Women Executives: Key to Start-up Success?

New research shows that start-ups with female executives are more likely to succeed than those with all-male leadership teams.

modenadude via Flickr

If you want your start-up to be successful, you need a great idea, a gargantuan appetite for work, and the money and management know-how to scale. Oh, and having one or more female executives wouldn’t hurt your chances either.

That’s according to the findings of a new study from Dow Jones, at least. The research crunched a massive amount of data, looking at outcomes from 20,194 venture-capital-backed American companies and the 167,556 executives who led them (11,193 of which were female).

If a start-up went public, consistently operated at a profit, or was sold for more money than it raised, it was deemed successful for the purposes of the research.

So what relationship did the study find behind a fledgling firm having a female founder, board member, or C-level executive and the business coming to a happy ending? In short: Start-ups with women leaders are more likely to be successful. Though only 1.3% of all privately held companies have a female founder, 6.5% have a female CEO, and 20% have one or more female C-level executives, these high-ranking women of the start-up world weren’t evenly distributed, according to the report:

The overall median proportion of female executives is 7.1% at successful companies and 3.1% at unsuccessful companies, demonstrating the value that having more females can potentially bring to a management team.

And apparently, if one woman in the C suite is good, more is even better:

We see that a company’s odds for success (versus unsuccess) increase with more female executives at the VP and director levels. For start-ups with five or more females, 61% were successful and only 39% failed.

Download the complete report for more details on the prevalence of women in executive start-up roles over time and in which industries and roles they can be found (plus, lots and lots of charts).

For VCs, the message is clear–keep more of an eye out for female founders–but there is also obvious wisdom here for entrepreneurs. If you’re founding a company and looking for collaborators, paying special attention to involving women may pay hefty dividends.

The report doesn’t weigh in on why female executives raise the chance of start-up success. Why do you think women at the top improves a company’s chances? 


Why You Can’t Buy a Better Company Culture

Benefits, perks and compensation may paint a rosy picture for recruitment, but it’s these intangible elements that make for a happy and healthy company culture.


Just like you can’t buy a child’s love, you can’t buy your company a great culture. While benefits, perks and compensation can help paint a rosy picture for recruiting purposes, it’s the intangible elements that really matter.

A recent Deloitte survey on core beliefs and culture found that while executives and employees agree that workplace culture is important to business success, they don’t necessarily have the same views on what elements are essential to creating that positive environment.

The survey reported that 84 percent of employees and 83 percent of executives believe having engaged and motivated employees is a top factor contributing to company success. However, while executives focused on tangibles as key influencers of workplace culture (compensation and financial performance), employees ranked them among the lowest. Instead, employees ranked candid communication, recognition and access to management highest.

At OtterBox, we’ve found a way to infuse compensation elements into the culture. Transparency throughout the organization goes a long way to help employees feel engaged. If they know more about the decisions being made and why they are being made, it’s easier for them to understand how their role is relevant and brings worth.

We have a hybrid program that’s similar to profit sharing. This discretionary cash bonus is available on a monthly basis and is largely based on the financial performance of the company. The elements that contribute to higher or lower bonuses are highlighted each month. This represents a better way to engage employees. They understand the business and the personal impact they have within the organization.

Employees that understand profit and loss, cost of doing business and the immediate effect that they have on these and other key business metrics will act like owners rather than employees. This sense of ownership is good for business and for employee morale. It has an impact on culture that can be behavior changing.

Culture acts as the glue that holds a company together. A culture in which employees understand that they have a direct impact on successes and failures is one in which can easily overcome adversity or excel during times of great opportunity. Communication and transparency are much more effective and lasting than compensation and finances are at fostering a company culture that is authentic and that employees trust.

Business Plans Are a Waste of Time. Here’s What to Do Instead

Throw your business plan in the recycling bin. Instead, focus on your team and on getting to market as quickly as you can.

Henrik Sorensen/Getty

If you’re taking time to carefully perfect a business plan to help ensure your company’s model is sound and that it will be a success–stop. That’s the word from William Hsu, c0-founder and managing partner at start-up accelerator MuckerLab.

Hsu, who’s been both a successful entrepreneur and an executive at ATT and eBay, says that starting a company is “a career for really irrational people. In all probability, whatever the idea is will fail. Building a reality distortion field is how entrepreneurs convince themselves and their employees that this is a good idea.”

With that in mind, he advises:

1. Think people, not ideas.

A great team trumps a great idea every time, Hsu says. “None of us is perfect, and entrepreneurs are usually great at a couple of things, such as having vision and being willing to take risks.” Entrepreneurs–especially tech entrepreneurs–come in one of two flavors: Either they’re like Steve Jobs, visionaries who understand the market but aren’t technically proficient, or they’re like Steve Wozniak, technical geniuses who don’t understand how to market to customers.

In either case, having great team members can fill in any areas where the entrepreneur lacks strength, he says. “We look for three things in a potential start-up: market, team, and concept. The team is by far the most important element, and the second is market. The idea itself is the least important.”

2. Think speed, not perfection.

“Whatever hypothesis you have about the market, it’s probably wrong by definition,” he says. “One out of every 30 venture start-ups succeeds–and that’s after getting funded. What that means is that entrepreneurs need to take a product to market as fast as they can in any form, even if it’s 10% of the original vision. They have to test it to see if it’s a market fit, if it resonates with customers, and is something they’d eventually pay for.”

Then, he says, pivot and reconfigure on the basis of that market response. “You have to iterate as fast as you can. I don’t mind if a batter has a .100 average–a 10% success rate–if the batter gets 10 or 20 at bats. The more chances you have, the better. So the team that can execute the fastest and build the most relationships with customers by listening to them will win.”

Because of this need to iterate quickly, Hsu advises building an in-house team that will have all the design, technical, and product capabilities you need. “You don’t want the entrepreneur outsourcing these types of functions, because it means there will be a cost in dollars to each new iteration that will drain capital. Every pivot should get you closer to success, rather than closer to failure.”

3. Think vision, not plan.

“A lot of entrepreneurs have a perfect deck of slides, a perfect business plan, and a perfect financial model. But that’s all they have,” Hsu says. “They think starting a business is having a business plan. But being an entrepreneur is about creating the future one step at a time.”

Does that mean you should never look ahead? Not quite, he says. “Where you have two or more co-founders, it’s important for them all to put down on a piece of paper, or a whiteboard, the canonical things they all agree on. They need to agree what the vision is and what the path to success will be. But don’t spend time trying to put that into a 40-page document. I’d rather you take that time and talk to 10 more customers instead.”

What Gen-Y Entrepreneurs Taught Me

Marketing Zen Group CEO Shama Kabani got an earful of entertaining start-up stories recently–and gleaned a few valuable insights about Gen-Y entrepreneurship.

Syndio Social

Taken at the Empact100, 2011

Shama Kabani, president of the Marketing Zen Group.

Courtesy Company

Shama Kabani, president of the Marketing Zen Group.

During the Empact100 2012 reception, Marketing Zen Group CEO Shama Kabani got an earful of entertaining start-up stories–and a few valuable insights about Gen-Y entrepreneurship.

Have you ever been in a room full of people who inspired, motivated, and intimidated you, all at the same time? I was lucky enough to have this rare opportunity just a few days ago in Washington, D.C., during the Empact100 awards.

Every year, the Empact100 list identifies the top 100 companies in the United States run by entrepreneurs younger than 30 (see the 2012 list here). This year, the organizers invited all honorees to the White House and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for a full two days of celebration, networking, and problem solving–specifically around the question of how entrepreneurship can be used as a vehicle for good.

It was a unique experience, and I left the event with five key insights about Gen-Y entrepreneurship today:

1. There is no “they.”

Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of Priceline, presented this key idea during an inspiring keynote on the importance of legacy building. How often have we looked at a specific issue and proclaimed “they should really do something about that”? It’s a pattern of thinking that allows us to instantly place the burden of change on the shoulders of the imaginary and invisible powers that be. If only “they” would fix global warming. If only “they” would make traffic less cumbersome. If only “they” would do something about unemployment.

The moment we turn that question around to “what can I do about this?” everything changes. And there were many entrepreneurs at Empact100 who came about their success because they asked themselves this very question.

Sarah Schupp, founder of University Parent, started her company because she saw the lack of resources for college parents. When her own parents visited her dorm room and asked for her recommendation on where to stay and dine, she was stumped–and so she turned the idea of helping colleges better serve parents (and turn that idea into a thriving business).

Justin Anderson, another entrepreneur, got tired of breaking his braces on hard granola, but he didn’t say “I wish they made it softer.” Instead, he invented his own Anderson Trail Uniquely Soft Granola.

Next time you find yourself saying, “they should really do something about that,” just substitute “I” for “they,” and see what happnens!

2. Hustle is a muscle.

My favorite part of the event was hearing everyone share stories about how they got started. John Hall of Digital Talent Agents spoke about how he sold his lunch as a 2nd grader and won a trip to the principal’s office. Ray Land of Fabulous Coach Lines spoke about how, as a kid, he sold watermelons from his family’s farm at a roadside stand. Chris Barrett of PR Serve talked about how he waged a campaign to get a corporation to send him and a friend to college.

There was plenty of laughter, too. Every tale held a similar element of what I can only call “hustle.” Or, to put it even more simply, any activity that gets you moving in the right direction, usually imbued with passion and an almost childlike exuberance. Those who had hustled the most seemed to exercise it like a muscle, getting better and better at taking action with each try.

None of the stories ended with people giving up. They kept doing, failing, learning, and most importantly–they kept trying.

3. Timing is everything.

Any successful entrepreneur who claims luck has nothing to do with their success is lying. There is definitely an inexplicable serendipity that accompanies success. If you find it, be grateful. If you don’t, remember that serendipity works on its own time. Case in point: Sam Carrasquillo failed three times, even going into massive credit card debt, before he found his success through SC roofing, a residential roofing company. Sometimes, it does take the right time and right place to make it really happen.

4. Entrepreneurs have 99 problems, but money ain’t one.

If you ask non-entrepreneurs what one of the greatest challenges to starting a company is, many might answer with an obvious one: funding. But, out of all the colorful stories and stumbling blocks I heard about from the 99 other Empact100 entrepreneurs, a lack of funding wasn’t mentioned a single time.

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  • In fact, the general consensus was that there is plenty of funding available for the right ideas. And much can be accomplished just by bootstrapping and making smart choices. Entrepreneurship certainly has a lot of challenges, but a lack of money rarely ever hinders a great idea.

    5. We still need greater diversity.

    As I looked around the room, I was amazed at how many talented people were gathered there. As I looked a little deeper, I found something amiss: Where were all the women?

    Later, I was told that out of the 135 individuals present, only 17 were women. Now, I am not some die-hard feminist. I don’t believe women are being denied equal opportunity to become entrepreneurs. But I do believe that by not diversifying the business world, we risk stagnation. The best innovation comes from diversification. And I do believe higher education has to play a role here. For example, it was great to see what Steve Mariotti and his nonprofit, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, is doing by bringing entrepreneurial education to schools in low-income communities. We will never move forward as a nation and as a society if we don’t make a more proactive effort to pull others up behind us.

    Shama Kabani is the award winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, a full service online marketing and digital PR firm. She is also the author of the bestseller The Zen of Social Media Marketing, and an international speaker. @shama

    8 Qualities of Fearless Entrepreneurs

    You know the type: They do things other business owners only dream of doing–and usually succeed. Here’s what sets them apart.

    National Geographic/Getty Images

    “In my office, the term badass is thrown around a lot,” says Dr. Shelley Provost, a partner and director of happiness of the venture incubator Lamp Post Group. “We use it to describe many things: a person’s performance or accomplishments or ability to close a sale or turn a profit, or how well they ask someone out on a date–basically their overall potential for awesomeness.”

    These are the qualities that Provost says set true business badasses apart:

    1. They say yes first–then figure out how to deliver.

    Badasses are incredibly confident, with good reason. If a job is anywhere near their wheelhouse, they will find a way to get it done or die trying.

    Why? They trust their own abilities, but they trust the people around them just as much.

    If you’re a true badass, you think there’s a way to solve every problem. All you have to do is find it.

    2. They think differently than everyone else.

    Most business problems aren’t new. Badasses tackle old problems with a variety of creative solutions.

    Instead of designing a corporate newsletter that no one will read to “improve communication,” a badass will create a holograph of the CEO that welcomes you to work and gives you the latest news. And a true badass would wear a flowing gown like the one in this video of a Kate Moss hologram.

    Tell me that wouldn’t improve communication.

    3. They speak up.

    When badasses have a different opinion, they share it.

    But they aren’t argumentative–because that would just make them asses.

    4. They enthusiastically share their awesome skills.

    Badasses never shy away from teaching others.

    Inject energy and innovation into your teaching method, and people will flock to learn from you. High Skill + High Confidence + Sharing With Others = True Business Badass.

    5. They live by their own code.

    They respect authority–but not too much.

    Whether their code is to be a creative force in the world, to disrupt technologies, or to challenge others to examine their lives, badasses are unwilling to compromise their principles and beliefs for the comfort or approval of others.

    If you’re a true badass, you answer to a power deep within you.

    6. They do what others only wish they could do.

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  • One of my favorite quotes is, “The Wright brothers never had a pilot’s license.” Rather than look around for permission or approval, badasses are courageous. They’re initiators. They have an idea and they act.

    Rather than research and dwell on and discuss a problem to death, badasses find a solution by actually doing things.

    7. They never, ever, ever give up.

    Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that it takes 10,000 hours master a complex skill.

    But the real key to mastering a complex skill is grit–the ability to stick with something long enough to log those 10,000 hours.

    People with grit are like antidilettantes. Rather than flit from thing to thing, gritty people pick something and stick with it. They’re tenacious, dogged, persevering, and they absolutely refuse to give up.

    The grittiest people don’t just work longer and harder, although that is part of the equation. They keep a laser focus on their goal and say, “No, thanks,” to anything that gets in their way.

    8. They ignore the haters.

    There are many reasons to listen to the haters: to save face, to remain comfortable, to be secure, to not look like the fool.

    But as Dale Carnegie, the badass of winning friends and influencing people, said, “The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.”

    Haters try to talk you into–or even scare you into–sticking with the status quo.

    Be a true business badass. Don’t listen.

    Cut the Cord: Your Future Office

    Next year new devices will start to come to market that will make your desk a whole lot less cluttered.

    cutting computer cords


    Someday in the not-too-distant future you’ll bring your laptop or tablet to work, set it on your desk, and magically your display, hard drive, and peripherals will automatically connect to it wirelessly with no need for all those ugly cords now under your desk.

    This wire-free future will be the result of several technologies that exist or are in development, including one called WiGig, a multigigabit wireless docking technology capable of speeds of up to 7Gbps that runs on spectrum in the unlicensed 60 GHz frequency band. These frequencies are great for short-range communications and require line of sight between devices. That means it doesn’t work well between rooms.

    But that’s not a problem, says Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis with the Consumer Electronics Association.

    “Some of these technologies are specifically designed for certain use case scenarios,” he says, such as that office example previously mentioned. “And there are other wireless technologies that can go through walls and provide connectivity in the home and they’re clearly positioned for different purposes. A couple of examples are Z-Wave and ZigBee, which are both used in the context of lighting controls and other home automation technologies.”

    Dr. Ali Sadri demoed WiGig at the Intel Developer Forum held last month. Sadri is president and chairman of the Wireless Gigabit Alliance, the standards organization that is developing the technology. He showed how an Ultrabook, external hard drive, and two monitors were able to communicate with each other without being physically connected.

    “Since the inception of the WiGig Alliance back in 2009 we always had the vision that we need to develop a very high throughput wireless technology that is capable of doing things beyond what WiFi can do. For example, transmitting to the televisions, to the monitors–unleashing all the devices from cables,” Sadri said.

    “Hopefully… right after certification in mid-next year we will see more and more [WiGig-enabled] devices in the market,” Sadri said.

    There’s no doubt cord-free communication between devices is coming. In addition to WiGig, other technologies that can do it include WirelessHD (which also uses the unlicensed 60 GHz spectrum), Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI), Wireless USB, Apple’s Airplay, and Intel’s WiDi.

    “There’s an awful lot of innovation in terms of wireless connectivity technologies and in January at the 2013 CES (Consumer Electronics Show) we’ll see a number of [them] on display,” says Koenig.

    In the meantime, check out video of the WiGig demo at Intel’s IDF:

    One Trait All Successful People Share

    Adopt the one characteristic that unites all highly successful people: they love to sell.


    The most successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople share a single, essential characteristic: they’re good at selling. No idea, expertise, product or service ever became successful without somebody selling it to investors, peers, employees and customers.

    I can, and have, published hundreds of posts explaining how to improve your ability to sell, but up until now, I’ve held back a secret. It’s a secret so powerful and so essential that it will seem painfully obvious when I reveal it in this post.

    The Big Secret of Success

    The secret is this: the way to become a great salesperson (and therefore successful in whatever you do) is to enjoy selling.

    Take Steve Jobs. By all accounts, Jobs was often miserable and frustrated when working with other people and creating new products. But on the stage, selling those new products to the waiting world… the joy in his face was marvelous to behold.

    I’ve seen the same phenomenon in many industries. The CEOs who are the most successful are those who get a bigger kick from meeting with customers than from handling day-to-day operations.

    The secret certainly holds true in sales and marketing. I can tell within seconds of meeting a salesperson or a marketer whether or not they love their job. And, not surprisingly, I’ve watched the ones who do love selling make the most money.

    If you truly want to be successful at whatever you do, you should now be asking yourself: “How can I learn to really love part of my job that involves selling what I have to offer?” If that’s what you want to know, read on.

    How to Love Selling

    In my experience, people who truly love selling see themselves in service to a higher purpose. For CEOs like Steve Jobs, that higher purpose is “changing the world,” which was the tone of every sales pitch Jobs ever gave.

    That idea–“change the world–is deeper than it seems at first glance. The reason successful people want to “change the world” is that they want to make it a better place, where people are happier, safer and where there’s less pain and suffering.

    However, it’s impossible to change the world if nobody knows or understand what you’re selling. Selling, in other words, is the vehicle through which you change the world.  Without selling, every idea falls on dry and barren ground.

    Selling, therefore, is nothing more nor less than a way to be of service to others and that’s where the enjoyment comes in. When you’re selling, you’re creating a better world for yourself and for others. How can you not enjoy that?

    This concept runs contrary to the popular notion of the slick salesperson who cares only about making the deal. Nevertheless, it’s the way that truly successful people feel when they’re selling something they believe in.

    The Bliss of Selling

    This true nature of selling and how to enjoy it was recently made clear to me when I reconnected with an old friend, a guy whom I consider to be among the most successful people I’ve ever met.

    His name is David Rotman, and when I originally met him, he was a “mover and shaker” in Hollywood, the executive producer of the classic fantasy movie Dragonheart and co-producer of the action film Cliffhanger, among other projects.

    Make no mistake about it, producing movies is a sales job par excellence, which involves getting multiple people to buy into your vision of what’s possible and then keeping them motivated to make that vision a reality.

    Since then David has enjoyed success in other areas, like writing and selling screenplays, and promoting special events like the Agape Lovefest. He recent left Hollywood to help out at his family business, one of the largest furniture stores in the world: the famous Rotmans in Worcester, MA.

    Talking to David is like taking a bath in positive energy. When he talks about selling (in all the many forms that he’s been successful at it), he uses the word “BLISS” which he defines as an acronym: “Beaming Love In Sacred Service.”

    Right now, David is applying that concept to selling furniture while he learns the business from the bottom up, but I believe that the concept of BLISS has been the core of the many successes that he’s had in his life.

    How to Make it Real

    Here’s how to create, foster and expand the love of selling that will, in turn, help achieve success:

    1. Have a Mental Touchstone

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  • Decide why you do what you do and how it helps people and then use that deeper understanding as a way to keep yourself on track. In David’s case, it’s the concept of BLISS. Whenever he’s dealing with people, he internally reviews his motivations and actions to make certain that they’re coming from that core idea.

    2. Focus on Real People

    Rather than abstract “markets” or “customer bases,” think about real people who you’re really helping. David, for instance, takes photographs of himself with other people he meets, famous and not famous alike. One wall of his office in Hollywood was covered with these photos, a constant reminder of the emotional connections that he’d made.

    3. Learn the Craft of Selling

    It’s easier to love doing something if you’re good at it, so the time and energy that you put into learning how to sell, is time and energy that will help you love selling. The idea is to create a self-reinforcing system where your ability and your love for the craft proceed in lockstep and apace.

    4. Consider Connecting with David

    David is creating a network of people who believe that business in general and selling in particular is meant to be a blissful experience. If you’re interested, consider connecting with him via his LinkedIn profile.

    Like this post? If so, sign up for the free Sales Source newsletter.

    Get (& Keep) Your Customer’s Attention

    Before you can help customers solve their problems, you have to prove that you deserve their attention. Here’s how to craft a compelling unique value proposition.


    In two prior articles we discussed a potential new Avondale venture around private equity (PE) investing. The problem we want to solve is that:

    • Investors have a lot of cash sitting on the sidelines earning ~zero returns.
    • Investors are dissatisfied with the current PE model, which elevates fund managers’ enrichment above investors’ desire for prudent investment.
    • Some investors want to better control and manage risk and take a more active role in their PE investment choices.

    Our target customers are:

    • Investors with large chunks of investable cash who have not seen satisfactory results from the current PE paradigm.
    • Businesses with attractive growth opportunities that are constrained by capital and/or human resource limitations and recognize the need for transformation.

    Identifying the problem and our target customers are the first two steps in Ash Maurya’s 20-minute business model. The next step is to define our Unique Value Proposition (UVP).  In his book Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works, Maurya defines the UVP as why you are different and worth getting attention. Simple enough right? The clock is ticking, so here we go!

    Running Lean

    Before we can solve a customer’s problem and create value, we must first get their attention; the UVP articulates our attention-grabber. Ash suggests we should:

    • Target the early adopters (we’re not ready to “go mainstream” just yet).
    • Be different, but make sure our difference matters to our early adopters.
    • Focus on the benefits.
    • Answer what, who, why.

    We can see those thoughts reflected in the early Amazon Kindle marketing:

    Amazon:  Low price, wide selection with added convenience anytime, anywhere.

    Another approach is to use this formula:

    [End Result Customer Wants] + [Specific Time Period] + [Address The Objections]

    Ash quotes the Domino’s Pizza slogan as an example of this:

    Domino’s Pizza:  Hot fresh pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or it’s free.

    Other UVPs include:

    BMW:  Ultimate Driving Machine.

    Google:  Find what you want quicker.

    Lean Business Model:  Unique Value Proposition

    In Avondale’s potential venture, we want to help dissatisfied investors link up with businesses that want to grow but require capital and management transformation. What is our UVP?

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  • We had previously brainstormed a short list of ways we can add value in this space:

    • We give the investor more visibility, control, flexibility and liquidity where they invest.
    • We develop platforms where we are confident we can create value, and build the talent network that increases our odds of success.
    • We actively manage our investments with a track record of driving profitable growth.
    • We bring our years of experience in strategic advisory to identify opportunities in the marketplace, specifically in areas where we have deep experience. Then we build businesses that capture our market insight.

    After some quick discussion, we centered on the following:

    High-Level Concept: We are private equity without the drawbacks of the traditional fund model.

    UVP:  We create compelling investment platforms, help you to invest in them flexibly, and actively manage them on your behalf.  We bring decades of experience building and growing businesses and a top-notch network to our platforms.

    In the next article in this series we will discuss our proposed solution to realize our new UVP.

    What is your Unique Value Proposition? Why do you deserve your customer’s attention?  Please let us know your thoughts at karlandbill@avondalestrategicpartners.com.

    Train Employees to Be Exceptional

    These simple principles ensure that your firm gets real value out of any training program.

    shutterstock images

    Companies spend billions of dollars a year on training. Unfortunately, a lot of that training is simply wasted effort, according to sales guru Duane Sparks. A while back, he gave me a set of principles or rules for training employees. Our conversation was mostly about sales training, but it applies to any kind of training. Here are those rules:

    1. Teach Skills Not Traits

    Rather than trying to change the personality of the individual, focus on training skills that can be taught and learned.

    For example, suppose you’re responsible for a field engineer whose duties entail going on customer calls. If she is naturally introverted (a trait) don’t try to convince her to be more extroverted (a trait) in order to help you sell. Instead, train her how to listen actively (a skill) and how to use terminology customers will understand (a skill).

    2. Teach the Appropriate Skill

    Only teach employees skills that you’re certain will produce tangible results, within the context of that employee’s job.

    For example, if a sales team consists of hunters (who find new business) and farmers (who develop existing accounts), it’s wasteful to train everybody on the team on cold-calling techniques. Limit such training to the hunters and provide training in other skills (like account management) to the farmers.

    3. Reinforce and Support the Skill

    Whenever you train a skill, provide multiple opportunities to check on how well that employee is executing that skill and provide coaching as necessary.

    Learning a new skill entails making it into a habit. Unfortunately, doing so usually involves overcoming existing habits, which is inherently difficult. Coaching allows you gradually reinforce the skill and overcome the habits it replaces.

    4. Implement Skill-based Metrics

    There are no truer words in business than “What gets measured gets done.”  If you really want employees to integrate a skill into their day-to-day performance, you must, must, must measure the results of the application of that skill.

    For example, if you’re providing training on some aspect of your sales process, you should measure the conversion rate at that stage of the sales process, rather than just measuring the total revenue that’s booked at the end of the quarter.

    5. Consistently Measure Progress

    If you do all of the above, you should be able to watch the metrics improve as the new skill becomes second nature. If you don’t get the expected improvement, there’s something wrong. Either you’ve been training the wrong skill or not providing enough reinforcement and coaching.

    What Fast-Growth CEOs Do Differently

    Want to build a fast-growth business? An expert explains the four aspects of your business you should be focusing on.


    Jim Schleckser, advisor for CEO Project

    Jim Schleckser, advisor for CEO Project

    Business coach and consultant Jim Schleckser has spent years trying to understand how start-up and small business CEOs budget their time. Not suprisingly, the best CEOs–the ones that are able to build highly profitable, fast-growing companies–had a lot in common.

    As part of the CEO Project, a boot camp for entrepreneurs, Schleckser advises CEOs and company founders on the most important areas of their business to focus on. At the core of his advice, Schleckser believes CEOs need to put the blinders on and focus on what truly drives growth. Here are the core components Schleckser says you should focus on.

    Business Model

    “Time spent on your business model drives growth,” says Schleckser. Most important, CEOs should aim to increase the proportion of recurring revenue in their businesses.

    “Lock revenue each year,” he says. “And when you decide to sell your business, you’ll get higher offers.”

    Schleckser also challenges CEOs to raise prices. “Pricing drives profitability,” he says. “I recommend you go home and raise your prices 10 percent.”

    Lastly, CEOs need to have a product so strong, he calls it the “mafia offer,” an offer your customers can’t refusse.


    Schleckser believes all CEOs need to add  Chief Talent Officer to their title.

    “Better players on the field means better performance,” Schleckser says. The silver lining of the recession was that plenty of talented workers are looking for jobs–now is a good time to snatch up great employees at a reasonable price.

    “You’re able to get talent now that you couldn’t get years ago,” he says. “You need to be out there looking for talent all the time. Put a few of the A-players in; it’s like magic in changing the business performance.”


    What seperates good companies from great companies is the ability to differentiate their brand based on better processes. What does that mean in practice? Schleckser advises CEOs to always be developing new product lines, adding value to current processes, eliminating waste, reengineering processes, and standardizing methods.

    “Go the extra mile,” he says. “Design processes that fulfill promises to your clients.”

    Leadership Approach

    At the beginning of the company’s life cycle, CEOs are involved in all aspects of the business. But as the company grows, the CEO needs to be able to defer power to managers.

    “It feels great to close a sale,” says Schleckser, “but if a CEO is out selling, he’s not doing his job.”

    The point is to foucs on the aspects that will drive future growth, and that often means taking the CEO out of his or her comfort zone.