10 Things Great Businesses Do

Rick was very frustrated with his business. Despite the fact he was working harder than ever, the business growth has stalled or plateaued. The business is wildly dependent on him and he couldn’t seem to get free.

Jennifer had a good business. Money was decent. She could take a little time off from time to time. But she knew deep down that the business wasn’t great. The business was far from its full potential. Her dream of building something extraordinary seemed more and more elusive to her. The business hasn’t clearly defined or differentiated itself.

The one thing Rick and Jennifer have in common is they are both stuck. They are intelligent and hard-working. Both were on a journey to build a great business. Although in different places in their businesses they are both on the continuum.

We all are on a continuum to move our business from perhaps barely surviving to modestly performing to performing well but yet highly people dependent to a growing and profitable, professionally managed, scalable, differentiated, system driven business that really matters with a powerful and compelling culture that genuinely serves the lives of the owners, customers and contributors to the business.

We have our own definition of greatness and I believe we all want to get there. If not, why bother?

The Level 7 System started with the premise – How to help entrepreneurs build great businesses that serve their lives.

We developed a set of Level 7 Core Principles; productive ways of thinking about business if you will. The idea is that if we embrace the RIGHT thoughts it will lead to the RIGHT actions.

Then came the Level 7 Implementation Program. We need to help business owners and entrepreneurs to apply the right thoughts in the most productive and effective manner. I am happy to say, my team and I have done a pretty good job of helping our clients accomplish that goal.

Everything changes. Innovation Happens (oh…that could be a t-shirt)

Not too long ago, at one of our Annual Level 7 Roundtables, a client asked me about the key activities of a Level 7 Business. I gave it some thought, did some research and concluded that there are 10 Absolutely Essential Activities Business Must Do to Become Great.

Here they are:

1- Get Your People Fired Up and Enthusiastically Engaged. Great businesses engage in consistent, intentional and varied leadership directed communication with the purpose of creating an enthusiastic collective focus with the people in the organization. Through these communication forums, leadership communicates goals, vision and values in a way to will inspire and get people bought in an on-board with the direction of the business.

2- Pay Attention and Listen. Great businesses expecting people to take an interest in the vision, goals and values of the organization, must demonstrate an interest in the concerns, ideas, frustrations and issues of their employees. These forums, or one on one meetings, with individuals are not intended for mentoring, performance reviews or providing team members direction, they are simply to listen to their people and appropriately respond. Most Level 7 Business conduct 15-20 minute One on One Meetings once per month. Calvin Cummings of Valbridge Property Advisors in Los Angeles, California suggested that implementing One on One Meetings in his business was one of the most important and valuable things he has done for the health, employee satisfaction, engagement and growth of his business.

3- Review Your Systemization Report once a week. Great businesses are systems driven. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what it means to be a systems driven business however. Some people believe that once they have a set of written and documented systems in a three-ringed binder on a bookshelf means they have systemized their business. Or they think that just because they have identified some process or workflow in an area of their business, even though it’s in their people’s heads, they have a systemized business. Well not to burst anyone’s bubble, but this is not systemized or systems driven. Read more about becoming systemize driven here.

Essentially being systems driven means your business has effectively orchestrated the process of documentation, testing, training and implementing your systems. In other words, creating great, high performing, results focused processes that your people are actually USING. Once you’ve done that, your business will be then be engaged in the process of evaluating and innovating your systems to continually make your systems better. The cycle repeats and your business continues to improve.

The Systemization Report is your reference to the current status of every system in your business as it relates to the systems development cycle. The Systemization Report serves as the catalyst that keeps the process of developing, implementing and innovating your systems.

4- A Commitment Standard is in place. If you have a systems driven business, you can trust and have confidence that your business will perform. Why? Because great systems produce great results. However, most systems are operated by people and, as such, you much trust your people to operate the systems according to the way they have been written and developed. If they don’t, then you will not get the results you are expecting or counting on.

A Commitment Standard simply clarifies the company’s expectations when it comes to commitments and follow-through. It establishes an environment of trust between management and staff and employee to employee. Although we assume people will consistently keep all their promises, things frequently slip through the cracks, people don’t always do what they say they are going to do.

This impacting results and business performance. The details matter. And one small slip can cost a company dearly. But the fact is people don’t always complete tasks on time or do things the way they are supposed to be done but it rarely addressed.

The Commitment Standard provides clarity of expectations when it comes to accountability and follow-though.

5- Stop Firefighting and Solve and Eliminate Your Problems Well. Most business owners are effective at solving problems. We are great firefighters. But to build a great business, we need to permanently eliminate reoccurring problems and frustrations. We need a systematic and effective approach to identifying the core source of the problem and in a step by step manner eliminate it. The Level 7 Problem Resolution System is a tool that our clients and their employees regularly use to deal with frustrations and challenges. Not only does it give the business owner and effective approach to solving problems and frustrations but it helps employees to effectively resolve problems too.

6- Monitor and Report Your Employee Performance. Great businesses have clearly defined, objective and measurable goals and expectations for each employee in their organization. These goals are communicated and reported to each team member on a monthly basis. Great businesses are on the same page with their people. When people are meeting or exceeding expectations they get high fives and acknowledgement. For those that are falling short; time and energy is invested to help them improve performance so they can start succeeding. If your people are succeeding across the board, your business is succeeding.

7- Be the Conductor and Orchestrate Correct Behavior. Great businesses understand that we must get things done. If it doesn’t need to be done, then eliminate it. We create Work Prioritizers. Work Prioritizers are essentially check or task list of reoccurring activities your employees are responsible for doing. This is not micromanagement just in case that thought went through your mind. It’s actually empowerment. You are setting your people up to succeed by providing them a resource that keeps them on track. Sales people are reminded to make 5 outbound calls per day. Bookkeepers are reminded to generate month-end reports by the 5th of the month. Front desk people are reminded to purge old files every month. Managers are reminded to review their Systemization Report weekly and take appropriate business improvement action as required.

8- Don’t Take Any Chances and Thread Your Culture. Great businesses are intentional about their culture. Threading or embedding a set of values in an organization requires a lot more than posting a list of values on a wall someplace on your premises. A well-crafted and threaded culture differentiates an organization among its employees and consumers. Level 7 Businesses employ a wide variety of strategies to establish and maintain a powerful and compelling culture. The most notable and effective is to create a Culture Development Team.

Having a Culture Development Team that meets regularly to develop strategies to communicate and engage people in the culture transfers the ownership of threading the culture to employees.

9- Know Your Numbers. I’m not talking about the occasional monthly P&L you might be getting. I am suggesting a set of key indicators that monitor performance for each department and area throughout the business. You could be looking at client acquisition numbers, lead conversion performance, closing ratios, employee productivity, brand development, quality control, client retention etc. The numbers for each business is unique to each business. Getting the numbers however is not enough. It also requires a clear and specific approach to responding when an area of the business is falling short.

10- Get Your Best Minds Together. Innovation is vital to any growing enterprise. Great businesses engage their key people in the business to participate in specific forums designed to initiate and encourage improvement in areas of concern in the business. The Level 7 Brainbank Process brings people together, they look at areas or systems that require improvement and then discuss and implement changes to their current systems to improve the business performance. Innovation and improvement goes from random and haphazard and business owner dependent to systematic, intentional, purposeful and engaging that includes people within the organization.

Once a business effectively and consistent engages in these key activities, they will see and experience massive improvement in all the areas of performance, revenue, profitability, capacity to scale and replicate, employee morale and customer satisfaction while improving your quality of life and connection to your organization.

Want to discuss or evaluate where you might be or how we can help you implement these 10 Critical Activities? Let chat. Click here to check out times and availability for a 30 Minute Evaluation, Assessment and Recommendation Call.

The One Overlooked Skill That Will Kill Your Effectiveness

nobody ListeningI work with a company in India who does some of the programming for our online systems development and management program called YODA. Many of you are familiar with it. Bragging for a moment, it’s actually pretty good with rave reviews from those who are actively using it. It saves massive amounts of time when it comes to documenting and managing your company systems, operation manuals and day to day employee tasks. Let me know if you’d like to know more about it. Okay…commercial over.

So last night I am on a call with the developers via Skype and I started to get a little frustrated. Although they speak English pretty well, they still have some rather thick accents. That coupled with a poor connection and delays in the signal back and forth, it was hard to communicate and share some of the improvements I would like to make to the program.

I believe they felt the same way because we had to strategize a different approach for me to get the information to them that they needed for the project.

Themes run rampant in my life it seems because yesterday morning, in a conversation with one of my Certified Level 7 Systems Coordinators, we had a conversation about effective communication.

Unless you live in a bubble, a hermit, if you will, you will be communicating with people. Communication is an art and a science. Few people consider the impact that poor communication has when it comes to producing results. Effective communication can make all the difference in ensuring that people have a thorough understanding of our perspective and expectations.

In business particularly, if we aren’t communicating well, there is a strong likelihood that people will not be operating effectively and efficiently. We simply won’t get the best possible results.

I find it funny how people take the skills of communicating for granted. In fact, few people even think of communication with intention. They just go on and on and on and never consider if people are even receiving and understanding their message.

Some people don’t listen with intention so they can fully understand.

They expect people to read their minds and then get upset when others don’t meet their expectation.

When it comes to communication, we all have responsibilities associated with it.

Yes, you have a responsibility when it comes to communication if you want to do it well.

It really comes down to 2 things.

1- Communicate well so others fully understand you.

2- Listen well so we fully understand others.

Communicating well requires that we understand and accept the reality that not everyone speaks your language. I am not talking literally, although that could be the case if you are talking to developers in India. People process and receive information differently. They have different perspectives. They see and hear things through different lenses.

You know what I mean. You’ve probably had a conversation with someone that you immediately clicked. Like you just got each other. Related. Understood.

And I’m sure you’ve spoke with others and it felt tortuous to engage in a conversation with them.

The problem is not you. AND the problem is not them. It’s just differences.

If you wish to communicate well, seek to bridge the gap, understand differences and discover ways to adapt and adjust. Once you’ve communicated, confirm your message has been received and understood.

The same is true with listening. I know I need to continually focus on listening with the intention of understanding. I ask questions. Seek clarity. Repeat what I’ve heard so I am sure I heard and understand.

Here’s my challenge for you. Ask yourself theses question as you engage others in all forms of communication with others:

“Am I doing a good job of conveying information?”

“Is the message being received?”

“Do I understand what others are saying to me?”

You might find it takes a little more work but the results that stem from building quality connections and clarity with others will be well worth the time and focus.


Reasons You Might Have Trust Issues

Business owners have trust issues. It’s true! If you feel trapped in someway by your business or don’t believe your business can work without you – you have trust issues.

What exactly do we need to trust in order to establish freedom? What do we need to trust so we can feel confident in our business and our people?

In a typical people dependent business model, answering those questions can be quite difficult. Most of the time a business owner in that environment has to trust their people on many different levels. They have to trust their knowledge and ability to perform specific tasks and functions in the business.

They have to trust their people’s judgment and decision making ability. They have to be able to count on their people. They have to trust in their own ability to innovate and create a model for business that will work. Just to name a few.

In a Level 7 Business, the business owner only has to trust 2 things.

  • They have to trust that they have systems, procedures and processes for doing business that will produce the optimal or desired results. In The Level 7 System we call this The Principle of Creating Replication.
  • They also have to trust their people to follow the systems. In The Level 7 System we call this The Principle of Facilitating Compliance.

You can’t have one without the other.

Want to get over your trust issues, build an amazing business and establish freedom? Focus on building a business based on creating the best possible systems that produce results and establishing an environment of accountability with your people.

It’s really that simple.

How’s Your Vision Viral Lift? Um…What the Heck is That?

I have had many conversations with my clients about the effectiveness of their leadership over the years. I’ve written some really good stuff about what leadership REALLY is and how to get good at it. Check it out if you want. Click here =>

In a nutshell, a leaders job is to create and articulate vision, goals and objectives. In doing so, they should create an enthusiastic collective focus. In other words, good leaders get people engaged and inspired to follow and support the vision of the organization.

Let’s not over complicate your role and responsibilities as a leader. If your people are not bought into the direction of the business you are not leading. Oh yes, they show up everyday to work. They may even offer some lip service to suggest they want to see the company succeed. But the reality is they are there for the paycheck. And that my friend is not leadership. You are just paying people off. Sorry for being so direct.

Now you might be okay with that; paying people off that is. And I’m not going to deny the fact that getting a paycheck is a key motivator to get people to show up and work. However, there are literally hundreds of 1,000’s of non-profit organizations, churches and religious organizations that rely entirely on volunteers who are passionate about the cause and will freely give of their time and money to be involved.

Can you imagine if you could actually get people excited, motivated and compelled to be at work. Do you think you might have a more fulfilling and successful business environment? What if you could create an environment where people wanted to work for your business. Not because you pay or offer better benefits than everyone else but because people wanted to be a part of what your business is doing.

Leadership is hard work. Leadership requires listening and understanding what motivates people. Leadership requires communicating in a way that creates understanding and buy-in. Leadership requires diligence, focus and consistency in order to get your people engaged.

The question I often get asked is how do you know your people are engaged? How do you know your leadership message is inspiring people? How do you know they really care?

One of the ways to evaluate your leadership effectiveness is to observe the quality and quantity of your Vision Viral Lift. I made the term up so you won’t find it on Wikipedia, yet.

Vision Viral Lift is like a popular video on Youtube, a big story in the news or a public relations message. The message is spread through word of mouth and communication from individual to individual. When a Youtube video is good, interesting, absurd or whatever, people talk about it and share it with others.

I never once saw an advertisement for Google Earth. A friend introduced me to it. If you haven’t seen it it’s awesome. You can see satellite imagery of any location in the world. Check it out =>. This is an example of viral lift.

One of the indicators that will help you assess how well you are leading is by observing if there is a positive Vision Viral Lift in your business. You will hear people talking about your goals, vision and direction, independently and enthusiastically.

Here are a couple to tips to get you started to create some Vision Viral Lift.

1- Study your people. Think about what really matters to them. Consider what will motivate them to want to get engaged in the growth of your organization other than more money or a paycheck. Be creative and consider what will emotionally drive people.

Call me if you want some ideas to spark your thinking. 623 551 5469.

2- Write down your vision as it relates to your employees primary motivators. Create a compelling written story. I didn’t say it would be easy.

3- Come up with some creative and some direct methods of sharing your vision with your people. Don’t stop with one or two times. Keep telling the story until they either understand it fully and embrace it or understand it fully and reject it. The fact it there is no in-between. You have the responsibility of helping them understand until they can make a decision if they want to follow you.

Here is my number again. 623 551 5469. If you would like to talk more about this topic or need help creating your Vision Viral Lift, give me a call. I’d love to help you.

This Should Get You Movin’

Uncon incompetence It's a work morning again. Hopefully you don't have the working day blues or blahs or whatever the associated feeling you have when there is a lack of excitement or enthusiasm for your day and upcoming week.

If you feel like the dunkin donut guy (perhaps you remember him. He's the guy that would get up everyday and drone on, "It's time to make the donuts.") then you need a shot of hope for the future.

That's the ticket you know.

You have to have a picture in your mind of a positive future and an associated belief that you can get there.

In order to create that environment there are several things you must do.

1- Gain clarity what you would like the future to look like for you. When you've done that you should feel inspired. If you don't feel inspired, then your vision needs more work.

2- Develop a course of action you believe will work. Is it a certainty that your plan will work? Not necessarily. So be prepared to make adjustments. Chances are YOU are going to have to change some behaviors.

3- Don't give up if the plan isn't working. Keep making strategic adjustments. What do I mean by strategic?

  • Make sure you have a system or a plan in place before you adjust. Anything else is random.  
  • Make sure you are being objective about evaluating progress. Don't be knee jerk and spontaneous in your adjustments. I've seen people making great progress but because they got scared or uncomfortable they made irrational, non-strategic decisions that killed their progress.

Finally, keep your head in the game and review your goals and plan often. Stay focused on the hope for the future, not necessarily the frustrations of the moment.

This takes work and practice for some people. For others it might be more natural. The bottom line is that focusing your mind is a choice. Practice focusing on the positive future. Practice focusing on opportunities. Practice being in CHARGE of your thoughts and all of a sudden Monday's will be just another day to bring you closer to fulfilling your dreams.

Steering A Rudderless Ship

I woke up this morning with an image in my head about a giant ship with powerful motors driving the vessel ahead. But oddly, the ship was without a rudder or instruments to steer the ship.


Cruise ship It was a weird visual because all the people on the ship seemed oblivious to the fact that the ship was heading straight to disaster. Nobody was paying attention to where the ship was going because it seemed irrelevant. They didn't have the equipment to steer the ship anyway. The only option to insure their safety was to stop moving all together. But a vessel sitting, floating at sea is at risk too. 


I suspect there is a moral to the story. You can't just sit still. If your business isn't moving forward in someway, you will eventually die.


But if you have your foot on the gas and don't have the systems in place to effectively guide the business, you will likely run aground or hit an iceberg.


Having a destination is critical. Having a method for steering and pointing your organization is a vital tool.


We call it communication. And highly effectively businesses have highly effectively processes for making sure the business is pointed and moving in the right direction.