Tag Archives: strategic planning

Small Business and the Social Fabric of Community

Key Concept ~ Small businesses provide employment, yes, but mindful entrepreneurs contribute to their communities in many other ways, too.  Performance Transformation partners with nonprofit therapeutic riding centers to deliver personal and professional development programs that contribute to the financial sustainability of our charitable partners while strengthening the fabric of the community.

Yesterday, we had the privilege of spending the morning with teachers and administrators from the nonprofit Just For Girls Academy.  The new charter school will serve at-risk, young girls from the Sarasota/Manatee area of Southwest Florida.  The school, led by CEO Becky Canesse and Principal Dr. Jennifer Rosenboom, is incorporating Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning into their core curriculum.  The ongoing program will be conducted at SMART (the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy, a community nonprofit that has been serving children with developmental disabilities for twenty-five years.  The objective of the program is to cultivate empathy and emotional intelligence skills as part of what Becky Canesse refers to as, “Teaching the whole child”.

Research clearly demonstrates, a person’s level of emotional intelligence contributes to 80% of our success in life, with the remaining 20% driven by our cognitive abilities.  Working with the horses elevates the children’s self-awareness, self regulation, social awareness and relationship management skills as well as cultivating empathy and respect for other sentient beings.  By focusing on cultivating empathy, the school hopes to sidestep many of the bullying issues that have become so prevalent in our society.

What we find so exciting is we’re creating very innovative for profit/nonprofit partnerships that will contribute to the strength of the community and quality of life for at-risk girls for years to come.  In fact, the work actually resonates multi-generationally, helping to open up new horizons that disadvantaged young people may have never seen otherwise.

If you’d like to learn more about yesterday’s events you’re welcome to read the full story about our work in today’s Bradenton Herald.  I also encourage you to visit and generously support the Just For Girls Academy and SMART organizations.  Both nonprofits do incredible work for our most vulnerable citizens.

© 2012, Terry Murray.

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Speak with Author Terry Murray Live on Patricia Raskin’s Positive Business™ Radio Show

For Immediate Release

Entrepreneur, Author, and Business Strategy Architect Terry Murray will be appearing live on Patricia Raskin’s nationally syndicated, call-in radio program, Positive Business™, Friday, July 13th at 3:00 p.m., E.D.T.

Terry Murray, author of “The Transformational Entrepreneur ~ Engaging The Mind, Heart & Spirit For Breakthrough Business Success”, is scheduled for a live interview with renowned radio talk show host Patricia Raskin, Friday, July 13th, at 3:00 p.m., E.D.T.

“I’ve done many radio interviews, but this will be the first live show with callers participating in the conversation.” commented Mr. Murray.  ”It should be a lot of fun!”

Terry’s book provides a step-by-step approach for creating and sustaining breakthrough performance in today’s volatile world.  Looking beyond conventional wisdom, Terry re-examines his entrepreneurial experiences to examine the human elements that consistently drive creativity, innovation and success.  The book was recently cited in the March, 2012 edition of the academic Journal For Economic Literature.

“We’re well past the Industrial Age, and in fact we’ve moved beyond the Information Age.  We now live in the Idea Age,” adds Terry.  ”In today’s global economy, intellectual property is the driver of value creation.  The source of commercially viable ideas are people.  Highly engaged, talented, passionate people.  Human beings, and our remarkably creative and adaptive abilities, are the raw material for business in the 21st century.  The traditional, Industrial Age approach to leadership, strategy and organizational culture must also evolve in parallel with this evolutionary shift.”

Listeners are welcome to call into the show at (888) 345-0790.  The program is syndicated throughout the United States and will stream live at http://www.790business.com.

Ms. Raskin has interviewed more nearly 2,000 guests on her show.  Her past guests include such luminaries as Dr. Mehmet Oz, Maya Angelou, Gay Hendricks, Debbie Ford and Dr. Andrew Weil.  In addition, she has written over 700 newspaper articles and produced and hosted 500 television programs and documentaries.

A podcast of the program will be posted on Terry’s blog site shortly after airing.

© 2012, Performance Transformation, LLC™.

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Igniting Your Entrepreneurial Fire ~ Part II

Key Concept ~ Continuing our series on the three key elements for accelerating successful startups, here’s part two of three of excerpts from my book, “The Transformational Entrepreneur ~ Engaging The Mind, Heart & Spirit For Breakthrough Business Success”, which was cited in the March edition of the academic Journal For Economic Literature for its contribution to thought leadership and the field of business management.  It discusses enlightened strategic planning.

When I was a young executive working in Corporate America, I began to experience something that, at the time, I couldn’t quite explain.  As I was given responsibility to create or turn around business units, I would always start by sitting down with my front-line managers and field associates to discuss where we were, what internal and external challenges were before us, and solicit their opinions as to what we should do to move the business forward.  I felt strongly that by taking an inclusive approach I would begin to gain their trust and best serve the interests of the company by embracing the experience and day-to-day knowledge of what was really happening in the trenches.  We would then embark on the strategic planning process during which time we would openly challenge our assumptions in lively discourse and stretch the boundaries of what was traditionally perceived to be possible.  From this process a momentum would emerge, more rapidly and more powerfully than what any of us could have imagined!

I had come to appreciate that the strategic planning process was an iterative one, and the questions that we asked of ourselves were often more important than the answers we would eventually discover.  Upon reaching agreement on the plan of action, I would travel to the field to communicate the vision and strategy that we had developed, again drawing the associates into a lively conversation of what was and wasn’t working.  I emphasized we had a shared responsibility to ensure we were taking care of our customers and embracing the spirit of our strategic plan.  I would continuously remind everyone that the strategic plan was a living document, it was not etched in stone, and everyone was empowered to help calibrate the implementation of the plan moving forward.

The one constant that I began to observe surprised me.  At the point in time that we had perhaps fifty to sixty percent of our strategies implemented we would be on track to achieve our objectives!  It seemed illogical to me at first.  How could we be tracking 100% to plan when we were only half way through the implementation and execution of our strategies?  What I know now is that I was observing the power of collective intention, the cumulative energy that accelerated the manifestation of our vision!  This energy was a direct result of the culture we had co-created.  A culture that was kindled by the intention and creative visualization that was expressed through the strategic planning process (we will explore this further in step-by-step detail in Chapter Seven).

The concept of employing creative visualization as the first step in manifesting a new reality is not new.  Our intention helps us create a wondrous reality that we, as spiritual beings, are meant to enjoy.  On the surface it may sound a bit New Age to some people, a bit beyond the pale of what we, as Westerners, consider realistic.

Yet haven’t we all observed a similar occurrence that is very common in athletics?  We have all heard a broadcaster covering a football or basketball game suddenly exclaim how one of the teams has all the momentum.  We cannot see the force behind the momentum yet we can observe its effects on the game.  Suddenly, through a shift in attitude and energy everything seems to fall into place for one of the teams.  In a matter of a few plays, one team is more dynamic than the other, and their execution becomes so well orchestrated the other team almost looks as if they are standing still trying to defend them.  A quarterback or point guard is suddenly in the zone, their timing is in perfect alignment with their teammates, they’re somehow anticipating the defense…they just can’t miss.  The announcer exclaims, “They’re really feeling it now!”  It is the exact same phenomena I was witnessing in business.

Athletics offer us a wonderful example of presence, which is a core attribute of conscious leadership, of being totally present in the moment, in the now.  An Olympic gymnast is not thinking about all the details of a routine as they perform.  A golfer cannot be thinking about the nuances of mechanics during his or her swing.  They quiet their minds and enter into a near meditative state as they compete.  They are conscious of their performance but not thinking about their performance.  Athletes, when at the top of their game anticipate and act rather than think and react.

This phenomena is supported by hard science.  When we are fully engaged and enjoying what we are doing we enter what renowned researcher and psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to as flow.  Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s research looked into the psychological state of a wide variety of professionals operating at peak performance.  When they were fully engaged, focused, and enjoying their endeavor, their biochemistry reflected an increase in cortisol (part of the hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal or HPA axis in our brains) which brought them to a place in which they were taking full advantage of their cognitive and physical abilities.  If the HPA axis shot past this optimal point due to stress, adrenaline and cortisol levels continued to rise and performance rapidly diminished.  His work proved that a person’s emotional state is a governing factor in cognitive and physical performance.

When a group of athletes are engaging in team competition (and doing it well) they manifest a cumulative energy.  Their combined intention, their collective consciousness, elevates the team to an entirely new level of performance.  We can achieve the same thing in business; fore it is not simply physical or mental execution but the collective consciousness of our team that generates this remarkable energy.  The key is in creating a strategic plan and dynamic culture that empowers our associates to be present in the moment, to concentrate on creating and delivering value to our customers now, rather than being consumed with what may come tomorrow or concerned about what wasn’t done yesterday.

Strategic planning as a form of creative visualization that also enables presence may raise the question, “How are you in the moment when you are looking one, three, or five years ahead?”  It is a logical question.  Let me use an analogy to help explain this:

Let’s envision a business, just for a moment, as a tribe of hunters and gatherers living ten thousand years ago.  As the leaders of the tribe, we are highly aware of our environment.  As time passes, we begin to observe a change in the climate; with each passing year it is getting colder much earlier in the year and staying cold much longer into the spring.  We observe the birds and other animals beginning to migrate south much earlier than what we have historically observed and notice they are also returning later in the spring.  From our observations, from our awareness, we develop a Vision that these elongated winters may be less severe in the South.  It stands to reason that if the migrating animals are leaving earlier and staying longer food supplies are most likely more abundant as well.

We establish a Goal of migrating south to ensure the tribe will continue to prosper.  In order to do so, we must cross a large mountain range before the early autumn snows begin and block the high passes.  We now have an Objective that is critical to the success of achieving our Goal; we must clear the high passes before the snow flies or we could become stranded and perish.

There are many passes we can choose from, some representing a more arduous climb, but are more direct, and others that offer a gentle slope, yet will take longer.  We must now decide upon our Strategies.  The amount of risk we are willing to incur and how we intend to balance the risk of each approach with the risk of failing to reach the passes before the snows begin.

Our Strategies reflect the constraints we have identified through a thorough Self-Assessment.   We have examined our strengths and weaknesses.  How many children and elders must survive this trek?  Do we have ample supplies for the journey?  Who are our harbingers for this journey that can blaze the trail for the remainder of the tribe?  Have we carefully evaluated the landscape and challenged our assumptions of the risks involved?  What is the Competitive Landscape; are there hostile tribes living along the way that may wish us harm?  Might there be opportunities to partner with other tribes?  Have we properly scouted our options and truly know what we face?  Have we challenged our assumptions and appreciate the fact we still don’t know what we don’t know?

At the end of all this discussion and evaluation we realize that the only way we can manifest our Vision (abundance for the tribe) and achieve our Goal (to be in the South), and to secure our Objective (navigate the mountain passes before the autumn snow), is to walk south every day one step at a time, regardless of the Strategic path we have chosen.  Our Tactics…for each of us, once the decision has been made to take the journey, must simply focus on taking one step at a time in the moment.

Much like the tribal elders in this analogy, business leaders have the responsibility of formulating a clear and concise vision, communicate it effectively so that others can share in it, and to discern the best path for the organization to follow through the mature evaluation of risks and rewards.  In doing so, we can, in combination with a healthy, vibrant, and trusting culture, enable associates to concentrate on each step they are taking in the moment, to be truly present, to execute on the plan now and make it a reality for us all.

© 2012, Terry Murray.

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Igniting Your Entrepreneurial Fire

Key Concept ~ While the cacophony of social media,  cloud technology, mobile apps, etc., continues the dominate the business landscape, the core fundamentals for success remain the same.  Over the next three blogs, I’d like to share the fundamentals I learned over my 25 year career in both corporate leadership roles and in entrepreneurial settings.  Your success will greatly be determined by three critical elements.  These next three blogs are an excerpt from my book, “The Transformational Entrepreneur ~ Engaging The Mind, Heart & Spirit For Breakthrough Business Success”which was cited in the March edition of the academic Journal For Economic Literature for its contribution to thought leadership and the field of business management.

Creating transformational performance is like igniting a fire; it requires three fundamental elements.  A fire requires a source of heat, fuel, and oxygen in order to burn.  Transformational performance requires authentic, conscious leadership (the heat), a visionary strategic plan (the fuel), and a creative culture that fully engages the entire workforce (the oxygen).

While transformational performance cannot occur without all three elements, the quality of leadership will greatly enhance or diminish both the ascendance and long-term success of a business.  The intensity of its energy and the clarity of its intention can emulate that of a paper match or an acetylene torch.

The quality of the strategic plan will influence sustainability and growth; it can take the form of seasoned hardwood or half-rotted pulp.  The final element, culture, can fan or extinguish the brightest leadership and the most thoughtful strategies.  Like oxygen, we cannot literally see culture, yet it is the air we all breathe.

~ Authentic Leadership

Leading a business requires a strong and unflinching sense of responsibility for the associates who depend upon your wisdom, integrity, and stewardship.  Their livelihoods, dreams, and aspirations are invested in your guidance.  This is a sacred trust.  Associates trust that you will do your best to ensure the health and vitality of the business.  The stronger their level of trust in your leadership, the more willing they will be to fully invest their time, energy, and enthusiasm in the success of the endeavor.  The level of authenticity a leader expresses in their daily interactions with people and in how they address challenging situations will have an enormous impact on execution.

Authenticity may sound like an unusual word to describe leadership, but its meaning reflects several key characteristics that are critical to successfully leading human beings.  There are three primary definitions of authenticity in the dictionary; the quality of being authentic, trustworthy or genuine, and the displaying of undisputed credibility.

The quality of being authentic begins with being true to one’s self.  This quality emerges through self reflection and inner exploration and infers an active awareness of one’s consciousness.  The complete spectrum of who we are physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.  This includes being in touch with, and trusting in, one’s own intuition.  We’ll explore the role of intuition further in Chapter Four.

At times, being true to one’s self isn’t easy.  It can test our moral courage.  In the late 1990’s while serving as the vice president of sales and marketing for a highly acquisitive life science company I experienced this conflict.  I found myself confronted with having to decide whether I would lead with authenticity or “go along to get along”.

Shortly after our company purchased a small manufacturing concern we found ourselves with two mid-level executives with overlapping responsibilities for managing our European sales business.  One was from our organization and one arrived with the acquired company.  The president of our company had sidestepped a decision on realigning responsibilities for two months.  The new executive was very political and focused much of his efforts and energy to develop a social relationship with the president, inviting him to play golf and entertaining him at his home.    After more than a year of diligent work on the part of our director to build our business in Europe the ambiguity began wearing on his emotions and productivity.

The situation left me uneasy at what I felt was inherently unfair.  At the very least, our director deserved a word of clarification on the issue.  Finally, on a Friday afternoon preceding our director leaving on a scheduled trip to meet with our European partners (who would be looking for direction and clarification as well) I felt compelled to address the situation with the president.  My inquiry infuriated the president who proceeded to lash out verbally.  I took some lumps and expended significant political capital, but my authentic concern for my direct report resonated throughout the sales and marketing organization, building trust and resulting in measurably marked improvements in sales performance.

As the years progressed, I began to realize my sensibilities of leadership didn’t correlate with what I was consistently experiencing in Corporate America.  While my performance was frequently lauded by my superiors, I would eventually find myself at odds with the status quo.  Somehow, my presence made my fellow executives uncomfortable.  Our intentions didn’t match.  I eventually came to the realization I didn’t belong in this environment and made the decision to strike out on my own and start a business focusing on coaching entrepreneurs on leadership, strategy, and business process.  In discovering and following my authentic self I now work from a position of service that has created the greatest joy and satisfaction I have ever experienced in my life!

The second definition of authenticity is “trustworthy or genuine”.  Trust is an energy that flows in a circular orbit.  It cannot move in one direction without returning to whence it came.  Some people allow themselves to trust more readily than others, but once trust has been broached it is often nearly impossible to mend.

Cultivating a trustworthy environment dispels people’s fears and calms insecurities.  It enables people to function in the moment without worrying about the repercussions of making an honest mistake.  The legendary salesman and early leader of IBM, Thomas J. Watson, was once quoted as saying, “Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?”

Sometimes we learn more from our mistakes and allowing for the occasional mistake without the anticipation or fear of punishment builds trust.  Trusting associates empowers people to work from their heart which draws upon the energy of positive intention.  It opens the door to passionate engagement and reveals the hidden workforce lying quietly just beneath the surface in many businesses.  Creating an environment that encourages mature, thoughtful risk-taking delivers returns that far exceed any potential losses.

In the context of our discussion, the definition of “genuine” refers to being from the original stock or lineage, of being a genuine human being.  This implies we see each other as universally and energetically connected as a single entity of creation.  In doing so, we are able to express empathy for one another as easily and openly as we are able to care about our selves.  The resonant power of empathy consistently expressed by leadership cannot be overestimated.  It conveys genuine concern and respect for an associate’s well-being.  In doing so, it lowers barriers and engages the heart as well as the mind.  It is something we all can relate to.  Ask yourself, how much more are you willing to do for someone that genuinely cares about you?

Several years ago I was engaged in a strategic planning project with an immersive learning company.  They focused on teaching empathy in health care environments in response to malpractice lawsuits.  The financial exposure the risk of malpractice introduces to insurance companies, hospitals, and physicians’ practices has resulted in extensive, scientific research into the reasons why people sue.  We tapped into this research as part of our planning process and what we discovered was very surprising.  It turns out people sue based upon how they feel they were treated after a medical error had occurred and not directly because of the error itself.  Patients and patients’ families that were treated with empathy were significantly less likely to sue.  That’s a powerful statement.  In the midst of experiencing one of the most severe health and emotional crisis humans may encounter, empathy was the balm that soothed the intensity of a catastrophic medical event.  Imagine the power empathy can have in an everyday business environment!

The third definition of authenticity is “undisputed credibility”, which emphasizes the importance of being impeccable with your word and ensuring the consistent alignment of your actions with your words.  Walking the walk and talking the talk.  In the noble words of St. Francis of Assisi, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

One of the fastest ways to disengage a workforce is for leadership to display behavior that is inconsistent with their words.  It conveys the existence of double standards; one for associates and a separate, privileged set of standards for executives.  If you want associates to perform at a high level then live, work, and consistently display that level in your own behavior.  Keep in mind it is human nature to remember the missteps.  You can be consistently credible 99% of the time but it will be the one time you are inconsistent with your word that associates will remember.

Another powerful, yet often overlooked attribute of authentic leadership is the ability to sense and respect people’s boundaries.  Hierarchical leadership has a tendency to create boundaries that run in one direction.  Actually, they are more like barriers than boundaries.  Barriers that create a set of expectations that govern behavior and one-directional communication that are meant to sustain authority and control.  Projecting a lack of respect for the boundaries of subordinates causes emotional barriers to be erected.  As emotional barriers come up associate engagement goes down.  Conversely, enabling the creation of healthy boundaries engages associates’ sense of worth and creativity.

People need to feel secure in their own space; this extends to emotional and intellectual space as well as physical space.  When people are able to create and maintain a container of self their creativity will blossom.  When physical space is constrained, such as when cubicles are used for workspace, fostering healthy emotional and mental boundaries is even more important to fully engage associates.  Authority figures that roll over these boundaries lead people to freeze up and withdraw, working while keeping their heads down to avoid further transgressions into their comfort zone.  Giving associates the space to think and, at the appropriate time, to simply be, engages the imagination and the heart.  The consistent expression of authentic leadership will rapidly reveal previously unseen opportunities for the organization.

© 2012, Terry Murray.

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The Transformational Entrepreneur Cited in the Academic Journal of Economic Literature

For Immediate Release – March 28, 2012 -

Terry Murray’s groundbreaking book, “The Transformational Entrepreneur ~ Engaging The Mind, Heart & Spirit For Business Breakthrough Success” was recognized and cited in the peer-reviewed, academic Journal of Economic Literature’s March 2012 quarterly issue.

Performance Transformation, LLC™ (Venice, FL) announced today that their founder and Managing Partner’s book, “The Transformational Entrepreneur”was recognized and cited in the academic Journal of Economic Literature for its contribution to professional business literature and thought leadership.

“We received the unsolicited notification letter from the Journal last week,” responded Mr. Murray. “It was both humbling and exciting at the same time.  I’ve been working on the business side of the life sciences, medical technology and health care sectors since 1988, so I have an enormous appreciation for the diligence of peer-reviewed, academic journals.  As a business executive, and not an academic, this is a distinct honor for my book to be recognized for its contribution to the field of business and economic professional literature.”

The Journal of Economic Literature is published by the American Economic Association (AEA), a professional organization of economists, academics, and business thought leaders with more than 22,000 members.

“My executive career has spanned some truly remarkable changes in the global business landscape,” added Terry.  “Historically, there’s always been a lag in leadership, strategy and organizational philosophy in response to market shifts in value creation.  I entered the biotechnology world during its infancy.  This was the beginning of the knowledge-based economy and coincided with the boom in personal computing.  Yet the methods, perspectives, and philosophies we were trained for in business school all emerged out of the Industrial Age.  We literally had to discover a new approach to business as usual along the way, but it is only today, some 25 years later, that the strategic imperative of human creativity in business is beginning to move into the mainstream.”

“The Transformational Entrepreneur” will also be indexed in the American Economic Association’s internet database, EconLit, which is accessible at libraries and universities around the world, as well as to licensed institutions and AEA members.  The electronic bibliography indexes over 120 years of economics literature from around the world.  The database complies professional journal articles, collective volume articles, working papers, dissertations, and books of note on the subject of economics and business practice.

“The shift in the source of value creation truly began in the 1980s, but information technology bridged the productivity gap for thirty years, masking the need for a change in the approach to  leadership, strategy and organizational development.  By the turn of the century it was already beginning to hit a point of diminishing returns, right at the time the explosively disruptive power of the internet began to take off.  Even old world industries are doing business in ways they never could have anticipated ten years ago,” commented Terry.

Mr. Murray went on to say, “Perhaps because I was immersed in the knowledge-based economy for so long I saw the need for a more human-centric approach to business.  Research scientists, physicians and engineers, and their creative talents, are the raw material for value creation and competitive advantage in this new era of business.  You cannot lead creatives the same way we once managed assembly line workers.  Two years after I began writing my book, the IBM Global CEO Survey exemplified the perspective and approach I was writing about at the time, reporting that creativity and the ability to cultivate creativity throughout the workplace was the single most important attribute CEOs are looking for in future leaders.”

Terry’s book was published two months after IBM released the results of their bi-annual survey in December of 2010.

About the author ~ Terry Murray is an author, speaker, entrepreneur, and professional business advisor/coach with twenty-five years of progressive experience in strategic development, executive leadership, and the deployment of highly profitable business teams. His work with Fortune 1000 and startup companies has directly contributed more than $1 billion in market capitalization growth throughout his career.

He is the founder and Managing Partner of Performance Transformation, LLC™, a professional and strategic development firm focused on igniting breakthrough performance by optimizing and aligning authentic leadership, mindful strategy, and an engaging, creative organizational culture.  The company’s evidence-based programs and pragmatic approach employs their proprietary Accretive Coaching Process℠.  This innovative, developmental process integrates concepts from published research in the neurosciences, emotional intelligence, performance psychology, quantum physics and Applied Behavioral Economics with Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning.

For more information, please visit http://ignitingcreativityinbusiness.com.

© 2012, Performance Transformation, LLC™.


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Interview with Larry Whitler and Robin MacBlane on the AM Ocala Show

Key Concept ~ I was invited back to speak with Larry Whitler and Robin MacBlane on the radio program AM Ocala earlier this week.  Here’s a podcast of the interview.  

Larry and Robin are remarkably conscious and generous hosts.  They’ve been great advocates of my book and my philosophy towards creating a mindful approach for entrepreneurial success in the 21st century.

We explored the critical drivers of entrepreneurial success including:

~ Leading with positive intention.

~ Leading from a perspective of being of service; to your clients, prospects, and community.

~ The resonate value of embracing a mindful strategic planning process.

~ Value-based pricing strategies.

~ How one’s perspective towards their value proposition can redefine their entire market.

~  The critical nature of emotional and cognitive engagement in driving entrepreneurial success.

~ How we can define success on our own terms.

~ How the human spirit is the source of courage and resiliency with successful entrepreneurs.

~ The interplay between entrepreneurs and investors.

~ How we can all succeed in launching our own business…regardless of our age.

It’s a lively and fun discussion and I hope you’ll find some value in listening in!

You can listen to to interview by clicking the play button below:

© 2012, WOCA-AM Ocala.

© 2012, Terry Murray.

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Three Simple Questions That Will Help You Avoid Costly Missteps in 2012

Key Concept ~ Successful, growing businesses are highly aware of where they are, what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it.  As you look to make strategic improvements in any facet of your company for next year, here are three simple questions you should ask yourself and your team to help ensure sustainable growth.

I don’t know about you, but 2012 flew by for us at Performance Transformation, LLC™.  As we were reviewing our accomplishments against our 2011 strategic plan, I found myself asking us the same fundamental questions that have served me well for over seventeen years.  Since 1994, I have reviewed, consulted, coached, or written well over 100 business plans, strategic plans, sales launch plans, and the like within both the startup and corporate community.  Over that period of time I discovered three simple questions that can cut through the superfluous and strike at the strategic imperatives that are essential for success.  I hope you find them as helpful as I have over the years!

1.)  How does this contribute acknowledged value for our customers?  Every process and activity within your firm should be able to answer this question with decisiveness and clarity.  This is helpful for reviewing entrenched activities as well as evaluating new initiatives.  If any activity isn’t delivering tangible value that your customer acknowledges and embraces, why are you doing it?  Research into worker productivity demonstrates that in many circumstances associates are only contributing to the creation of customer value approximately 50% of their time at work.  This single question can help you dramatically improve productivity, intra-office communication, and organizational focus on serving your customer base.

2.) How do we know that?  During my executive tenure at STERIS® Corporation this was the legendary founder and CEO Bill Sanford’s killer app!  How one answered this question during strategic review meetings with Mr. Sanford would make or break a career in 30 seconds or less.  This single question ensured we validated every assumption we had about our customers and marketplace with real-world evidence.  Here’s the challenge for each of us…we all have what I call a blind bias.  It is a conditioned pre-disposition to see the world through a myopic lens based upon our own recent experiences and tendency to fall for the law of small numbers.  When we are attached to an outcome, we can unknowingly shade our judgement as to the probability of success based upon recent success or failures and a tendency to see trends in sample sizes that are not statistically significant.  For example, when watching a baseball game and a career .300 hitter coming to bat is 0 for 4 late in the game we tend to think that hitter is due for a hit.  Statistically speaking, this isn’t true.  A sample size of four or five is not large enough to reflect their lifetime tendencies.  Asking this one question when any assumption is presented as fact can avoid sending the entire company down a dead end street.

3.) How does this cultivate emotional and cognitive engagement, both internally and externally?  This is my most recently added critical question.  It is based upon decades of experience combined with three years of research into what differentiates breakthrough performance from mediocrity.  It takes into account the mission-critical importance of cultivating passion and excitement for your business.  Research conducted by Gallup® and published in the Harvard Business Review® supports this perspective.  Company’s that engage both their employees and their customers, on an emotional and cognitive basis, enjoy a 240% improvement in financial performance.  Additional research from the field of Applied Behavioral Economics supports this as well.  Economic decision making, even in a business-to-business setting, is 70% emotionally-driven, with the remaining 30% based in rational thought.  In an age when we are bombarded by anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 marketing messages a day, cultivating authentic relationships with your customers and prospects is more important than ever.

These three questions should not be reserved for annual reviews of performance or in creating new strategies.  Use them throughout the year, whenever you come across a questionable activity that may look sensible on the surface (we’ve always done it this way) but doesn’t feel right in your gut.  You’ll be amazed at the focus and clarity these questions can delivery throughout your organization!

© 2011, Terry Murray.

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Sixty Unexpected Business Lessons Learned Along the Way

Key Concept ~ As entrepreneurs, we all learn lessons we may not have anticipated when we embarked upon our journey.  Here’s a thought-provoking list of the unexpected lessons sixty different entrepreneurs learned as they engaged in their marketplace.

I was recently asked by business strategist and best-selling author, Carol Roth, to contribute to a blog exploring unexpected lessons entrepreneurs have learned as they engaged in their marketplace.  Ms. Roth just posted the blog, which you can read here.  Like most lists, I think you’ll find several points for reflection on your own experiences and perspective.  For me, the unexpected lesson was the role the human spirit has in driving breakthrough performance.

I’ve found that by keeping an open mind, being present, allowing yourself to follow your intuition and then validate it, and detaching ourselves from specific outcomes (which are often projections of our unconscious mind), we can often discover success on a level we never anticipated.  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t diligently plan for our success; it is imperative that we do so.  What it does mean is when we engage our marketplace with authenticity. When we operate from a place where our vision and intention are in alignment, remarkable opportunities will begin to unfold.  Our human spirit provides us with the creativity, resiliency, and adaptability entrepreneurs need to survive and eventually thrive.  It is as natural a part of human beings as emotions, cognitive abilities, or our senses.

I hope this list of unexpected lessons triggers some self-reflection on your own experiences.

© 2011, Terry Murray.

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The Five “P’s” of Strategic Planning

Key Concept ~ We’re probably all familiar with the concept of the Five P’s of Marketing, but a similar perspective can be placed upon the critical nature of the Strategic Planning Process.  Here’s my take on the Five P’s of Strategic Planning…

The critical nature of mindful strategic planning cannot be overstated.  For entrepreneurs, conducting a solid, annual strategic planning process can literally mean the difference between long-term, sustainable success and stagnation.  Here are some key concepts you may wish to consider as you engage in your process.

1.) Perspective ~ When I refer to mindful strategic planning I’m speaking about a dynamic process of spirited debate from alternative perspectives.  One in which we challenge our assumptions, and challenge each others’ assumptions.  Our perspective of what we perceive as reality is strongly influenced by how we’ve been socially conditioned throughout the course of our lives.  When we solely associate our selves, our image of who we are, with a belief or long-held perspective that has been conditioned into us it can create blind spots in our self and social awareness.  When entering into the planning process you will be well served to reflect upon this human conundrum.  Are you clinging to self-limiting thought processes?  Is your vision clear, broad, and deep or do you have the blinders on?  Surrounding yourself with an eclectic, diverse team can help minimize the risk of planning from a narrow perspective.  But this only works if you create an atmosphere which encourages thoughtful dissent and you support your team in such a way that you encourage risk taking and the questioning of long-held beliefs.

2.) Process ~ The most common misconception I hear from aspiring entrepreneurs relates to the value of one’s strategic plan.  While the resulting document itself is an important management tool that helps keep everyone aligned and moving forward it is the planning process itself that is most valuable.  I learned a long time ago that the questions we ask ourselves during the process are often more important to our success than the answers we come up with at the time.  Another common shortfall is the planning of a task without digging into the underlying process that task requires for sustainable, consistent success.  If you don’t understand your critical processes they will be highly variable and erode quality.  You can determine the weak points in your process by mapping out the stages and handoffs of each process in the organization.  You’ll be amazed at the level of clarity this can deliver.

3.) Passion ~ If you’re not excited about your strategic trajectory, no one else will be either.  Recent research from the discipline of Applied Behavioral Economics has demonstrated the importance of engaging your prospects, associates, customers, and potential investors on both an emotional and cognitive level.  Approximately 70% of economic decision making is emotionally driven, with the remaining 30% grounded in rational thought.  The fact of the matter is, how people feel about your business is more important than what they think about your business.  Passion resonates!

4.) Persistance ~ The strategic planning process is an iterative process.  You wont come to the right conclusions on your first pass.  You’ll need to comb through your plan multiple times in order to find clarity and the strategic leverage opportunities for your core competencies in your target market.  Work on your plan, then set it down.  Sleep on it.  Come back to it fresh and see what jumps off the page.  And work your plan throughout the course of the year.  Refer to it often and be prepared to calibrate it as you learn more about you firm’s position in the competitive landscape.

5.) Performance ~ Upon completion, implement your plan!  I cannot tell you how many times I see clients engage in a great planning process and then, upon completion, immediately go back to what they were doing before they created their plan.  Your strategic plan should be a living document!  Done well, it works.  I know, I’ve seen this from many vantage points over the past twenty years.  It is your single most important tool for success.  Use it and measure your performance against your stated objectives.

Entrepreneurs are continuously seeking to capture competitive advantage.  When you consider the SBA reports that less than 50% of nascent entrepreneurs begin a planning process you can see this can be your immediate leg up over much of your competition!

Now, get to planning!  It will be the most important business activity you do all year.

© 2011, Terry Murray.

 

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The Power of Expressing Gratitude

I hope all of you U.S. readers had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday.  It is far and away my favorite American holiday.  A holiday set aside by President Abraham Lincoln with the sole intention of expressing our gratitude.  Our simple thanks for whatever we have to be thankful for this year.    I think that’s why I love this day so dearly.  Positive intention with no specified agenda.  We’re all free to appreciate and give thanks to whatever is resonating in our hearts.  It has such a  different feel from every other U.S. national holiday.

All the other holidays seem to come with a preprogramed theme.  Themes that can have some odd facets in our day and age.  Please don’t get me wrong, I’m a veteran and work with veterans coming home from war, but the Fourth of July can’t help but have a bit of a dark undertone to it.  Even the celebratory element is a recreation of bombs bursting in air.  Labor Day can’t help but have a somewhat ironic twist to it considering where we are today as we continue to experience a transformational shift in the labor markets and labor relations.  Memorial Day is identified more with the official start of summer than its original intention.  Columbus Day, Bunker Hill Day, Evacuation Day, Presidents Day (which morphed from Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthday acknowledgements during my lifetime), MLK Day, all sit somewhat quietly on the national consciousness, albeit for the inevitable seasonal sell-a-thons.

I’m sure many of the various religious holidays ring deeply with the devout, and that can be beautiful beyond words.  St. Patrick’s Day stands a bit apart, or at least attempts to upon the annual arrival of its associated, wobbly leg syndrome.  I really don’t like snakes, so I’ll tip a glass to the man that rid my ancestral homeland of them!  And I think we’re all a bit overwhelmed by the commercialization of Christmas.  I had the chance to be in Cologne, Germany during the 750 anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral in mid December back in 2000.  The Christmas Fair booths set up around the square featuring hand-crafted, German Christmas items was both charming and in proportion to the meaning of the season.

So as we come out of this holiday of gratitude I’d like to share two things with you.  First, my heartfelt thanks to the thousands of readers that have been following this blog this year.  Second, I’d like to share an excerpt from my book, The Transformational Entrepreneur ~ Engaging The Mind, Heart, & Spirit For Breakthrough Business Success”, that speaks to the value the consistent expression of gratitude can unleash within your organization.  Carrying the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday throughout the year isn’t just a nice thing to do.  It makes good business sense…and it doesn’t cost a dime.

~ “Thank You”

One of the simplest, yet most overlooked contributors to creating a positive culture is the expression of appreciation.  Taking the time to say “thank you, you’re doing a great job” cost nothing and resonates positive intention throughout the entire organization.  Acknowledgement in front of an associate’s peers can elevate this positive attitude to an even higher level.

Leadership is often quick to express their expectations and very slow to acknowledge a job well done.  Expressing gratitude is a fundamental quality of conscious leadership.  Gratitude for the contribution of others is another facet of empathy.  It reflects leadership’s consciousness of our natural human desire for validation and appreciation.  Even the most stressful of times in challenging environments can be relaxed through the expression of gratitude.

An empirical and remarkably fascinating example of the power of praise is illustrated in the research of Dr. Masaru Emoto.(28)  In his research, Dr. Emoto exposes water to both the spoken and written word; words of praise as well as critical language.  The water exposed to positive language is then frozen and results in the formation of beautiful, symmetric crystals.  The water exposed to negative words freeze into deformed crystals.  It is a fascinating representation of the power of positive intention transmitted through language.  As human beings are composed of more than seventy percent water it isn’t a stretch to see how we are affected in similar ways.

Challenging situations are best handled with positive language as well.  Missed performance gates, underachievement, and passive aggressive behavior could be communicating issues that may be readily addressed through honest discourse and encouraging support.  Even if an associate is unhappy in their current situation, a positive approach that places their interests at the forefront may lead to resolution for all involved.  By approaching the most difficult situations with positive intention, leadership can reinforce the creative culture of an organization.

Organizations transitioning from a traditional culture towards an enlightened culture will inevitably incur situations for friction to emerge, especially with associates uncomfortable with the evolving environment.  This is quite natural, and should be embraced as a positive sign of the enterprise moving forward.  As the transition takes hold certain behaviors will indicate discomfort with the change from certain associates.  By addressing these issues in a timely and positive manner, pathways to resolution will quickly emerge.  If an organization can afford a short period of transition and an unhappy associate has not acted in an unethical manner, providing an exit strategy for the associate to move on will greatly benefit the enterprise and enhance the culture.

(28) “The Miracle of Water”, Masaru Emoto, Atria Books, New York, NY, 2007.

 Excerpt from Chapter Eight, “Creating and Sustaining a Conscious Culture”, “The Transformational Entrepreneur ~ Engaging The Mind, Heart, & Spirit For Breakthrough Business Success”, Copyright 2011, Performance Transformation, LLC.
© 2011, Terry Murray

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