TSR)

8. Economic Value Added (EVA)

9. Return on Investment (ROI)

10. Return on Capital Employed (ROCE)

11. Return on Assets (ROA)

12. Return on Equity (ROE)

13. Debt-to-Equity (D/E) Ratio

14. Cash Conversion Cycle (CCC)

15. Working Capital Ratio

16. Operating Expense Ratio (OER)

17. CAPEX to Sales Ratio

18. Price Earnings Ratio (P/E Ratio)

To understand your customers:

19. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

20. Customer Retention Rate

21. Customer Satisfaction Index

22. Customer Profitability Score

23. Customer Lifetime Value

24. Customer Turnover Rate

25. Customer Engagement

26. Customer Complaints

To gauge your market and marketing efforts:

27. Market Growth Rate

28. Market Share

29. Brand Equity

30. Cost per Lead

31. Conversion Rate

32. Search Engine Rankings (by keyword) and click-through rate

33. Page Views and Bounce Rate

34. Customer Online Engagement Level

35. Online Share of Voice (OSOV)

36. Social Networking Footprint

37. Klout Score

To measure your operational performance:

38. Six Sigma Level

39. Capacity Utilisation Rate (CUR)

40. Process Waste Level

41. Order Fulfilment Cycle Time

42. Delivery In Full, On Time (DIFOT) Rate

43. Inventory Shrinkage Rate (ISR)

44. Project Schedule Variance (PSV)

45. Project Cost Variance (PCV)

46. Earned Value (EV) Metric

47. Innovation Pipeline Strength (IPS)

48. Return on Innovation Investment (ROI2)

49. Time to Market

50. First Pass Yield (FPY)

51. Rework Level

52. Quality Index

53. Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

54. Process or Machine Downtime Level

55. First Contact Resolution (FCR)

To understand your employees and their performance:

56. Human Capital Value Added (HCVA)

57. Revenue Per Employee

58. Employee Satisfaction Index

59. Employee Engagement Level

60. Staff Advocacy Score

61. Employee Churn Rate

62. Average Employee Tenure

63. Absenteeism Bradford Factor

64. 360-Degree Feedback Score

65. Salary Competitiveness Ratio (SCR)

66. Time to Hire

67. Training Return on Investment

To measure your environmental and social sustainability performance:

68. Carbon Footprint

69. Water Footprint

70. Energy Consumption

71. Saving Levels Due to Conservation and Improvement Efforts

72. Supply Chain Miles

73. Waste Reduction Rate

74. Waste Recycling Rate

75. Product Recycling Rate

What do you think? Do you find this list useful? Are there others you would add? Or do you have wider comments on KPIs and how they are used?


Bernard Marr
Best-Selling Author and Enterprise Performance Expert

The Six Most Important Business Lessons From All of History



The Six Most Important Business Lessons From All of History

A few years ago, I decided to explore the outer limits of information overload. I decided to read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover.

There were several reasons for this: First, my dad read the encyclopedia when I was a kid. Second, I love the notion of climbing mountains, but hate cold weather and lack of oxygen, so I figured this could serve as my intellectual Mount Everest. And third, it was my job. I had landed a contract to write a book about my quest. (The book is called The Know-It-All).

It was a strange and fascinating 18-month experience. Yes, painful at times, especially for those around me (my wife started to fine me one dollar for every irrelevant fact). Yes, I’ve forgotten most of what I read.

But still, I loved my 33,000-page experiment in extreme learning. Here I present some of my favorite business lessons from all of history:

1) Engage in Strategic Chutzpah

Barely any of the historical figures I read about got their big break while staying at home in their drawing rooms. They were bold. They got out. One of my favorite networking stories involves the poet Langston Hughes when he was a busboy at a hotel in Washington D.C. While in the dining room, he slipped three of his poems beside the dinner plate of established poet Vachel Lindsay. The next day, newspapers announced Lindsay had discovered a busboy poet. Hughes refused to let his dreams be deferred. In other words, he was ballsy. He engaged in strategic chutzpah (a phrase I will write about in more depth in a future column).

2) Take Ideas from Far Outside Your Field

For much of his life, Isaac Newton was a respected scientist with the then-traditional mechanistic view: the universe worked much like billiard balls colliding.

But in the 1670s, he became obsessed with occult books about alchemy and magic. He read about substances having mysterious sympathies and antipathies towards one another, forces that could affect something even without touching it.

His fellow scientists were likely concerned about his sanity. But these occult books allowed Newton to take an intellectual leap. This was his real apple. The idea of magical forces inspired him to envision forces of attraction that worked at a distance. It was a breakthrough that led to his theory of universal gravity.

Bill Gates famously takes a reading vacation where he devours books on wildly different topics to see what ideas percolate. Be bold. Be like Gates and Newton: Read far outside your field.

3) Keep Presentations Short

Consider the Gettysburg Address. Despite being president of the United States, Lincoln wasn’t the featured speaker that day. The big attraction was a two-hour speech by Edward Everett, a former Massachusetts congressman and president of Harvard, who was considered the greatest orator of his time.

Poor Everett. He probably spent weeks working on his speech, tweaking it, trying it out on his wife. On the big day, he went up to the podium, gesticulated and exhorted for two straight hours, mopping his brow, finishing with a big rhetorical flourish. Then Lincoln goes up to the podium. Two minutes later, Lincoln steps down and Everett is a historical footnote, some guy who yammered on before the Gettysburg Address.

Two hours versus two minutes.

I’m a huge fan of in-depth analysis, but I find it works better in books or conversations. For live presentations, I prefer the TED-approved 20 minutes or less.

4) Embrace Rejection

Well, if not embrace it, at least expect it. History is overflowing with lifelong rejectees who persevered until they got that single yes. To give just one example: Chester Carlson, the inventor of the Xerox machine, was turned down by more than 20 companies before he finally sold his idea.

5) Being First Is Overrated

This is a lesson I don’t like. I value originality, perhaps fetishize it. But the truth is, you don’t always have to be first. You just have to be better.

Perhaps you think, as I did, that Hydrox was a lame ripoff of Oreos. Actually, Hydrox debuted in 1908 (it’s named for Hydrogen and Oxygen). In 1912, the National Biscuit Company tried their own version. It was sweeter (never underestimate Americans love of sugar). As you know, Hydrox became the MySpace and Oreo turned into the Facebook.

6) Adapt or Die

The word “pivot” may be trendy, but companies have been pivoting for centuries. Thomas Welch was a 19th-century minister who avidly opposed alcohol. In the 1860s, he created a pasteurized grape juice and called it “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine.” He wanted churches to use it in communion. It flopped.

A few years later, Welch’s son took over and abandoned the fake wine idea. He instead marketed the juice as, well, juice. A tasty and refreshing treat. And that is why, today, my sons love their juice boxes, despite their father’s insistence that it’s basically tooth-rotting sugar water.

The Britannica itself has had to adapt. In 2012, they stopped printing those lovely leatherish volumes and went fully online. They’ve been eclipsed by Wikipedia in terms of page views. But I hope they’ll have the tenacity of Chester Carlson and hang in there.


A.J. Jacobs
Author, Lecturer and Editor at Large at Esquire magazine

8 Steps for Engineering Leaders to Keep the Peace



8 Steps for Engineering Leaders to Keep the Peace

When starting a new product there’s always so much more you want to do than can be done. In early days this is where a ton of energy comes from in a new company — the feeling of whitespace and opportunity. Pretty soon though the need for prioritized lists and realities of resource/time constraints become all too real. Naturally the founder(s) (or your manager in a larger organization) and others push for more. And just as naturally, the engineering leader starts to feel the pressure and pushes back. All at once there is a push to do more and a pull to prioritize. What happens when “an unstoppable force meets an immovable object”, when the boss is pushing for more and the engineering leader is trying to prioritize?

I had a chance to talk to a couple of folks facing this challenge within early stage companies where a pattern emerges. The engineering leader is trying hard to build out the platform, improve quality, and focus more on details of design. The product-focused founder (or manager) is pushing to add features, change designs, and do that all sooner. There’s pushback between folks. The engineering leader was starting to worry if pushing back was good. The founder was starting to wonder if too much was being asked for. Some say this is a “natural” tension, but my feeling is tension is almost always counter-productive or at least unnecessary.

There’s no precise way to know the level of push or pushback as it isn’t something you can quantify. But it is critically important to avoid a situation that can result in a clash down the road, a loss of faith in leadership, or a let down by engineering.

As with any challenge that boils down to people, communication is the tool that is readily available to anyone. But not every communication style will work. Engineers and other analytical types fall into some common traps when trying to cope with the immense pressure of feeling accountable to get the right things done and meet shared goals:

# Setting expectations by always repeating “some of this won’t get done”.
This doesn’t help because it doesn’t add anything to the dialog as it is essentially a truism of any plan.

# Debating each idea aggressively.
This breaks down the collaborative nature of the relationship and can get in the way, even though analytical folks like to make sure important topics are debated.

#Acting in a passive aggressive manner and just tabling some inbound requests.
This is almost always a reaction to “overflow” like too much sand poured in a funnel—the challenge is just managing all the inbound requests. This doesn’t usually work because most ideas keep coming back.

What you can do is get ahead of the situation and be honest. A suggested approach is all about defining the characteristics of the role you each have and the potential points of “failure” in the relationship.

As the engineering leader, sit down with the founder (or your manager) and kick off a discussion that goes something like this as said from the perspective of the accountable engineering leader:

1. We both want the best product we can build, as fast as we can.

2. I share your enthusiasm for the creativity and contributions from you and everyone else.

3. My role is to provide an engineering cadence that delivers as much as we can, as soon as we can, with the level of quality and polish we can all be proud of.

4. We’ll work from a transparent plan and a process that decides what to get done.

5. As part of doing that, I’m going to sometimes feel like I end up saying “no” pretty often.

6. And even with that, you’re going to push to change or add more. And almost always we’ll agree that absent constraints those are good pushes. But I’m not working without constraints.

7. But what I worry about is that one day when things are not going perfectly (with the builds or sales) and you’ll start to worry that I’m an obstacle to getting more done sooner.

8. So right then and there, I’d like to come back to this conversation and make sure to walk through where we are and what we’re doing to recalibrate. I don’t want you to feel like I’m being too conservative or that our work to decide what to do in what order isn’t in sync with you.

That’s the basic idea. To get ahead of what is almost certainly to be a conversation down the road and to set up a framework to talk about the challenge that all engineering efforts have—getting enough done, soon enough.

Why is this so critical? Because if you’re not talking to each other, there’s a risk you’re talking about each other.

We all know that in a healthy organization bad news travels fast. Unfortunately, when the pressure is on or there’s a shared feeling of missing expectations often the first thing to go is the very communication that can help. When communication begins to break down there’s a risk trust will suffer.

When trust is reduced and unhealthy cycle potentially starts. The Engineering leader starts to feel a bit like an obstacle and might start over-committing or just reduce the voice of pragmatic concerns. The manager or founder might start to feel like the engineering leader is slowing progress and might start to work around him/her to influence the work list.

Regardless of how the efficacy of the relationship begins to weaken, there’s always room for adjustment and learning between the two of you. It just needs to start from a common understanding and a baseline to talk and communicate.

This is such a common challenge, that it is worth an ounce of prevention and an occasional booster conversation.


Steven Sinofsky
Andreessen Horowitz, Board Partner | Box, Advisor | Harvard Business School, EIR

7 Ways To Keep Your Employees Happy (And Working Really Hard)



7 Ways To Keep Your Employees Happy (And Working Really Hard)

It doesn’t matter what you build, invent or sell; your organization can’t move forward without people. CEOs, company founders and managers the world over know that keeping the teams beneath them moving forward together in harmony means the difference between winning and dying.

Prof. Leonard J. Glick, Professor of management and organizational development at Boston’s Northeastern University, teaches the art of motivating employees for a living. He let FORBES in on a few tips for entrepreneurs and managers looking to keep their people smiling and producing.

1. Build Ownership Among Your Crew

You’ve got to get employees to feel that they own the place, not just work there. “One of the principles of self-managed teams is to organize around a whole service or product,” Glick explained. In other words, make sure company personnel feel responsible for what the customer is buying.

One way to inspire that feeling is to have each member of a team become familiar with what other team members are doing, allowing them to bring their ideas for improvement to the table and have input in the whole process. If the roles are not too specialized, have your people rotate responsibilities from time to time. “It all contributes to a feeling of ‘it’s mine,’ and most people, when it’s theirs, don’t want to fail, don’t want to build poor quality and don’t want to dissatisfy the customer,” said Glick.

2. Trust Employees To Leave Their Comfort Zones

Few employees want to do one specific task over and over again until they quit or retire or die. Don’t be afraid to grant them new responsibilities—it will allow them to grow and become more confident in their abilities while making them feel more valuable to the organization.

Though managers might feel allowing their people to try new things presents a risk to productivity or places workers outside of their established place, it heads off other issues. “To me the bigger risk is having people get burnt out or bored,” explained Glick.

3. Keep Your Team Informed

Business leaders have a clearer perspective on the bigger picture than their employees do. It pays to tell those under you what’s going on. “Things that managers take for common knowledge about how things are going or what challenges are down the road or what new products are coming… they often don’t take the time to share that with their employees,” Glick said. Spreading the intel lets everyone in on the lay of theland and at the same time strengthens the feeling among workers that they are an important part of the organization.

4. Your Employees Are Adults—Treat Them Like It

In any business there is going to be bad news. Whether it’s to do with the company as a whole or an individual within the organization, employees need to be dealt with in a straightforward and respectable manner. “They can handle it, usually,” said Glick. If you choose to keep your people in the dark about trying times or issues, the fallout could be a serious pain in the neck. “The rumors are typically worse than reality. In the absence of knowledge people make things up.”

5. You’re The Boss. You May Have To Act Like It Sometimes (but be consistent)

Though this issue is affected by an organization’s overall culture, there are going to be times when you have to make a decision as a leader, despite whatever efforts you may have made to put yourself on equal footing with your personnel. “Ideally they have an open relationship but not necessarily are peers,” Glick said of the manager-employee relationship. “I think the worst thing is to pretend you’re peer… it’s the inconsistency, I think, which is the bigger problem.”

6. Money Matters (But Not As Much As You Think)

Compensation packages are a big deal when employees are hired, but once a deal has been struck the source of motivation tends to shift. “The motivation comes from the things I’ve been talking about—the challenge of the work, the purpose of the work, the opportunity to learn, the opportunity to contribute,” Glick explained.

When it comes to finding a salary that will allow your employees to feel they’re being paid fairly, don’t bend over backwards to lowball them. If you do, they will eventually find out and not be happy. “If the salary were open, is it defensible?”

7. Perks Matter (But Not As Much As You Think)

Some companies (we’re looking at you Google GOOG +0.96%) have received attention for offering lavish perks to their personnel – massages, free gourmet lunches, ping pong tables, childcare facilities – but, like money, these things tend to be less powerful motivators for workers than in-job challenges and the feeling of being a valuable part of a quality team that will recognize their contribution. A manager needs to understand that though those perks are great and release burdens from employees’ shoulders, they are not a substitute for prime sources of professional inspiration.

“I don’t think people work harder, work better because of those things,” said Glick. “It may make it easier for them to come to work, I understand that.”


Karsten Strauss, Forbes Staff
A journalist covering entrepreneurs, technology & business.

7 Simple Tips For Aspiring Social Entrepreneurs Who Want To Change The World



7 Simple Tips For Aspiring Social Entrepreneurs Who Want To Change The World

One in six people in the United States go to sleep hungry — that’s 50 million Americans. Social entrepreneur Adam Lowy found an innovative way to fight hunger and reduce food waste. Four years ago, the 26-year-old left a promising marketing career to establish Move for Hunger (M4H). Lowy was motivated to leave his job, where he felt his creativity was being under-utilized, after a few enlightening conversations with family members who work in the moving industry. Based in Neptune, N.J., M4H acts as a middle man by connecting relocation companies, residents, and food banks across the nation. The non-profit encourages moving companies to collect non-perishable foods from clients: items which might have otherwise been thrown away during the moving process, and deliver those items to food pantries in the local area.

Since it started in 2009, M4H has delivered 2 million pounds of food – roughly 1.7 million meals – to families across the nation. In 2012 alone, the organization raised $1.9 million in support and revenue, 28% came from fundraising events/sales, 68% of funds were generated in the form of food donations, and 4% in monetary donations. The majority of donations come from individuals using a partnering moving company to relocate, and the companies themselves are encouraged to make a onetime donation when they sign on to work with the organization.

I talked to Lowy about the growing success of M4H. He offered some useful tips on social entrepreneurship and how to make a real difference in the world:

1. Start off with a small scale experiment.
Before Lowy officially established M4H he spent a month working with his family’s moving company, collecting and delivering food to local pantries. During the 30-day period Lowy learned about the moving process, as M4H would eventually be a function of the larger operation. He discovered that people were more inclined to participate if they knew how dire the problem was. After working with just one moving company for one month he collected 300 pounds of food, Lowy was inspired to see what 1000s of companies could do. A low scale mock-operation, along with relevant research and calculations, can provide the confidence required to turn an idea into a reality.

2. Make it easy for donors to participate.
Ease of adoption is essential and has been a major selling point for M4H. Partnering moving companies spend no extra money or time to collect food items from clients. Additionally, M4H provides movers with boxes and stickers that are used to transport the donated food items. To date M4H has partnered with over 500 moving companies and 1,500 real estate professionals, with plans to work with 750 moving companies by the end of 2013. If you can create a partnership that requires participants to expend virtually no additional effort or money you are guaranteed more engagement.

3. Exploit what you know.
M4H makes it a priority to educate communities about hunger. In general, once individuals are aware of the prevalence of the issue they are motivated to participate. M4H has worked with food banks and moving companies in 46 states and 340 cities so far. Lowy grew up in Monmouth County, NJ, where Bruce Springsteen, Heather Locklear, and Bon Jovi have all called home. Many residents in Monmouth are surprised to learn that 125,000 people in their seemingly well-to-do county are actually struggling to find their next meal. “If we can educate people on a daily basis, let them know this number, we hope that they will take a step back and really take that opportunity to do something,” says Lowy.

4. Use data to make your point.
33 million hungry American adults can be an intangible and even uninspiring statistic. This summer M4H wanted to help their audience picture 33 million adults in more relatable terms; they used a simple info-graphic to convert this statistic, and many others, into a comprehensible piece of information. Since implementing the data campaign,Visualize Hunger (VH), M4H has seen a 10% increase in Facebook FB +0.21% likes and 8% increase in Twitter followers. Lowy adds, “Our VH campaign has provided an easy to understand look at hunger facing our nation – specifically during the summer months. Our content has been shared hundreds of times by individuals and other organizations sharing our space.”

5. Leverage strong connections.
Lowy’s family has been in the moving business for over 90 years, this has made his access to resources especially useful and convenient. He admits, “We’re no strangers to the business and definitely have some inside connections to get to the leaders of the industry pretty easily.” M4H has built a successful model, but also a strong board of directors. Lowy says he was able to attract many of his first partners by strategically aligning himself with leaders of the moving industry. Patricia McLaughlin, executive director of Illinois Movers and Warehousemen’s Association and chair of the National Council of Moving Associations, was one of the first to join the board and continues to serve on the board today.

6. Build a lean but multi-talented team.
Lowy works with just five other staff members and a few interns, who are all under the age of 30. He insists that it is just a coincidence that M4H is fueled by 20-somethings, but acknowledges that hiring a talented group has allowed him to maintain a lean team and minimize administrative costs. Jason Taetsch, Public Relations Director at M4H, handles website maintenance, in addition to typical PR duties. He taught himself HTML on the job and now is the unofficial head of IT at the office. Employees who have skills and expertise in more than one area will be invaluable to your organization, and your budget

7. Make it fun.
Most non-profits target established corporations or members of higher income brackets for fundraising. M4H takes a significantly different approach by organizing upbeat events that appeal to a wider audience. For example, the organization hosted an Electric Yoga Experience where over 500 yogis gathered in the name of hunger relief. The unique event featured aerial performers, a light show, and culminated with a zumba dance party, the ticket proceeds and sponsorship fees went towards M4H. It can be very beneficial to expand beyond typical programming and reach out to individuals outside of traditional markets.


Prerna Sinha, Forbes Staff
I cover the profits and perils of noncommercial endeavors

35 Questions That Will Change Your Life



35 Questions That Will Change Your Life

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” – Voltaire

“We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.” – Carl Sagan

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

As I turn 35 and think of my life so far and what’s to come, I realize how much I’m shaped by the questions I ask. I’ve always been insatiably curious. These are the 35 questions that have made the biggest impact on my life.


What are you pretending not to know?
This was perhaps the most powerful question I was ever asked (by my best friend @bengleib). All possibilities open up when we stop deceiving ourselves.

Why don’t you do the things you know you should be doing?
Life isn’t about figuring out what to do. The real challenge is (not so) simply doing the things we know we should be doing.

What are your values and are you being true to them?
Write down the 3 most important aspects of each of these areas: family, romantic relationships, friends, work, health, sex and spirituality. These are your values. When we don’t act congruently with what we value, symptoms of discomfort arise.

In what ways are you being perceived, that you’re not aware of? ­
Perception is reality. Make sure, for better or worse, you know what people really think of you. (TIP: Watch “How to Persuade People”)

What don’t you know, that you don’t know?
It’s always the obstacles that we don’t even see coming that are the biggest challenges in life. Get in the habit of asking people that have been there and done it before for guidance.

Happiness / Peace of Mind

Are your “shoulds” getting in the way of your happiness?
The desires of our ego are often in conflict with the emotions of our heart. You’ll always have what you want, if you want what you have.

If you achieved all of your life’s goals how would you feel?
How can you feel that along the way?
The discipline of delayed gratification is one of the most powerful habits of successful individuals. But most actions we take are meant to elicit an emotion in the now. We’re happier striving for our goals when we let ourselves feel that which we want to feel when our outcome is achieved.

What did I learn today?
Who did I love? What made me laugh?
I try and ask myself these 3 questions at the end of each day. Regardless of anything else that happens, if you learned something new, loved a good person and got to laugh heartily, it was a day worth having and remembering.


If you weren’t scared what would you do?
Use the rocking chair test.
What would your 90-year-old self, looking back on your own life, advise you to do in the moment?

If you were dying, would you worry about this?
We so easily lose perspective on what takes up our energy and focus. We’re all dying. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of this to enjoy living. (TIP: Read “The Last Lecture” and “Tuesdays with Morrie”)

Should you be focused on today or tomorrow?
Savor the present but don’t forget your future. Life is a balance of knowing when to enjoy the moment vs. when to plant seeds for tomorrow’s harvest.

Influence / Achievement

Why not? What would happen if…?
Don’t accept that things just are the way they are. Question why something can’t be done. And when you get pushback to these questions, reframe the negative answers with possibilities. (TIP: Watch “Steve Job’s Vision of the World”)

What/Who did you make better today?
The way to measure your worth may just be to give more than you take. Asking what/who you made better each day is a simple litmus test we can all measure ourselves by.

What do you want your life to be in 5 years?
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there – Lewis Carroll. Write down 5-year goals. They’re close enough to grasp for, yet far off enough to achieve almost anything.

What can you do today to improve?
Consistent, incremental improvement is the secret to achieving the greatest of feats.

Business / Entrepreneurship

What’s your WHY?
If you have a big enough WHY you’ll always figure out the What and the How. If you don’t have a BIG WHY, you’ll always use the What and the How as an excuse for not doing that thing you said you were going to do. (Watch “What’s Your Why”)

What’s the one most important thing to get done today/ this week/month?
Write this down on a Post-it note at the beginning of each day/week, and hold yourself accountable for completing this above all other Stuff To Do.

What questions must you consider before starting a business?
See my list by watching “The 10 Questions” or reading the document.

What’s the potential upside?
What’s the effort involved?
What’s the likelihood of success?
What’s the strategic value?
This is the framework I came up with 3 years ago on “How to Make the Right Business Decisions”. Whenever there is an opportunity cost, I have my team go through this exercise.

What are we talking about?
What problem are we solving?
I try to start off every meeting by putting this on the whiteboard. In group settings we too often we find ourselves having completely different conversations. Sometimes when answers are difficult to come by, it’s helpful to question if we’re solving for the right problem.

Can you get it done now?
If something is important or urgent and you can get it done now, do it. (TIP: Read “Getting Things Done” from the productivity guru David Allen)

What do you need to make it happen?
This is one of my favorite questions to ask as a manager. It creates ownership to make sure the goals will be achieved. And it creates a shared responsibility to provide the resources required (time, money, talent, etc.) to achieve those goals.

If we could wave a magic wand and do anything together, what would that look like?
I use this question all the time with potential business partners. By removing the perceived constraints that bind us and focusing on mutually desired outcomes, we often discover new pathways of possibility.

How would your role models act and carry themselves?
Act as if. Act as if you have the experience, wisdom and swagger of your role model, and you’ll often find even the most unchartered of situations more navigable.

When can we meet?
We’re often this one question away from engaging with someone who can open up limitless avenues of possibility. The most important aspect of business is still to always get it done in person. (TIP: Read “Business Development Advice”)

Will you be my mentor?
It’s one question that, when asked in earnest, almost nobody will turn down. Reach out to a person in a position and industry you admire, and ask them if you can take them to coffee and hear about how they got there.

What will I only know about you after we’ve worked together for a year?
This interview question comes from the awesome Wendy Lea (CEO, GetSatisfaction). This may be the best interview question I’ve ever heard. (Watch “Fireside Chat with Wendy Lea” and check out my previous 8 Awesome Interview Questions)

What would get you interested in our product/service?
Selling is the art of asking good questions, listening, and matching your value to people’s needs. Sales is very easy when others explain what they want and need from you. (Watch “The 5 Step Sales Process”)


What else?
Such a simple but powerful question with so may applications.

Now share yours. What are the questions that made the biggest difference in your life? Comments encouraged.


Jason Nazar, Contributor
I run Docstoc and write about entrepreneurship

Four Areas Where Senior Leaders Should Focus Their Attention


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Four Areas Where Senior Leaders Should Focus Their Attention

It was getting close to lunch time and the people seated around the table — the CEO and seven of his direct reports — were clearly getting antsy. But it wasn’t because they were hungry. In fact, they’d been eating snacks all morning, mostly out of boredom.

The COO was at the front of the room, talking through slides projected on a screen. The conversation was primarily one way, with the COO explaining and, when necessary, defending his work.

Finally, when we broke for lunch, the CEO took me aside and told me what we all already knew: “This is a waste of time.”

When you bring a senior leadership group together in a room, it’s a massive commitment of resources. The hotel and food are the least of it. Even the consultant, if you’re using one, is a negligible cost compared to the investment of monopolizing the focus of seven or eight highly compensated, time-starved leaders.

Yet how often do those meetings consist of one presentation after the next, while the executives listen numbly or answer emails under the table? How often does the conversation involve everything but the big issues that need executive attention?

With all that brainpower around the table, the focus of a senior meeting needs to be conversation, controversy, even conflict — not updates. Leaders should never sit and read together. They should be engaging and struggling with the organization’s most critical and difficult-to-solve issues.

So how do you get there? By creating an environment in which leaders are real, vulnerable, and brave with each other. An environment in which they can expose their weaknesses, break through silos, and engage one another with challenging questions, thinking, and decisions.

My first rule for these meetings is no slide decks. As soon as someone projects slides onto a screen, the entire focus of the room shifts from each other to a single person (at best) or their smartphones (at worst). Neither is useful.

Once the no slide deck rule is established, the team needs to choose where to focus their attention. Which brings me to my second rule. When I run senior leadership meetings, I make sure we focus on four things:

1. Decisions that move the needle.
Don’t waste energy talking about expense reports when you should be talking about mergers and acquisitions or a new business line or a reorganization. Incremental improvements are the purview of lower levels of management. One of my clients, the CEO of a company with revenues of a billion dollars, likes to measure this is by the number of zeros involved. Are we talking about a $500,000 decision or a $5,000,000 decision? If there aren’t enough zeros, the decision isn’t strategic enough and shouldn’t absorb senior leadership time. Senior leadership should be focused on fundamentals, not incrementals.

2. The big arrow.
Think of your company as one big arrow that contains lots of little arrows — projects, businesses, clients, business deals. The big arrow is your company’s culture, strategic direction, core competencies, and core values. The CEO and his or her leadership team own that big arrow. The problem is that, often, the little arrows point in different directions as people solidify their silos, bicker amongst themselves, and neglect the larger mission. Senior leaders have the responsibility to make decisions and act in ways that break through silos and align everyone with the strategic and cultural direction of the company. That’s how they can ensure all the arrows will be shooting in the same direction.

3. The next level of leadership.
One of the most important roles of the most senior leaders is to engage the up-and-coming leaders, fostering their leadership and decision-making. That’s how a company grows. Talking about the next level of leadership, developing succession plans, pushing decisions to that level, including them in strategic discussions — those efforts are high return.

4. Undiscussables.
Talking about the thing that no one is talking about is an almost foolproof way to improve company performance. Maybe it concerns another leader or maybe it has to do with the performance of a certain division. Maybe it’s about the CEO’s leadership style or a lack of trust among the senior team. Whatever it is, the mere fact that it’s important and not being discussed is a solid indication that it’s holding the organization back.

Dealing with whatever comes across your desk leaves the control in other people’s hands. CEOs and other senior leaders can’t afford to be that passive. Every single thing you do as a leader needs to have an impact. Your job is to think big. If the topic is outside the rubric of these four things, then it should be dealt with at a more junior level of the organization.

During lunch, I shared these four points of focus with the CEO and we agreed that the most critical one, for his team, was the way his direct reports were working together. Or rather weren’t working together. That had been an undiscussable for some time.

By the time the team got back to the room, the slide projector was gone. At first, people were off-balance. What about the work they had put into their presentations? What about the safety they felt hiding behind slides?

“Your brains are too valuable to sit through presentations,” the CEO said, “Your brains need to think together.”

Then he threw a zinger on the table: “Look around the room. Who’s not getting along with each other? Let’s talk about that!”

Silence ensued.

To the CEO’s credit, he did nothing to dispel the awkwardness. He tossed the ball and it was their turn to step up and run with it.

Finally, after what felt like forever, one of his direct reports spoke up, admitting what everyone else in the room already knew but never talked about: He and another person in the room were having a hard time working together.

And for the next three hours of lively, engaged, sometimes difficult conversation, not a single person looked at their email under the table.


His latest book is 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done.

6 Ways Leaders Can Get Better Results By Not Talking



6 Ways Leaders Can Get Better Results By Not Talking

I just read a very succinct and useful post here on Forbes about how to support employees who have done something great. The author, Shaun Spearmon,basically advises that you congratulate the ‘record-setting employee’ and then stop talking. He points out that the additional things leaders tend to throw in at that point – how we can do even better next time, or could have worked even more effectively as a team, etc. – are simply demoralizing, and likely to ruin the moment.

And it got me thinking how often just keeping your mouth closed is the best possible thing you can do as a leader. For example, I was on a call last week with colleagues: it was our monthly coaching call, facilitated by the practice director of our coaching business, and attended by those of our nine executive coaches who could make it. During the call, there were at least half a dozen times when I started to say something and then stopped myself — and then listened as the point I was going to make was made by someone else (in some cases better and more clearly), or as the conversation went in a whole new and enriching direction that it wouldn’t have gone if I had spoken up.

I fairly often advise CEOs and other senior leaders not to talk so much, and what I often hear in response is “If I don’t talk, nobody will.” If that’s really accurate (that is, no one speaks up when you’re not talking), what that says to me is that you’ve very effectively trained your folks to wait for you to talk, rather than risking sharing their own opinions.

So here’s my perspective on how to stop talking in a way that will actually encourage and allow your team to step into the space that’s created:

1. Give people a heads-up.
If your folks aren’t used to being asked for their perspective, give them some lead time to prepare. Think about it: if meetings have been your bully pulpit, and then you just suddenly stop talking…people are going to be caught off-balance. Most are unlikely to speak up – they’re waiting to see what’s going on. Instead, send out a simple email before the meeting, saying something like, “We’ll be talking about project X during tomorrow’s meeting, and I’d like to hear how you all think it’s going. If you could come prepared to share your sense of what’s going well and what we could be doing differently, that would be great.”

2. Invite conversation.
Once people are in the meeting, don’t just clam up and wait for somebody else to start. That’s like daring people to suddenly behave differently without any help from you. (If you’re somehow trying to prove that no one will talk if you don’t, this is a good way to fulfill that expectation.) Instead, reiterate your request for input, and then stop talking. At this point you need to be comfortable with a little silence. If you have respectfully invited your folks’ point of view ahead of time about a topic that’s interesting to them and with which they’re familiar, someone will eventually say something, as long as you don’t fill in the gap out of habit or nervousness.

3. Welcome what they say.
Once people start talking, what you do next can encourage them to continue – or shut them down immediately. I once coached a CEO who complained about his people not “stepping up with good ideas.” Shortly after that I observed a meeting he had with his direct reports. I noticed that when someone was brave enough to make a suggestion or venture an opinion, the CEO generally disagreed, dismissed it as impractical, or belittled the person for not having thought through it sufficiently before bringing it up. Yikes. I was amazed that some people were still trying. So: if someone offers a great idea or insight, simply acknowledge it as such – and figure out, with the group, how to make use of it. If someone shares an idea you think isn’t totally great, an excellent technique for not killing the idea (and the person’s motivation) is “LCS” – likes, concerns, and suggestions. Start by saying what you genuinely like about the idea, then note your one or two key concerns (e.g, “I’m not sure sales would support it,” or “I’m worried it might take a lot more time than we’re prepared to spend,”) and then ask for suggestions for addressing the concerns. This approach keeps the idea in play, helps your people think more strategically and logically about the merits and costs of an idea, and – most important – feels deeply collaborative.

4. Make it happen.
When people see their ideas put into practice, that’s when they really know you value their contributions. Especially if you give them public credit.

5. When you’ve made your point, stop.
Even if you do all the things I’ve recommended above, you still may have to teach yourself how to stop talking once you’ve started. I’ve observed that when leaders over-talk, it’s generally for one of four reasons: 1) they’re not clear about what they wanted to say, so they riff, 2) they like the sound of their own voice and/or speaking to a captive audience, 3) they’re nervous about the message, or 4) they think this is what leaders are supposed to do. You’ll notice that all four reasons are internal vs. external – they exist inside your own mind. So if you’re guilty of running off at the mouth, I’d suggest you do a little self-reflection to find out why you, personally, are talking too much. Then change your self-talk to support changing your behavior.

6. Listen!!! I can’t stress this enough.
If you’re listening, you’re not talking – and you’re also finding out critical stuff, building relationships, and creating a culture of respect and transparency. If you only do one thing from this post, do this. Real listening is almost magically potent. If you’re truly listening – getting fully engaged and interested in what the other person is saying, asking questions for understanding, and restating important points to make sure you’re getting it – people will talk to you. Period.

Do these things, and I suspect you’ll discover that your folks have a lot of great things to say – and that you can often lead better by listening than by talking.


Erika Andersen, Contributor
I cover how people & organizations work, and how they can work better.

How healthy is your business? 6 ways to take the “temperature”



How healthy is your business? 6 ways to take the “temperature”

When 1 in 10 entrepreneurs work 70 hours a week, it’s a safe bet that business owners have a lot of issues competing for their attention. Making a great product, generating sales, building customer relationships and managing employees are often the most pressing issues for business owners.

It can be easy for big-picture questions to slip to the bottom of the to-do list. But it’s important to step back and assess the health of your business from time to time. Knowing how great you are at making money or managing resources is the first step in making sure you spend your time and business resources wisely. Failing to recognize shortcomings early on can have disastrous consequences.

Indeed, a University of Tennessee study found that nearly half of startup failures could be blamed on “incompetence” – a category that researchers said included “living too high for the business,” no knowledge of pricing and “emotional” pricing.

Looking at financial metrics that are important to business health can help you recognize if there are problems with pricing or expenses. “Truly understanding those metrics and gauging your performance against competitors using benchmarking data can give you a clearer picture of both strengths and areas that need fresh attention,” said Brad Schaefer, an analyst with Sageworks, a financial information company.

Here are six key financial metrics that can help you understand your business and how you’re faring against peers, according to Schaefer:

• Pre-tax net profit margin
• Current ratio
• Quick ratio
• Accounts payable days
• Accounts receivable days
• Inventory days

If you have an accountant or someone preparing financial statements or tax returns for you, they should be able to provide you these metrics easily and give you additional context as well. But below are brief explanations of how each reflects your business health.

Pre-tax net profit margin. Probably the most important metric, this tells how much profit you get to keep from each dollar in sales. For private companies, it is usually expressed as net profit before taxes in a given financial period divided by sales.


“This number can show you how effective you’re being with expenses and if you should decrease certain expenses so that they don’t eat up as much of the revenues,” said Schaefer. The average net profit margin for private companies is around 7 percent, according to a financial statement analysis by Sageworks for the 12 months ended Aug. 1. But it can vary dramatically, by company and by industry. Legal services firms had average margins of nearly 20 percent for the last 12 months, but gas stations’ average margins were about 2 percent, Sageworks data shows.

Through its cooperative data model, Sageworks collects financial statements for private companies from accounting firms, banks and credit unions, and aggregates the data at an approximate rate of 1,000 statements a day. Net profit is adjusted to exclude taxes and include owner compensation in excess of their market-rate salaries in order to provide a more accurate picture of the companies’ operational performance.

Current ratio and quick ratio. These two metrics give you an idea of your liquidity, or how well you can meet your near-term obligations, and they are most helpful analyzed together. “If the business does not have decent liquidity, then one unexpected expense could severely hurt it,” Schaefer said.

Current ratio basically shows whether the assets that you can convert into cash quickly (within a year) will cover what you must pay off soon (in less than a year), and it is expressed as current assets divided by current liabilities. A ratio of less than one means you could run short of cash within the next year unless you generate additional cash. But the metric has some limitations, Schaefer noted.

“For example, by including inventory in the calculation, it may provide a distorted understanding of the company’s very short-term cash flow,” he said. The average current ratio for private companies in Sageworks’ database is 3.19, based on financial statements for the 12 months ended Aug. 1.

The quick ratio shows that shorter-term view; it divides cash plus accounts receivable by current liabilities. The average private company’s quick ratio is 2.15.

Accounts payable days and accounts receivable days. These ratios help show how you’re managing the company’s cash position so that at any point in time, you have enough to cover commitments.

“Accounts payable days can indicate whether you’re paying your suppliers too quickly,” Schaefer said. “That’s money you could be investing instead of distributing immediately. “ Schaefer said. (Accounts payable days is expressed as accounts payable divided by cost of goods sold, multiplied by 365 days.)

What is a good accounts payable turnover ratio? Generally, higher numbers are better, but it can vary by industry pretty dramatically. Private companies had an average accounts payable ratio of about 41 days in the 12 months ended Aug. 1, according to Sageworks data. But for automobile dealers, the average is roughly 4 days, and it’s 98 days for advertising and public relations companies.

Accounts receivable days, meanwhile, can alert you when you’re not receiving payments from customers quickly enough. (It is expressed as accounts receivable divided by sales multiplied by 365 days.) Generally, lower numbers are better for accounts receivable, because it means you’re getting cash quickly. But this, too, will vary dramatically by industry. For example, some industries routinely give customers a 30-day grace period for payments, especially those that bill for services. Other industries don’t get paid until the entire job is complete. Some types of construction contractors, for example, have an average accounts receivable days ratio of 65, compared with child day care operators’ average AR days ratio of about 3, according to data from Sageworks. For all industries, the average AR days ratio is 39.

Inventory days. The inventory days ratio (inventory divided by cost of goods sold, multiplied by 365 days) measures the number of days it takes to move inventory, but it is very specific to the industry. For example, restaurants’ products have a short shelf life relative to a clothing store’s merchandise. The average privately held restaurant has an inventory days ratio of 13, while it is 177 for clothing stores, on average, according to Sageworks data. Generally, lower numbers are better, because you want to turn over as much inventory as possible in a year.

Because all of these metrics can vary by type of industry, it’s difficult to make sense of financial ratios unless you find quality benchmark data.

Trade groups, surveys and information providers are among the resources for finding benchmarking data. The important thing is to find businesses of a similar industry, revenue size and geographical location.

“Business conditions can vary greatly between different areas of the nation, even if the companies are the same size and they make the same products,” Schaefer said.

Sageworks, a financial information company, collects and analyzes data on the performance of privately held companies and provides accounting and audit solutions.


Mary Ellen Biery, Contributor