If you measure it, it will grow!

As the 30th Olympiad unfurls in London I’m reminded of something an old rugby coach of mine used to say: “If you want it to grow, you have to measure it.” He was, of course, referring to, speed, skill and muscle. Although like any great coach, his lessons applied to much more than just sport.

Recently I saw an ad for a marketing expert who referred to performance measurement as a “magic trick anyone can use to get better results”. I think it’s a bit gimmicky to call it a ”magic trick” because the concept really is sound and can be employed easily to suit almost any situation.

It starts with setting a goal, identifying the steps to take in accomplishing the goal and measuring progress. The more you measure progress, the more incentivized you become and the faster you either reach the goal or decide to reset the bar higher. It really is that simple. The difficult part is falling victim to one of the two derailers – complacency (I know I’m doing OK, there’s no need to measure anything) or discipline – including an easy to follow, regular measurement routine. However by being aware of these possibilities (and your own tendencies) up front, they can be avoided.

When thinking of appropriate measurements consider background functions. In business most people keep track of their revenue or cash flow but more important for success might be the actions leading up to a sale. Professional sales people track phone calls or initial conversations. If they want to increase sales they make more calls or have more conversations. For better client retention, track how many personal contacts you have with each existing client and do more of them. For more referrals, keep a log of how often you ask for referrals and how often you follow up on those given. You’ll be amazed how much your referrals will grow!

Does the “If you measure it, it will grow” theory work in every endeavor? Yes, even in your personal life however it’s important to understand perspective. If, for instance, you are dieting it will be important to measure weight LOSS or if you are monitoring your financial situation it will be important to measure debt REDUCTION (or better – savings) and so on.

So while my old rugby coach was right, be careful what you measure – there could be unintended consequences both negative and positive.



Why are there out dated magazines in Dr’s offices?

Actually, a better question might be “Why are there magazines in Doctor’s offices?”

I’ve had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time in Doctor’s offices, clinics and emergency rooms over the last couple of decades.  Between 2 kids, checkups, dentists, optometrists, chronic illness, my wife Laura’s multiple surgeries etc., it seems there was always a reason. While the reasons were different the common theme was always the waiting rooms and the ubiquitous magazines. Then just recently while Laura & I were sitting in yet another medical waiting room the answer occurred to me.  It’s about customer service, or to be more precise LACK of customer service.

In my opinion there would be little need for magazines if patients were treated respectfully and seen in a timely manner. The very fact that waiting rooms are full of magazines, old and new, imply you’ll have to wait. Gee, they even call them WAITing rooms! So why do we have to sit around in WAITing rooms, with time to read entire magazine articles? Well, clearly the office has little regard for customer service.

It strikes me that anyone in business (and, yes doctors are in business – they exchange their services for your money) should have a customer service model that respects the customer. So, why would doctors be different? At the aforementioned recent appointment we waited 70 minutes from our scheduled appointment time until we saw the doctor (granted there was an x-ray in there which took all of 10 minutes). That was still an hour of my time and an hour of Laura’s time that we spent waiting. What would happen in your business if your system allowed your clients to sit around for an hour before they saw you? I’m guessing you’d be out of business pretty quick. And the infuriating thing is it’s easily fixed, all it takes is a better system.

The Joint Replacement Center at Stanford University Medical Center has such a system. Laura & I are very familiar with their Redwood City clinic as we’ve had occasion to visit numerous times. We have yet to spend an hour total there per visit (check-in, x-rays, interns, Fellows and next appointment schedule included) and invariably have at least 15-20 minutes of quality time with the lead surgeon. All this happens despite the thousands of patients that pass through the clinic every week. How do they accomplish it? They have a system. A system that is efficient and respectful of patients’ time as well as that of the medical staff. They also have magazines although no-one has time to read them.

So next time you have to wait more than a few minutes in a medical office consider suggesting (politely) they redesign their system, filling out a customer survey card (if you can find one) or sending them a bill for your time. Perhaps we can start to turn the ‘corporate arrogance’ into customer respect.



Are you a chronic procrastinator?

Would you sooner watch TV than clean out the garage, go shopping rather than organize the closet, study the market and never invest, research communities across the United States and never buy a property, or constantly check out rates but never buy the life insurance you need?

Well, you might be in good company with famous people such as Leonardo di Vinci, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Douglas Adams.

Do you know that while Leonardo could allegedly paint with one hand and simultaneously write with the other, it took him 20 years to finish the Mona Lisa; that his Last Supper was only completed when the sponsor threatened to cut off support? Leonardo’s procrastination caused him much grief in later life. Despite all his fantastic contributions to the world he had so many half-finished projects he appealed to God “Tell me if anything ever was done. Tell me if anything was done.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was one of the most infamous procrastinators of all time. Many of us learned about “The Rime of The Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan” in school but few realize that “Kubla Khan” was never really finished. Coleridge himself described his procrastination as “a deep and wide disease of my moral nature – love of liberty and pleasure of spontaneity express but not explain the fact.” He left most of his works in fragments, brilliant fragments but incomplete, and consequently doomed to obscurity.

Douglas Adams was said to have raised procrastination to an art form. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy might never have been produced had a good friend not camped out on Adams’ doorstep and subsequently locked him in a room. Adams used everything from making cups of tea, taking baths, and spending days in bed to avoid writing. Sadly his procrastination robbed us of a tenth book – The Salmon of Doubt – which he had promised for 10 years but which was left without a final draft upon his death in 2001.

So, how can you beat the pervasive procrastination?

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to get organized.

Make lists, take a class in organization, or purchase an organizer. Do whatever works for you but keep it simple. If your organization system is too complicated, it will become just another task to avoid. Here are a few tips from a recent Master-Mind Alliance meeting:

  • Create a “To Do” list then break it down into –
    • a “Must Do” list, and
    • a “Do Today” list

that way you can continue adding new items to your To Do list and still prioritize by deadline.

  • Schedule your time into blocks. If there are specific times in the day/week when you’re scheduled to perform or complete certain tasks then it’s easier to fit them in. Create a “model week” and represent it on a quilt chart with different colors for the different tasks. That way you’ll always know what you need to be doing at a particular time.
  • Eat that Frog. Brian Tracy talks about this in his book of the same name. If the worst thing you had to do each day was eat a frog, when would be the best time to do that? At the end of the day when you’d spent all day thinking or worrying about it, or first thing so the rest of the day was relatively stress-free?

Another technique that helps is to “Chunk Down” or bite off only what you can chew.

Did you ever notice how large shopping malls are broken up into lots of twists and turns, levels, and side corridors? There’s a very good reason for this. If malls were laid out straight we could see just how far we are really walking. If we actually knew how far apart stores are, we would probably leave the mall, get in our cars and drive from store to store. By having our view broken up into small chunks, we feel as if it’s a shorter distance. This same psychological trick can be used to help overcome procrastination. Break large projects up into smaller tasks. For example, doing your taxes can be broken up into: pick up necessary forms, get records organized, complete forms, double check forms for accuracy and mail. It is much less burdensome if you take a small bite at a time.

Schedule Reward Time

As you work through your tasks, you may find your mind drifting off to all the activities you’d rather be doing. You will find it much easier to concentrate on your work if you know that you have scheduled time for these activities. For instance tell yourself, “I’ll work hard today accomplishing my goals because tomorrow is Saturday and I am scheduled time to go fishing.” Knowing that you have finished your tasks will also make it easier to relax and enjoy your leisure time.

The Best Laid Plans…

This all being said, if something can go wrong it will. Allow yourself more than adequate time to finish each task. If you complete it faster than you’ve allowed, you’ll be ahead of schedule. This will be a psychological boost to you. At the very least, you’ll avoid the rush to finish. Also, if later, you do get behind schedule you can simply shift everything forward until you catch up. The key is to leave room for flexibility.

So what if you mess up and are unable to finish everything on time? Get creative. Request extensions on deadlines, get help from friends and relatives, delegate tasks to others, drop non-essential items from your schedule, or hire outside help.

Once you become conscious of accomplishing tasks in a reasonable time you’ll quickly break that habit of procrastination, reduce the pressure on yourself and begin to live a more fulfilled life.



Networking: An Innate or Inane behavior?

by graham skinner, founder & president, elliptical networking

I read a piece recently by an insurance agent who seems to fancy himself as a business coach. In this particular post he stated he “will actively discourage anyone from spending money on a networking class”. He claims to have seen, and attended, classes offered for as much as $200 that promise to help people become a better networker at business events. The writer maintains that these classes are full of false promises and advertising. Strong words. I imagine there are some classes better than others and perhaps some that make false promises. After all, I have even known insurance agents who’ve been accused of making false promises so I guess nothing is sacred. What interested me though was the writer’s assertion that “You were either born to network or you weren’t. You either have it, or you don’t.” Really? Is that also true of a profession – an insurance agent for example? Are you really born with the ability to be an insurance agent or not? More of that in a moment.

The writer then offers the gift of a free crash course in networking:

  1. Dress your best
  2. Enter the room and immediately gravitate to the best dressed person there (usually him, apparently)
  3. Engage in polite conversation and swap business professions
  4. If there is synergy, ask if you can call to set up an appointment
  5. Exchange business cards

He goes on to opine about what information a business card should contain.

So, as someone who has trained hundreds of people in networking and is a recovering financial advisor (including over a dozen years of insurance sales) I feel qualified to set the story straight. First, in my experience, effective networking is a learned behavior – if you were born with it, it can be improved; if you weren’t, it can be learned from scratch. I know, because I’ve worked with good people in both categories. Second, if networking were just about the five steps in the writer’s crash course I suspect the whole world was born with it. The truth is we could spend at least a couple of hours on each of those five steps and still not get to the real point of business networking.

The big myth is that networking is showing up at a business mixer and exchanging a few business cards (even if it is with the best dressed person in the room). That’s not networking as the big stack of rubber banded business cards in the top right hand drawer of many desks will demonstrate. That’s just the opening act. Networking is about building relationship. It takes time, effort, dedication, follow up and strategy.

Business networking is usually done to grow business.  As such it deserves the same attention to detail as any other marketing activity. It requires carefully thought out strategies – who, where, when, & why. It demands building a presence so folks know and recognize you. It succeeds by building trust & credibility. However, with all those pieces in place it can be an incredibly rewarding experience and a pretty darn cool way of doing business.

So, are there born networkers (or insurance agents)? Well, maybe there are those who have a natural affinity but it can also be learned. Is networking as meaningless as trading business cards? Clearly some think so but it is really much more. For more information on effective business networking I recommend a book by Dr. Ivan Misner, David Alexander & Brian Hilliard  – Networking Like A Pro. Or you could call our elliptical networking office and we’ll be happy to either personally coach you or fit you into a class (I promise no false advertising and a money back guarantee!)




In all professions, high achievers embrace, rather than insulate themselves from, failure. In fact they have a tendency to rack up lots of failures throughout their careers. These individuals have come to realize they are able to accomplish so much precisely because they are willing to work through day to day challenges.

Is it easy to power through failures? How do we get ourselves to stretch and attempt things new things? Can we put aside thoughts of success or failure? Here are 10 effective strategies used by high achievers:

  1. Create an accomplishment log (journal) for recording your thoughts, dreams, successes and learning experiences.
  2. Compile a list of things that you had never done before but succeeded at doing once you set your mind to it. Write them in your log.
  3. Every time you overcome fear, even something small, write it down in your log, with pride, time & date it.
  4. Every time you succeed at something that really stretched you (or others thought was beyond your capabilities), write it in your log, with pride, time & date it.
  5. Practice positive thinking. Write affirmations for yourself and read them out loud three times a day until your subconscious has absorbed them. Eliminate the “not” words (can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, didn’t, doesn’t, etc.).
  6. Create balance in your life such that business is just one part. This will help isolate you emotionally from potential business disappointments.
  7. Determine how much money each of your actions or process steps is worth to you (regardless of outcome). Update it from current experiences and keep it written on a card in front of you.
  8. Develop success rituals for the start and end of each day. Use them to recognize what happened yesterday and what will happen today.
  9. Recognize we are all vulnerable to self-doubt occasionally – whether you’re the President of the United States, CEO of a Fortune 100 company, leader of a world religion or owner of your own business.
  10. Remember the words of Napoleon Hill “A Quitter never wins and a Winner never quits.”

Follow these strategies as a part of a program to achieve more with less stress. Notice how your achievement level increases while your time spent worrying decreases and leave us a comment to share your success.


Master-Mind Alliance – January 2012

“Write out a clear and concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.” ~ Napoleon Hill

Master-Mind Alliance meetings in January were our annual Getting Started meetings that we make available, in part, to non-members. Our regular membership was enhanced by a number of guests experiencing the Master-Mind Alliance for the first time and also a couple of returning ones. All were ready to start the New Year with a fresh approach and new input.

Richard kicked off the meetings with a motivating Success Story about the writer Stephen King. He shared how King grew up in modest surroundings, worked in an industrial laundry while practicing his writing skills. Following numerous rejection slips he finally gave in and threw his latest manuscript in the trash. However, King’s wife Tabitha believed in him and retrieved it from the trash. That manuscript became the bestselling book (and subsequent movie) Carrie. The moral – surround yourself with those who support and encourage you.

The Chalk Talk – “Start Right & Win” – used sailing as a metaphor for the importance of a good start. We learned that those without a written plan can expect 40% less than those with a plan and introduced a new tool – the Make More Money Game plan. Completion of the plan required identifying Top Money Making Activities (TMMAs) and appropriate Sales Generating Behaviors. We also encouraged each business owner to ask themselves 3 big questions about their business.

Each participant was then given the opportunity to discuss a current issue affecting their business and receive input from the entire group. Topics varied from computer literacy, time management and self-motivation to entirely new business opportunities. The discussions were interactive, insightful and relevant leading to the possibility of resolution for every participant.

This was a terrific way to start the New Year for members and guests alike. Everyone left equipped with education, new tools and specific input they could use to steer their business in 2012.

“We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.” ~ Dolly Parton

So set your sails by focusing on your TMMAs & Sales Generating Behaviors, define your goals, follow the plan and seek ongoing input.



Master-Mind Alliance groups meet monthly. If you are interested in attending a Master-Mind Alliance meeting or would like to learn more about having a DONE Business check out our Facebook page (facebook.com/DoneBusinessSolution) or call the Master-Mind Alliance office at 530.343.4012




Leadership – Lead with Confidence & Skill

“The successful leader must understand, and apply, the principle of cooperative effort and be able to induce his followers to do the same.”  ~  Napoleon Hill


Following on from our August theme of Meaningful Conversations and confidence, Master-Mind Alliance in September focused on Leadership. Napoleon Hill dedicated a good portion of his Organized Planning chapter in Think & Grow Rich to leadership. Subsequently there have been some terrific books dedicated to the topic. Two that had a significant impact on me are “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader” by John Maxwell and “The West Point Way of Leadership” by Col. Larry R. Donnithorne. These are very different books looking at leadership from different perspectives although some common themes clearly emerge.


In our businesses, why is leadership important? What if you are a sole proprietor with no employees?

Well, without the cooperation of others, it would be difficult to operate your enterprise successfully. Even a sole proprietor has others working with them – accountants, consultants, CLIENTS, etc. These people are all looking for you to lead them.

When it comes to employees, when polled, a huge percentage of them said they hate their jobs and would quit in a millisecond if they didn’t need the money. Conversely, workers that are well lead and highly motivated said they liked their jobs.


Good leaders believe:

  • Every person can be competent in almost anything
  • Every person’s greatest growth potential is in their greatest strength
  • Every person’s least growth potential is in their greatest weakness
  • Every person’s talents are enduring and unique.


In addition good leaders must have 3 fundamental qualities:

  1. Consistency
  2. Determination
  3. Passion


What are the people you lead looking for that will help them like their job?

  • Clarity – they want to know exactly what it is you want them to do and where it is you are going.
  • Coaching – they are looking for opportunities to express their competence
  • Significance – they want to feel they matter and that they make a difference
  • Growth – they want to stretch themselves
  • Belonging – they want to feel connected and validated


This means your number one task as a leader is to BE CLEAR – to be sure everyone (inside and outside your enterprise) knows where you are now, where you are going and how you plan to get there. You achieve this by communicating as frequently as necessary; being direct and to the point; listening as much as speaking and acting on what you hear; doing what you say will do and never, ever,  bad-mouth anyone.


It also helps to show your people that you care – get to know them, ask them about their goals & ambitions, find out their kids names and show a genuine interest in their lives. Spending just 5 minutes a week with each of your key employees talking about goals (theirs and yours) will make a world of difference in their commitment level.


“As a leader…there will be times when commitment is the only thing that carries you forward.”  ~ John Maxwell


So as a leader be clear on, and follow, your Vision; do the right things at the right time. Your commitment to the task will be infectious to your followers and will ultimately lead them, and you, to a DONE Business more quickly.

Master-Mind Alliance


Master-Mind Alliance groups meet monthly. If you are interested in attending a Master-Mind Alliance meeting or would like to learn more about having a DONE Business check out our Facebook page or call Master-Mind Alliance at 530.343.4012


Confidence – One of Life’s Greatest Gifts, September 2011

“Devote 10 minutes daily to demanding of yourself the development of self-confidence.”   

~  Napoleon Hill

Lack of confidence is one of the three reasons why most people have too few of the Meaningful Conversations we explored in a previous Master-Mind Alliance (the other two are insufficient time blocked out and the fact that they are not yet a habit). Napoleon Hill asserted that taking an honest inventory of mental assets and liabilities would yield our greatest weakness to be a lack of self-confidence. He even created a formula to strengthen self-confidence by working on eliminating fear and appealing directly to the subconscious mind.

Here are some positive thoughts that work to overcome negatives being held in your subconscious:

•        Every second is a chance to turn your life around.

•        The past has passed so avoid ruining the present by worrying about the future.

•        Life goes on – IT might not get better but YOU can!

Building confidence takes direct action and needs to be repeated consistently. Here are some practical things you can do to build confidence:

•        Sing a song, tell a joke, recite a poem – performing in public is a great confidence booster. My daughter performs in an Improv Comedy troupe; she challenges anyone to find a bigger confidence builder than appearing in front of an audience, which expects she will make them laugh, without even a script.

•        Learn a new skill like juggling, sky diving – creating new skill sets helps build confidence in our existing accomplishments; we have increased our arsenal of things we can do.

•        Act “as if” – faking it till you’re making it. If others believe in us, it reinforces our own self- worth and promotes more self-confidence which leads to more success.

•        Speak more slowly – slowing things down helps to keep you calm, reduces your heart rate and allows you to articulate more effectively. When people hear you better, they listen more which provides you with more encouragement.

•        Change a habit, start exercising – breaking a bad habit or creating a new one has a built in reward system (“If I can do that, I can do anything!”). Starting a new exercise regimen helps us feel better about the way we look and those first impressions.

•        Volunteer, do things that please others – we feel better when people like us. This inspires us to do more in many aspects of our lives.

•        Maintain a positive attitude – stay tuned in to positive emotions rather than negative ones. Imagine if your radio is tuned into 109 FM you will not be able to hear what’s being broadcast on 91.8 FM so tune into the appropriate emotions.

•        Keep a journal – making the effort to write down your goals, thoughts and accomplishments will give you the confidence to either do more of what works or make changes to what could be improved. Either way you are in control.

•        Use affirmations and meditate – working on your subconscious to overlay those old blueprints that keep causing fear and doubt. Positive thoughts create positive vibrations which lead to greater confidence.


‘Confident’ people are not born entirely confident. We are given the gift of confidence but it is up to us to develop that gift for the benefit of all.

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.”  ~ Mark Twain

So to overcome ignorance and build more confidence in both your personal and professional lives check out Master-Mind Alliance and see how much closer you become to having a DONE Business.



Master-Mind Alliance

Master-Mind Alliance groups meet monthly. If you are interested in attending a Master-Mind Alliance meeting or would like to learn more about having a DONE Business check out our Facebook page or call Master-Mind Alliance at 530.343.4012


Master-Mind Alliance – August 2011

“We will listen with interest when the speaker switches the conversation to the subject which lies closest to his or her heart.” ~ Napoleon Hill

Master-Mind Alliance meetings in August focused on Communication – holding Meaningful Conversations that promote Top Money Making Activities which are critical to a DONE Business Solution.

When you structure your life for success, then engage the right people in Meaningful Conversations, you win, you make success happen. It becomes much harder for success to happen without Meaningful Conversations because they advance your interests – it’s what they’re for. Meaningful Conversations are so important that you must set time aside for them which might require a restructuring of your calendar. You might even need to delegate, delay or avoid doing some things you do now to fit them in. I have talked previously about time management and blocking out time for important activities. This is a great example.

Meaningful  Conversations have 3 phases:

  1. Set Up – this is where you initiate the conversation, you get people’s attention and you make them want to listen to you.
  2. Presentation – this is where you interact, ask, exchange, assign, negotiate, persuade, enlist support and so on.  You can hold Meaningful Conversations in a number of areas of your life. It could be a sales presentation, it could be a management meeting, it could be a conversation with a loved one, it could be a discussion about school work with a child. These are all examples of the presentation phase of a Meaningful Conversation
  3. Conclusion – this is where you get people to action of some kind. It could be closing a sale, making a deal or securing commitment of some kind.

So completing all 3 phases of a Meaningful Conversation is what makes success happen.

Now, there are 3 reasons why most people have too few Meaningful Conversations:

  1. Lack of Confidence
  2. Insufficient time blocked out
  3. They are yet to become a habit

I’ll discuss each of these in subsequent posts so we can explore them in more detail.

In our August meetings, members shared their experiences related to setting up and executing Meaningful Conversations and the effect these had on the performance of their Top Money Making Activity. This group interaction helps each Master-Mind Alliance member get closer to their goal of achieving a DONE Business by simply utilizing strategies that work, executing flawlessly and employing appropriate behaviors.

 “Conversation is the laboratory and workshop of the student.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

So identify in which areas of your business you should be holding more Meaningful Conversations hold them and you will be closer to having a DONE Business.



Master-Mind Alliance groups meet monthly. If you are interested in attending a Master-Mind Alliance meeting or would like to learn more about having a DONE Business check out our Facebook page or call Master-Mind Alliance at 530.343.4012



Master-Mind Alliance – June 2011

 “The steam that makes the whistle blow will never make the engine go.” ~ Napoleon Hill

 The Master-Mind Alliance groups focused on the Profit Rock in June with a continuing emphasis on Top Money Making Activity (TMMA). 

 During our business education time (Chalk Talk) we recognized that profit and money making behaviors are inexorably interrelated because a business is defined as an enterprise that profits by selling goods, products and services. Without the profit element it is simply a hobby – regardless of size.

After reinforcing the importance of understanding our TMMA, we discussed a new strategy – Determining What To Sell (i.e. where the best money comes from). This involved identifying the various goods, products and services currently offered, ranking them in order of profitability and in order of easy to sell then applying those lists to a 4 quadrant matrix. The result immediately identified where to focus (or avoid) sales energy for maximum profitability. An eye opening exercise for most participants!

 In the small group discussions and large group follow ups we addressed the specific issues of participants within the context of understanding their TMMAs. We followed this with hearty discussions around how to identify, set up and implement more effective TMMAs. Lives were changed!

 This peer input demonstrates the trust that exists within Master-Mind Alliance because without it our participants would be reluctant to talk openly and candidly about their own ventures. There is no better use of time than to spend it with knowledgeable, like-minded individuals committed to helping each other achieve their own DONE Business. We do it every month.

 Our groups grow stronger through active participation and input from visitors and new members.  More voices add power to our discussions because we all have unique backgrounds bringing a diversity of experience and expertise.

 A remarkable phenomenon came to light after the Chico meeting. Within hours of the meeting ending more than half the participants reported having completed significant parts of their monthly Game Plans from unexpected sources. These included receiving incoming phone calls, voices mails and letters from prospects, new clients and random persons closing sales, requesting proposals, or looking for employment. This epitomizes what Napoleon Hill imagined when he wrote Think and Grow Rich. Amazing!

 Remember that time is money.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin

 Ben knows about both time and money so take heed and make the best use of your time to make the best money with your TMMA!


 Master-Mind Alliance groups meet monthly. If you are interested in attending a Master-Mind Alliance meeting or would like to learn more about having a DONE Business check out our Facebook page (facebook.com/DoneBusinessSolution), our website www.master-mindalliance.com or call the Master-Mind Alliance at 530.343.4012