Questions Business Leaders Should be Asking

I've owned a small business since 1999. YourNextSpeaker, LLC (www.yournextspeaker.com) is a company focused on building the leadership and presentation skills of individuals via the delivery of keynotes, workshops, coaching sessions and online and offline content. We have created hundreds of opportunities that have impacted over one-million audience members across the United States, Mexico, and Canada. It has been a meaningful, challenging, complex, stress-filled, memorable and fun journey.

The most challenging element of running a training, speaking and coaching business continues to be how to find, understand, serve and build relationships and trust with clients. We regularly ask ourselves a set of critical questions and strive to find new and creative answers to each. This list includes, but is not limited to:
  • What do we need to streamline?
  • What resources do we need to create, invest in more purposefully, strengthen or change?
  • Who are key decision-makers we need to reach?
  • What products or services do we need to stop, pause, improve, change and/or begin delivering?
  • What constitutes a best client?
  • What clients do we need to start saying no or not right now to because they are not a good fit for us today?
  • Who are our primary competitors and what can we learn from their approach and/or techniques?
  • What are our GREAT goals?
    • Gels with values
    • Real benefit
    • Exact
    • Accountability
    • Tenacity/Timely
  • What do we define as streams profitable income?
  • How do we improve profitability by limiting expenses, growing income, managing inventory, fostering relationships, improving team skills and maximizing business opportunities?
Review this list and make certain you have a process in place where you and your leadership team keep your focus on information that matters most to your business today and in the future. Let me know when we can help. 


Get Your Team in Gear

One of the most important jobs of a leader is working hard to get the best performance out of your team. This seems easier for some people than others, but it is always a moving target.  Performance can always improve in big and/or small ways. Our task as leaders is to communicate expectations, help individuals understand where they are today in relation to these goals and then invest time and resources coaching, training, educating and motivating each team member to shrink the gap between the two.

How do we help our team bring their best performance every day? Much of it depends on the type of work, the struggles faced every day, the reward for success, etc.  No matter where your team is headed, the following parts must be in the engine or there is little to zero chance even your best team members will be able to sustain over the long-haul.

Get Your Team in Gear:

1. Help each team member understand how to measure his/her output. Not being able to measure performance is one of the major signs of a horrible job.

2. Communicate your expectations of every input he/she brings to the table:  attitude, work ethic, skills, talents, experience, relationship building, problem solving, creativity, optimism, etc. It is very difficult to know if I'm giving my best when I don't know what "best" means to my boss, supervisor, manager, leader, investors, etc.

3. Meet with each team member on a regular basis (monthly, four times a year, etc.) to discuss goals and performance.  Discuss successes, struggles, sources of struggles, observations, their observations and suggestions for improvement. Call these "employee evaluations" if you'd like. Just don't call them rare.

4. Be ready to have a difficult conversation if you find performance doesn't equal expectations. It is surprising how much productivity is lost just because a boss doesn't want to struggle through having a tough conversation with someone.

5. When you notice accomplishment, communicate it based on how that person prefers.  If you know they enjoy public recognition, do it in a group setting.  If you know they are more private, do it on a one-on-one basis. Recognition for good work is one of the common signs of a great job.

6. Invest resources in helping them grow, professionally and personally. Same here.

7. From time to time, check to make sure each team member feels like they are being able to use their strengths at work.  Even when compensation is high and work is enjoyable to most, when someone is doing work he/she believes doesn't fit their personality or core skill set, this can be a major source of demotivation. We as leaders can't expect someone to give his/her best when his/her best work is not even being asked to be brought to the table.

8. Create experiences where your team can create memories together.  It is amazing how performance improves when there is a strong sense of community, friendship and shared investment.

These ideas were shared as part two of a three-part series of business development seminars I presented for the BBB Serving Central Oklahoma on September 16, 2015.  Learn more about the series and value the BBB can bring to your business here. Let me know if I can bring these messages to your next conference, retreat and/or training.  rhett (at) yournextspeaker.com


My iPhone App List

Here is how I stay connected and productive via my iPhone 6 and Mini iPad. Search for any of these in your app store to learn more. Comment on applications not on this list or on this list you find valuable. The apps in blue are my top, absolutely mission-critical apps.

Business Tools
  • Evernote - Next level note taking, sharing, organizing and collaborating.
  • Dropbox - File sharing.
  • LogMeIn - Access to home/work computer from your mobile devices.
  • PayPal - Give and receive money.
  • Square Register - Receive payments on mobile device with a card swiper.

Home Tools
  • LifeChurch.tv Bible - Read the word.
  • Battery Doctor - Essential tools that help improve your devices' battery life.
  • Chrome - Google's browser to access all bookmarks, reading lists, and browsing history from any device and/or computer where you use Chrome and are logged into your Google account.
  • Bing - Good back-up browser.
  • Amazon - Shop for anything.  The Prime membership is worth it to save money on shipping.
  • MyAT&T - Monitor your phone bill and data usage.
  • Discover - Monitor your credit card bill. 
  • Harmony Control - Requires hardware in your home, but great "all-in-one" TV remote control.
  • Grocery IQ - Essential app for adding items to your grocery store list and sharing with anyone else that is also adding to the list and/or going to the store. Updates instantly.
  • WiFiTransfer - Powerful little tool that allows you to easily move large files from your device to your computer when both devices are on the same wi-fi network. I use it to quickly offload videos from my iPhone to my laptop.
  • SpeedTest - Great little tool to check the speed of your cell network and wifi network.
  • Diptic - Create images that have more than one of your images in them.

Content Creating
  • Blogger - Run a blog like this one.
  • RhymeZone - Find definitions, synonyms, and rhymes.
  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary - Definitions and synonyms.

  • Google Maps - Powerful GPS tool.
  • TripIt - Keep all your travel plans in one place.
  • Orbitz - Find flights, hotels and rental cars.
  • Uber - Get a ride cheaper and nicer than a cab.
  • Yelp - Find restaurants. 
  • American Airlines - Fly the friendly skies.
  • GateGuru - Find shops and services in airports.
  • OpenTable - Make restaurant reservations.
  • AirBnB - Find cheaper, nicer and more conveniently located places to stay.
  • Starbucks - Coffee.  Period. :)
  • FlightAware - Check flight times and current status.
  • SeatGuru - Find the best seats on aircraft equipment your airline flies.
  • Hilton Hhonors - Find a hotel.
  • Hipmunk - Book flights.
  • Waze - A user-updated GPS mapping app. Get updates while driving on police, traffic jams, detours, etc.
  • TravelMath - Find out how much it will cost to drive vs. fly vs. walk. 

  • Dark Sky - Simple weather app.
  • MyRadar - Simple, but more detailed weather app.

  • Timeless - Time.
  • NiceClock - Time.
  • FaceClock - Time.
  • RYClock - You guessed it, time.

  • Facebook - Faces.
  • Twitter - Tweets. 
  • Pinterest - Everything and anything.
  • Instagram - Pictures.
  • Hootsuite - Powerful place to write one status and send it to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Instagram with the push of one button.  You can also schedule statuses to go out in the future.
  • Facebook Messenger - Faces texting one another.
  • LinkedIn - Professionally dressed faces.
  • GroupMe - Cool group messaging app.
  • Periscope - Like YouTube only it is live and viewable to any of your connected Periscope friends or anyone that happens to click on your video in the app.  Cool app for showing friends, family members, customers, students, etc. what is going on in your world right now.

  • Nike+ Running - Run Forrest.
  • Nike+ Fuel - Track your movement.
  • Nike+ Move - Track your movement.

  • Podcasts - Discover stories and entertainment.
  • Apple TV Remote - Control your Apple TV.
  • iBooks - Read. 
  • Find iPhone - Find other devices (yours and your family members) that use your Apple account.
  • Keynote - Apple's PowerPoint.
  • iPhoto - Photos.
  • iTunes Festival - Annual concerts.

  • Spotify - Where all great music lives in streaming format.  When you are a member ($12 per month) you can offload the music to your devices.  I have 35 GB of music offloaded.  My most used app.
  • Netflix - Movies, documentaries and TV shows.
  • Flixster - Movie reviews and times.
  • Crackle - Movies, documentaries and TV shows.
  • Kindle - Amazon's book reader.
  • Cox TV Connect - See what is coming on and set your recorder.  For COX cable users only.
  • Kids-In-Mind - See how kid-friendly movies are.  They rank from 1-10 language, violence and sexual content.
  • Shazam - Learn what songs are that you hear around you.
  • YouTube - Videos.
  • IMDB - Movie and TV show reviews and information.
  • USAToday - News.
  • ClearTune - Guitar tuner.
  • Ultimate Guitar Tabs - Sheet music, lyrics and guitar chords.

  • ESPN - Sports information and video/audio content.
  • ESPN Radio - Sports radio.
  • Dallas Cowboys - America's team.  And mine.  :)
  • Team Stream - Sports information.
  • NFL Mobile - Football.
  • College Football - Younger football.
  • NCAA Sports - College sports information.
  • OrangePower - Oklahoma State University sports information.
  • FOX Sports Go - Sports video and audio from FOX.
  • Yahoo Sports - Sports information.
  • GolfLogix - Golf course GPS tool.  Let's you see how close or far you really are from the green. :)


    Forget Virtual Assistants, Hire a Virtual Coach

    This is a guest post by Jeff Popoff Reading time: 3.0 minutes (1800 words @ 600 wpm[1])


    • As busy professionals we face continuous pressure to get more done in less time.
    • Technology that makes us more productive also increases our pace of business.
    • Could the next generation of virtual assistants or virtual coaches be right for you?
    Are you ready to take the virtual step?

    I Was A Coaching Addict

    I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I learned the hard way that the old saying is true:
    "Good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgement."
    I was frustrated by the costs of making mistakes. Especially by the amount of time my mistakes consumed. There had to be a better way. Eventually it dawned on me that I could leverage other people’s skills and expertise and save myself time and money. I discovered the world of coaching. Once I realized that coaches could help me achieve disproportionate gains, I became a bit of a coaching addict (or maybe a lot).

    yeah, I overdid it again 
    Yeah, I overdid it again

    In the beginning, I started out modestly using coaches to help me improve my triathlon technique for the swim, bike, and run (thank you B.Gibbs, B.Chortek, T.Laughlin, Dr. Romanov, J.Friel, D.Scott). Later I branched out and used coaches in weightlifting, nutrition, and executive health (thanks Mehdi, D.McGuff, M.Sisson). Encouraged by my gains from athletic performance coaching, I experimented with a speaking coach and life coach (thanks Beth and Robyn). I have used dozens of business coaches (special thanks to Zig, Lucas, and Ramit) and even a coach for relocation (to the UK) and another for international business practices (China, India, Switzerland). I received coaching on raising venture capital, for hedge funding investing, and even how to do an IPO-roadshow (RKN.TO). I’ve used meditation coaching for stress (Adya) and completed a 12-step program to overcome my poor empathy skills (thank you Sean and CR). Today I coach a handful of start ups[2], receive ongoing peer coaching from a Mastermind[3] group, and use a supervision coach for my own coaching practice. So what’s the bottom line? In my personal development and performance, coaching has yielded a disproportionate return on investment (ROI). Other individuals report a median ROI of 3.44 times their coaching investment. At the corporate level, companies including IBM, Nike, Verizon and Coca-Cola Enterprises, report a median ROI of seven times their coaching investment.[4]

    What is Virtual Coaching and What’s New?

    Traditionally, individual coaching is done face-to-face and is usually confined to a fixed setting. Now that technologies like smart phones and wireless Internet can replicate the functions of an in-person session, face-to-face coaching is evolving to virtual coaching. Geographical locations and fixed schedules are no longer barriers because virtual coaching can be done via phone, video conference, email, SMS, iMessage, WhatsApp, FaceBook and a myriad of other apps.

    text therapy

    Current Market and Technology Trends

    As a reformed angel investor[5] from Silicon Valley it is second nature for me to spot trends within trends. The mobile web trend was overtaken by smart phone apps, and now apps stand poised to be overtaken by on-demand virtual assistants that use any messaging channel. Why load your device up with dozens of specific apps, when it’s easier to just message what you want? New start ups like Operator, Magic, Swell, Alfred, Zirtual, Kit and others are innovating the interface for next-gen on-demand services for both consumers and business users. Behind the curtain there is a mix of humans and artificial intelligence (think Apple’s Siri) working on your request. Their goal provide you a concierge-like experience, like having your very own virtual assistant. In addition to the above mentioned virtual assistants, the next generation of virtual coaches are emerging as well. For instance, Talkspace – the all-you-can-text therapy start up – just raised a hefty new round of $9.5 million in financing.[6]. Vida – who connects consumers with coaches and doctors – announced Series A funding of $5 million.[7] Health coaching start up Sessions was acquired by MyFitnessPal.[8] Clarity.fm provides on-demand business advice to entrepreneurs. Mindbloom ‘crowdsources’ life coaching services from your group of friends. The list goes on. Of course, this ‘virtual’ trend will have both winners and losers. For instance Google closed its Helpouts service in April 2015.[9]
    a coach can help you aim higher
    A coach can help you aim higher

    What a (Virtual) Coach Can And Can’t Do

    Before diving deeper into virtual coaching, let’s taking a moment to recap how coaching fits into the broader scheme.[10]
    • Therapists (psychiatrists, psychologists or counsellors) focus on healing dysfunction from the past.
    • Consultants assess organizations, provide information, and implement solutions in the present.
    • Mentors are experienced role-models and act as advisers to someone with less experience.
    • Coaches focus on future performance and use questions to improve self-awareness, behaviors, and skills.
    coach v therapist

    Many aspects of coaching will remain the same whether it is done in-person or virtually, such as:
    • Finding the right coach for your situation.
    • Setting your performance or development goals.
    • On-going dialogue and feedback.
    • Committing to work on your self-improvement.
    • Accepting that coaching may be uncomfortable.
    Nevertheless, some factors become more important in virtual coaching versus in-person coaching. Non-verbal communication cues such as body language have to be read through tone of voice or choice of words. A virtual coach has to be able discern attitude through a video call, read between the lines in text message or email, and watch for subtle clues in Facebook or WhatsApp response patterns. Other differences to bear in mind are:
    • Building a trusted bond with a virtual coach may take a bit more concentration.
    • Virtual coaching is a two-way dialogue. It’s a process, not a one-way Tweet to ‘fix it’.
    • Multitasking during a virtual session will reduce its benefits to you.[11]
    • Virtual communications usually occur in smaller bursts. Be careful not to lose the depth or context of the issue being discussed.
    • Virtual coaching sessions are more flexible than “office hours”, but a regular frequency is important to keep momentum (every 2 weeks on average is optimal).[12]

    Is Virtual Coaching Right For You?

    Which produces a better ROI, a virtual assistant or a virtual coach?
    • Virtual Assistants are a great way to outsource logistics and tactical items.
    • Virtual Coaches are an effective way to increase your performance using mindset and behaviors.
    [Photo credit: Got Credit]
    Calculate your virtual return on investment[/caption]Which brings us back to the question of ROI.
    • In my experience, virtual assistants yield a linear ROI
      • X dollars buys back Y amount of my time.
    • On the other hand, I find that coaches (virtual or otherwise) give me a disproportionate ROI.
      • X dollars spent produces XY results.
      • The reason why is simple: performance gains made with a coach compound continuously over time.

    Coaching Checklist

    Admittedly, coaching is not for everyone and information technology is not a panacea. Before deciding if virtual coaching is right for you, first make sure you are on board with the coaching fundamentals:
    1. What is your objective?
      • Are you improving your performance or your mindset? Do you want to overcome limiting behaviors or habits?
    2. Is your coach good match for you?
      • Do you trust them and their references? Can they also act as your mentor? (bring relevant expertise to the table).
    3. What is your commitment?
      • Are you prepared to put in the time, energy and work between coaching sessions to achieve new levels of success?
    4. Are you coachable?
      • Are you willing to do things differently and break away from your patterns that produce average results? Will you hold yourself accountable to your coach and your agreed actions?
    coach stats

    Virtual Coaching Checklist

    1. The number one factor to consider in virtual coaching is your level of technology savvy. Are you comfortable doing video conferencing or instant messaging by yourself or do you require IT support?[13]
    2. Does it fit your personality type? Studies show that introverts tend to perform well in electronic conversations, and even prefer a healthy distance over face-to-face conversations.[14] (Note: If your goal is to develop your interpersonal skills, this medium is not congruent with that goal).
    3. Can you build bonds and express yourself easily in writing? Aside from audio and video, much of your communication with your coach will be in asynchronous text.[15]
    4. Can your coach keep up with you? Can they follow your train of thought as you shift between phone, text, Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter DM, and a myriad of other apps? Response times and availability are key factors when coaching across multiple time zones and geographies. Is your coach available 7 days a week? Do they offer a guaranteed response time for communications between scheduled sessions?
    As I confessed from the start, I am a believer in the benefits of coaching and its exciting to see technology extending these benefits to busy people on the go. I hope you found this article useful, and would appreciate it if you commented below with your thoughts and suggestions.

    About the Author

    • Jeff is a successful executive who has served as Vice President in a Fortune 500 company as well as several Silicon Valley startups. He has been a guest speaker at UCLA Anderson and Berkeley Haas and is a graduate of Harvard PON and Stanford GSB.[16]
    • He has figured out how to increase individual business performance using better health in less time. Warning: Unintended side effects include looking better and living longer.
    • You can learn how at The Healthy Executive.
    before and after I became a health coach
    Before and after I became an executive health coach

    1. Do You Read Fast Enough To Be Successful?, Forbes
    2. SpartUp Accelerator
    3. 7 Reasons To Join A Mastermind Group, Forbes
    4. ICF Global Coaching Client Study
    5. Jeff’s profile on AngelList
    6. Text therapy startup raises $9.5 million, CNN Money
    7. Mobile health startup Vida, Silicon Valley Business Journal
    8. Digital Health Coaching Startup Acquired, Fast Company
    9. Google Helpouts is Shutting Down, Forbes
    10. Harvard Business Review Research Report
    11. The Myth of Multitasking, C.Rosen
    12. Coaching Frequency Study, Coaching Research Institute
    13. p.295 Advancing Executive Coaching, Gina Hernez-Broome, Lisa A. Boyce, 2010
    14. Hubschman 1996, Hamilton & Scandura 2003
    15. Giadagno & Caildini, 2002
    16. Jeff’s credentials on LinkedIn here and Facebook here.

    photo credits: Defining targets differently via photopin (license), [ROI photo: Got Credit]


    The Secrets to Masterfully Answering Interview Questions

    The following strategies are the bedrock of great interview answers:

    1.  TALK IN A CONVERSATIONAL TONE.  Q&A is essentially a formal conversation.  Without being too casual (using slang, filler words, etc.), be conversational with your answers.  Change the pace of your voice.  Look the interviewer or panel members directly in the eye.  Don't worry about saying the exact right thing.  If you say something that needs adjusted, do so.  Back up and say it again the right way.  If you need to, talk about the process. IE - "that is a great question", "I have studied that subject for two years now, but the answer to that question is escaping me at the moment."

    2.  ANSWER IN LIST FORM.  This strategy is especially important because the individual(s) interviewing you probably have interviewed many other people just before you.  They are in information overload mode.  This is also a valuable tactic if you tend to ramble during your answers, which can happen to even a seasoned pro.  List form is exactly what the name implies.  As the question is being asked, you quickly think of two or three answers.  When you begin your answer, you say something similar to, "There are three great ways to answer your question."  And then you take them through the three answers. This is effective because if gives your answer structure (to keep you from rambling) and it helps the interviewer(s) have a clear and concise method for following your answer.

    3. USE AN ANCHOR WORD OR PHRASE.  If the answer doesn't demand length, try the anchor word or phrase strategy. This is where you begin with one word or phrase that most accurately sums up your answer.  Then you give one or two supporting points.  Most times simple and brief will be received better than detailed and extravagant.

    4. TELL STORIES.  This is essential if you want to be remembered and want to most effectively communicate your ideas and experiences.  Great story-telling demonstrates a depth of knowledge, an attention to detail and it gives your answers faces and places the judges can relate to quickly. Remember to give your story meaning by tightly connecting the story to their question quickly.

    Interview coaching for many different situations is a core service we provide.  Drop us a call (405.517.7385) or a note (rhett (at) yournextspeaker.com) to learn more about how we can help you sharpen this valuable skill.


    Get Your Marketing Wheels in Gear

    Marketing Questions Your Team Should Be Discussing Regularly:
    1. Are we dedicating enough time to creating new marketing ideas?
    2. What is a marketing strategy that works better than it seems like it should?
    3. How are we deciding who is in our target market?
    4. What is our best marketing tool and why?
    5. What is our most cost-effective marketing tool?
    6. How are we deciding which media outlets to use?
    7. How are we capturing and using comments from satisfied customers?
    8. How are we measuring the success of marketing strategies?
    9. How has our marketing changed over the past few years?
    10. What is the source of our largest frustration related to marketing?
    11. What company or organization has the best (coolest, most creative, most cost-effective, etc.) marketing ideas?  Why?
    12. What marketing tool or strategy do we need to stop using?

    Marketing Ideas to Consider:
    • All great marketing starts with a great product or service to market.  Be great.
    • Value people first, excellent work second, everything else third.
    • Understand the most influential drivers that bring business in, bring business back and drive business away.
    • Stay connected with and bring surprise value to your "Torchbearer 23 List" - 23 contacts that carry the torch for you and/or your business. (Read more about Torchbearers below.)  Never ask them for anything, though.  Just stay connected and serve his/her needs when you can.
    • Learn where, when and how to start customer relationships.
    • Learn where, when and how your competition is starting customer relationships.
    • Make the most of your raving fans.
    • Foster relationships that will lead to piggy-back, plan B, or other ways to provide value-added options for new customers.
    • Create brainstorming moments with your team: Assign an unbiased discussion leader, capture everything, no filters, no initial judgments, pick one or two ideas to try on at low-cost. 

    Brainstorming Rules:
    • Schedule periodic brainstorming sessions to keep a steady flow of ideas flowing.
    • Have an unbiased discussion leader who is in charge of keeping the discussion going.
    • Capture everything.  Flip-chart ideas in the moment.  Take a picture of each one when the session is over and save those images for later.
    • No filtering of ideas - no matter the cost, the legality, the chance of success, etc.  
    • Keep initial judgments quiet.  There will be a time to give pros and cons.  A brainstorming session is not that time.
    • At the end of the session, pick a few low to no-cost ideas and try them on.  Also, pick a few that will require resources to implement and make sure those ideas live to be discussed another day.

    A Torchbearer:
    1. Thirsty for helping company/organization grow.
    2. Owns a strong allegiance.
    3. Values and fosters relationships.
    4. Gains part of identity from organization.
    5. Clearly understands his/her role.
    6. Knows and believes in company/organization's core values.
    7. Speaks positively about the organization, it's leadership and it's members.

    These ideas were shared as part one of a three-part series of business development seminars I presented for the BBB Serving Central Oklahoma on May 20, 2015.  Learn more about the series and value the BBB can bring to your business here.