Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thriving In A Down Economy

Written by Mike Tafoya

Okay, so we are in a recession, but how will it affect you and your business? Money is tight. People aren’t spending. Companies are struggling—some are going out of business. The future looks bleak. What are you going to do? Is it really possible to thrive in a down economy? We at Estrada Strategies believe it is. However, it depends on how you manage a number of important factors, beginning with you and your mindset.

What is your outlook?
Your outlook will largely determine whether your company dies, barely survives or thrives during difficult economic times. If you pay too much attention to all the negative comments coming from the media, other businessmen, clients, friends, etc., you may come to the conclusion that all is lost and that your chances of success are so slim, you might as well give up and close your doors.

What conclusions do you make about the economy based upon what you are hearing? The first step toward forming a healthy outlook for your business when the “bears” are all around you is to be aware of the messages you are receiving. So, make a list of everything you have heard about the economy in the last 90 days, and access the effect they have had on you as the leader of your business. In short, what is your current outlook?

Next, identify the steps you have taken in the past or that you already plan to take to deal with the economic situation as you see it today. These simple actions will help give you a clear picture of where you are and how you may need to take some additional steps to alter your outlook.

Create a Place for Growth
One of our CEO RULES is: “People tend to be down on what they are not up on.” That means that in the absence of good information, we tend to form negative opinions. It is especially important in a down economy to be well informed. A few keys to remember in this process include:

1. Don’t Believe Everything You Hear on TV or in the News
Remember that the popular media thrives on bad news, and that often the easiest way to “sell newspapers” is to claim that the sky is falling. If you allow the media to determine your outlook, you may never see any good—ever!

2. Understand the Indirect Impact of Negative Talk
It is virtually impossible to maintain a positive business outlook if you make a habit of speaking negatively, or surrounding yourself with people who do. You set the tone and the pace for your business. If you constantly talk down the economy or your company’s prospects for the future, it will affect everything that takes place in your organization. Your words will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, so watch what you say and what you allow those around you to say.

3. Be Positive and Proactive
Smart people and business leaders find opportunities in difficult times. They’re not unrealistic dreamers; they merely look for the silver linings where everyone else only sees the dark clouds. If you can maintain a positive attitude when everyone else is down instead of passively waiting for things to get better, it will position your company for the kind of pro-activity that will lead to success and growth.

4. Keep Your Outlook and Your Information Fresh
If ignorance feeds negativity, then knowledge is key to maintaining a positive outlook. So, be as informed as possible about what is going on in your line of business, about trends, best practices, the latest technology, etc.

5. Set Specific Goals for Growth and Believe in Them
Even in a bearish business environment, growth is possible. Don’t let the market determine whether or not your company prospers. Maintain a positive outlook and set realistic goals for growth that you truly believe your business can achieve.

Refocus Your Growth Strategies
CEO RULE for Marketing: “Know who should know you.”
Not only should you know all the “players” in your field of business, but they should know you. That includes your competitors, client pool, related business, chamber of commerce, potential advertisers…

1. Increase your Visibility
What activities and events can you host to attract those in your target market, whom we refer to as “suspects”? For one, you can give seminars or presentations to past clients, or host social gatherings. These provide valuable opportunities to connect or reconnect with others that could lead to future business. Networking is another way to increase your company’s visibility in the marketplace. Attend strategic professional or trade association events, where your suspects hang out on a regular basis. Write articles for your local newspaper and place them on the Internet. Post videos on Don’t sit in your office hoping for business—get out and make yourself visible.

2. Build on Your Existing Relationships
What have you done for your clients lately? I am not talking about delivering products or services. They pay you for that. What are you doing to make them feel special and show them you really care about them? Have you taken them out to dinner, or to the theatre—maybe a sporting event or concert? And, I mean with no strings attached: no sales pitch, and no business talk. Just to have fun! Do this, and your clients will become raving fans. Don’t do this, and you will be just like everyone else. Next to your employees, your existing clients are your most valuable assets! Oh, and by the way, what have you done for them lately?

3. Strengthen your Strategic Alliances
This is HUGE. Building strategic alliances is an art. Everyone talks about them, but seldom does anyone really get any measurable results from these relationships. The first step is to establish the ground rules. What is expected of the members, especially in terms of commitment and accountability? How will you track the results? Once you establish the ground rules, you have to follow through. We have a rule that says, “Your Future is in Your Follow-up.” This is so true with alliances. Alliance participants should regularly attend each other’s activities, introduce clients to each other and invite one another to client events. These kinds of activities will lead to future business, even if you never give a referral.

Rules for Advertising
CEO RULE: “Advertising is for the consumer, not your ego.” Things to consider when developing your advertising plan are:

1. Know how your competitor’s are advertising.
2. Know your market.
3. Know your business cycles.
4. Be committed and consistent.
5. Advertise with a result in mind (goal is to be top of mind).
6. Track, measure and monitor the results.

What are Your 10 “Balloons”
Balloons are your sales channels that bring leads, prospects and sales. How many balloons do you plan to float this year? The more the better! Where and how are you generating leads for future sales? Do you know where to find them, or are you just making sales by accident—a chance meeting or some other weird situation? Balloons are defined strategies for mining, developing and harvesting leads. From there your sales process takes over. Here are some balloons:

1. Speaking engagements in your community.
2. Networking at the chamber of commerce.
3. Networking at professional and trade associations.
4. Alliances: events and referrals.
5. Direct mail advertising.
6. Yellow Pages.
7. Warm calls connected with a direct mail campaign.
8. Community service.
9. Referrals from existing and past clients.
10. Internet leads through SEO Strategy.

There are as many possibilities as there are fish in a pond, but if you have only one channel of business, you may be just one moment away from losing all your business. I always shoot for at least 10 channels. What were your 10 balloons again?

Once you have established a positive, forward-looking outlook for your business, have gathered as much information as possible related to your product/services, have reviewed and adjusted your marketing practices and have established realistic goals and a strategy for increased sales, you have done everything possible to position your company for continued growth. Of course, these practices are always beneficial for any business, but they are especially important in a down economy.

For more information you can contact Mike Tafoya at (303) 524-1270 or email him at

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Six Keys to Developing a Successful Business Plan

Written by: Mike Tafoya

“To build a successful business, you have to begin at the end.”

Creating a clear business plan is an essential task for every leader who wants to operate a successful, smooth running, self-sustaining company. While it takes time and effort, having such a strategic roadmap will enable you to view your business from a higher plane and to quickly evaluate its strengths and inefficiencies. It will also empower your employees by freeing them to accomplish your company’s goals and to fulfill its mission and vision without your constant, hands-on involvement—which also frees you up from the day-to-day work, or, as we call it, “Doing the do.”

I have identified six key elements every successful business plan should include. The first three encompass what we call the organizational “Culture,” while the second three comprise its business “Systems.” Lacking these business elements almost inevitably leads to employee confusion, conflicts and other workplace problems that undermine product quality and business performance—and makes it almost impossible to remedy them. Since most businesses do not have a clearly defined culture or defined systems, by taking these steps you will gain an immediate advantage over your competition. Below is a brief description of our Six Keys:


1. Vision
A one-sentence statement that defines the ultimate impact your business is going to make on the community. It should state what you want to accomplish in terms of an almost unattainable goal or dream. A good vision statement makes the connection between your business's passion and its purpose. My rule for Vision is: “People will work harder for a vision then they will for a paycheck.” Your vision statement should inspire, motivate and excite your employees, clients and the community where you do business. It should be short, concise and easy to remember.

Remember, a vision is not merely a large goal. It differs from a goal, in that you almost never quite achieve your vision—it is a virtually unattainable ideal that motivates your employees to meet and exceed your company’s practical objectives. In other words, goals are used to measure systems and processes, while vision is the fuel that ignites people to go beyond goals to excellence. A company’s top leadership has the responsibility to drive its vision. Without the support and encouragement of upper management, your vision will fail to have the impact the company needs to outperform your competition.

Example—“Estrada Strategies: “Creating an Opportunity for All Businesses to Succeed”

2. Values
Core Values are the rules of conduct in your business: a clearly defined set of standards that describes your organization’s approach to relationships. It is a written code of conduct defining how all stakeholders will treat people internally and externally, including other workers, clients, vendors and the community.

Without defined rules of conduct, people have little or no direction as to what constitutes acceptable behavior in your business. In the absence of such values, individuals will create their own rules. Experienced employees will default to values acquired outside the company in prior work environments. Some may have a positive impact, others may not. With no defined values, managers have a difficult time leading people, whether it means handing out accolades or taking disciplinary action. Your business’s core values are non-negotiable within the company environment. When they are broken, swift disciplinary action or termination is usually in order. When management fails to uphold written values, employees soon figure out that they mean little or nothing—they become token values that everyone winks at and no one takes seriously. However, if core values are upheld, the company can use them to guide every aspect of the business.

Example—“We believe in frequent, open and honest communication.”

3. Mission
A short, concise declaration of the four essentials of every business: 1) What you do; 2) How you do it; 3) Whom you do it for; and 4) Where you do it. Your company’s mission statement is truly the roadmap for your employees; it is also a management tool to communicate how your company will operate in the community.

A mission statement is not a long dissertation, like those from corporations in the 1970’s and 80’s. Those lengthy proclamations were often viewed as unrealistic, empty rhetoric aimed at impressing bankers and the like. Today, they are used to guide the company’s overall direction, as well as its daily business activities. Beyond providing essential guidance to your employees, it empowers them to make swift, effective decisions by establishing critical boundaries. Without a clear mission, a company will often become paralyzed whenever it encounters a new situation as it attempts to figure out what to do.

Example—“Our Mission is to lead our small to medium-sized clients to greater success. Our
Method is to bring about behavior modification through business training, one-on-one
coaching and business monitoring. We Advance our Vision by being the business example
for our clients.”


4. Growth
A well-thought-out plan for growing your business that clearly defines these four elements: 1) Your target market; 2) How to market your product to the target; 3) An advertising strategy; 4) Brand creation that establishes a unique visual and emotional identity.

The rule for growth is, "You are either green and growing or you are ripe and rotting." Without growth, a company will likely fail. A growth plan is the lifeblood of your organization. It includes your company's sales process, marketing, advertising and branding systems.

1) Sales—the entire process that defines the demographics of your future clients (your target
market or “suspects”), as well as the foundational activities that drive new relationships and will
lead to future opportunities, sales, customers and referrals.
2) Marketing—the activities in your company that create visibility, credibility and demonstrated
ability in the marketplace. Low cost/high impact is a critical element of this process, which
communicates to your market who your company is, what it does, where it does it and how it
does it. Marketing supports sales, but must not be confused with sales. Remember, marketing
is about visibility, credibility and demonstrated ability. These elements build trust and branding
in the marketplace.
3) Advertising—Systems in place that bring potential clients through your doors, make the phone ring and create leads. Advertising is all about making sales. It is the promotional aspect of growth, and concerns how your company attracts its customers. It also tracks where and how
your customers discovered your company. Ultimately, advertising is all about return on
investment (ROI).
4) Branding involves the processes that create product or name recognition in the marketplace. It
comprises the visual and emotional impact people connect with your name, logo and tag
lines. Think of Nike’s “check mark,” or McDonald’s golden arches. Does the market know your
logo, name and tag? That’s the test.

5. Operations
Operations encompass the “nuts and bolts” of how a company satisfies customer needs, wants
and expectations—the blueprint that defines how a company produces its products or delivers its services. The focus here is on the five components of your company’s processes or way of doing things: systems, quality control, labor standards, material management and Internet technology.

1) What your systems/processes are. These define how your company executes, produces and
provides its products and services, including procedures, materials and process manuals.
2) How your company will control the quality of its products and services.
3) Productive labor standards that define the labor-cost relationships of providing your products and services. Think in terms of a piece worker who may be expected to produce X amount of product per X hours, a day, a week or a month. Also, think in terms of labor costs vs. overall revenue or net income. Such labor standards provide the needed benchmarks for your employees and for your managers to track and measure performance.
4) Material management or the cost of goods sold. How your company physically manages and
stores its raw material before and after products are produced. It also focuses on keeping material, shipping and storage costs to a minimum. The goal here is to minimize inventory without running short on needed materials.
5) Internet technology—how your company will use the Internet to advertise and sell your
products. The focus here is how your company effectively uses its website to promote and sell its products and services. Some companies have glorified brochures on the web, and that might be all they need. Most companies today are moving into the e-commerce where prospects can purchase items over the internet.

6. Finances
The financial aspect of your business involves how you manage budget planning, cash flows, capital and debt servicing, KPI’s or Key Performance Indicators—like pipeline and sales values, total revenue, gross margins, operating expenses and net profit to name a few. In the end, KPI's serve as the monetary numbers that define the health of your company. The process, in short, means developing a budget that covers three years of monthly projections for your business in these three areas: 1) Income statements; 2) Cash flow statements; and 3) Balance sheets. An experienced leader tracks his KPI’s weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually. He knows exactly where the company stands financially at any given time. KPI’s make up the financial information a leader needs to make strategic decisions: to buy a building, increase inventories, or purchase new equipment. Running a business without KPI’s is like driving a semi-truck on a mountain road with blinders on. You are likely to drive the truck right off the cliff.

While having a successful business plan defined in terms of these six key components won’t absolutely guarantee that your company will be successful, not having one will almost inevitably lead to failure. Estrada Strategies exists to help businesses like yours succeed, in part by providing business training, executive coaching, and business monitoring you need to create a dynamic business plan.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Mike Tafoya - Denver's Best Business Coach

This is a great little introduction of Mike Tafoya, the Estrada Strategies Business coach in Denver. He works out of Englewood, CO and can help both small and corporate businesses.

Corporate Leadership Training

(Source: Jon Taylor)

Corporate leadership training is of the utmost importance whether you are dealing with new hires or seasoned employees. New employees can be motivated by management far more easily than seasoned employees. However, it can benefit everyone if approached in the right manner. This is what the training is about. The ability to impact all employees, regardless of how long they have been employed by the company is the goal.

This ability is not something that you are born possessing. It must be learned and the instruction that you receive must be perceived in the right way to avoid confusion and failure of the whole concept.

When corporate training is approached in the right manner, the leadership of management is discussed and the right and wrong way of approaching different situations are learned. This is only part of the business training. The ultimate goal of this training is to make you a better leader and team player. The emphasis has to be on team player as much as the leadership. When the team does not pull together it loses the momentum needed to promote the sales and customer service required for success.

Strong business skills are learned and they are not learned by having weak leadership. The leadership that you provide to your team will be what they use to develop their own sense of what is fair and appropriate behavior when it comes to their sales approach. Depending upon which one your company utilizes, there are many types of techniques when it comes to learning the sales part of a business. The sales manager will probably have developed their own special style.

One meeting, even if it is week long is not enough for a corporate leadership training program. This needs to be an ongoing effort as the world of sales changes. The policies and provisions may not be the same six months from now. Companies try different approaches to increase sales and this is something that needs to be covered in an ongoing manner. The occasional memo does not explain the direct approach that is being taken as a result of a change to the fullest extent.

When you plan the best corporate training possible it will involve hands on learning experiences. The training must be led by someone who can demonstrate their ability to get through to the sales staff as well as their manager. The best training cannot work if it is not understood. By having live training sessions, it allows for more one-on-one training if needed. The chance to explain something, demonstrate it, and make sure it is understood is of more benefit if the employees get a chance to see this in action to start.

Waiting until the plans that were implemented 6 months ago are replaced with something new is not the way to keep your team informed and up to date on what was started yesterday. This is another way that communication is extremely important to any business. Finding out this is policy six months after it was implemented is not conducive to a productive team or a good leader. Corporate leadership training will impress upon those attending how extremely important it is to think ahead. By keeping one step ahead of the competition they cannot possibly surpass you in sales or reputation.

Back to Business Coach Denver

Converting Good Salespeople to Great Salespeople

(Source: Greg Nanigian)

After 18 years of helping Chief Execs, Sales Managers and Sales People capitalize on their strengths and overcome weaknesses, here are my Top Five ways to Convert your good salespeople to great salespeople!

1.) Create a contest. That's right and here are some categories: Most Improved; Most Guts; Most 'Coachable'; Best Prospector; Best Closer and Most Receptive to New Ideas. Notice many of these have as much to do with getting results as they do with being able to improve performance. So, many of these categories recognize growth and improvement in sales effectiveness and that's what it takes to bring a good salesperson to greatness!

2.) Get them on a good Goal Setting Program. Believe it or not, most salespeople are more motivated by their personal goals than company goals! It makes sense doesn't it? Don't you want salespeople working for you that are motivated by money? Now, let's get them focused on making money, let's get then into a good goal setting program. Ask them to come up with three or four things that they'd like to buy in the next year. Have them spread the total amount over twelve months and add it to their monthly expenses. Now, help them to figure out what sorts of behaviors are going to be necessary in order to achieve those goals. Specifically, how many sales calls, contacts on the phone, dials and sales. All of this must be boiled down to daily activity. In the end they'll actually know what they need to do each day in order to achieve their goals! This will give them renewed focus and motivation! And it will be the most compelling kind of motivation, the which comes from within - self motivation!

3.) Start coaching them daily to their behavioral goals. Meet with them in person or have a telephone appointment each day, even if it's just ten or fifteen minutes to review their actual behavior against goals. Use this time to review their behavioral goals for the next day as well. If they had a rough day, it's your chance as "Coach" to "put then back together" so they go home with a clear head, wanting to perform tomorrow. Also, daily coaching sessions are your opportunity to 'tell it like it is'. When someone isn't performing to goal, let them know. Then make suggestions as to how to improve performance and let then know you'll be there tomorrow, same time, same place to coach and help again.

4.) Recognize successes, even the little ones. Be sure to give out those compliments, but keep in mind compliments for performance MUST be earned. We must not compliment negative and thereby reinforce non-productive activities. However, to help build the salesperson's self-esteem and build more of positive activities we need to be sure to compliment it. So if a salesperson's goal for the day was to make 30 dials and they had never done that many before, be sure to commend them for it and even praise them for it during a sales meeting. It doesn't have to be a sale in order to be worthy of a stroke. Sales will come if the proper activities are happening combined with the proper techniques and attitude. Our commendations add fuel to keep these necessary activities, techniques and attitudes going and growing to help the average salesperson become the winner.

5.) Enroll them in a professional Sales Training Program. Non-Traditional Re-enforcement Sales Training is the most effective available today. It is highly effective with prospects and clients yet a very natural and comfortable approach for the salesperson. Always have your salespeople assessed for growth potential and strengths and weaknesses before you start them in sales training. In this way you will be sure to have the right training for each person, from the start and save time!

Following these suggestions on average will bring another eighty-five percent effectiveness from your salespeople. That's a huge increase in sales with no increase in benefits or having to hire anyone new! Plus it will be great for morale and your people will respect you even more for what you have done. Anyway, working with winners is always more fun, exciting and the profits are greater!

For more business training tips, click here:

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Business Tips They Don't Teach you At School

If you have recently graduated deom college with your MBA, congratulations, but don't think that you're going to be a Fortune 500 Company CEO quite yet. Graduating with a business degree sets you up with knowledge and rules in which you should operate under, but just like with any degree, there are some eventualities that business school simply can't prepare you for. Let's take a look at a few basic tips every businessman can take to heart, even if they go against what they taught you in school.

Don't be afraid to take chances

One habit that many young business men and women have beat out of them by the time they receive their degree is their desire to take chances. You can succeed in business by taking a measured approach to every situation, but you will likely end up hating your job. There are going to be times when it is up to you to grasp that brass ring, and you may have to put your neck on the line to do so. The key is to know when the odds might be in your favor to do so and when you might get your head chopped off. It will probably take a few times around the block before you can recognize these openings, but don't let too many go by, you only get so many chances to make or break your business career.

You will make mistakes

Working hand in hand with the previous point, many recent business school grads think that if they move slowly enough and are careful enough, they won't anger anyone and they won't make any horrendous mistakes, either. Think about it, though. What fun would life be without making mistakes? By not making mistakes, you aren't taking any risks, and what is business without risk? It is normal for a recent grad to not want to make any waves when they first get hired, but it is equally as undesirable to simply blend in with the woodwork.

Don't accept no, no matter what

Being a successful business leader is all about desire and commitment. Getting your MBA, on the other hand, is all about compromise and being as vanilla as you can. If you are serious about making it in the world of business, you need to develop a memorable personality as soon as you can. If a client that you absolutely want to get keeps turning you down, don't be afraid to go the extra mile to bag them. It is up to you to think of creative ways to entice a client into seeing things your way. The more creative you are, the more personality that shows through and the more determined you are, the more successful you will be in the world of business. There are times to compromise and move on; you simply have to know when to refuse to lose.

When most people get their MBA, they think they have successfully built a home they can move into. The truth is that your MBA is only the foundation, and it is up to you to build the rest.

If you find yourself needing a business consultant, Estrada Strategies has great business advisors to help guide you in the right path.