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  • Aspire » Inspire

    25 May


    -We are like trees;

    They can live to be 1,500 – 2,000 years old. When you see them, you can’t help but be amazed by the quiet strength on display in the way their often curvy branches appear to defy gravity with their horizontal reach. Often garnished with Spanish moss, there is something both mystical and calming when you’re under their canopy. The Southern Live Oak is truly an impressive tree.

    It has been over 25 years since Hurricane Hugo made landfall just north of downtown Charleston, SC. A recent trip revealed there are few reminders of the devastation it left in its path. And, although they didn’t all survive the storm, the Live Oaks that are prominent in the Southern States fared pretty well.

    That said, if their rustling leaves could talk, I suspect these Live Oaks could share a few valuable business lessons on their resilience. Here are four that could apply to your business.

    There is usually strength in slower growth

    Oak trees are known for their hard wood and slower growth. Faster growing younger trees tend to have softer wood. When adversity presents itself, such as a hurricane, comparable sized branches of a pine will usually break sooner than that of the Oak.

    Growing your business is important, but hyper growth without proper planning can be dangerous in a turbulent environment.

    Don’t be afraid to partner with others

    When you think of Live Oak Trees you can’t help but think of the Spanish moss (Did you know it is actually a plant?) that seems to live in harmony on the trees. Arborist often debate if the moss helps or hurts the trees. I think it is generally agreed that healthy trees are not affected by the Spanish moss, but it does like sick or dying branches. One sure thing is a healthy Live Oak draped with Spanish moss creates more shade than trees without it.

    Maybe your business isn’t trying to create a cool shaded area, but finding the right partners can make any job easier.

    Know your responsibilities

    The Live Oak gets its name because it is green year round. What people often don’t realize is that unlike an evergreen tree it actually does drop its leaves once every year. Each spring new leaves grow virtually parallel to the existing leaves. The old leaves stay green and do not drop until the new leaves are ready to replace it, so it gives the appearance of being evergreen year round.

    Know your roles and responsibilities in your business, take ownership of them and don’t leave them unless someone else can take your place.

    Don’t underestimate the strength of a strong foundation

    The root system of Live Oak can be massive. Like the tree we see above the ground, the roots are also very strong. In the aftermath of hurricanes, it is not uncommon to see Live Oaks literally uprooted from the soil and blown over. Part of the reason is the sandy soil along the coastal areas and higher water tables produce trees with shallower roots. Although smaller roots and limbs may be broken, many Live Oaks in recent years have actually been replanted after storms because the main trunk and roots were not damaged even though the entire tree was literally uprooted and blown on its side.

    If you want to build a strong valuable business, having a solid foundation will pay dividends in good times and when you face storms, don’t underestimate it.

    What do you think? Do any of these ideas apply to your business? Do you like the majestic Live Oak Trees? As always we value any comments in the space below.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    09 Feb

    Is your Business hiding a Rembrandt in the closet-

    Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art announced this past week they had found a 500 year-old painting by Hieronymus Bosch; maybe that’s not a Rembrandt, but from a value / collector’s perspective, it’s not far off.  In fact, there are only 25 paintings by Bosch on the planet and only 5 in the U.S.  The painting, “The Temptation of St. Anthony” is dated around 1500.  Apparently, it was sort of a by-chance discovery after some art experts from Bosch’s hometown in the Netherlands noticed the painting in an art catalog from 2003; the last time it had been on display at the Nelson.

    Now, this piece of art goes from being a random old painting in storage a few months ago to being viewed as something near priceless today.  Apparently, the curators of the Nelson didn’t know what they had it, though it has been in their procession since 1935!  This is the type of story you think would be associated with a garage sale or maybe the story line on an episode of Storage Wars (A&E), not a World Class Art Museum.  How could an Art Museum overlook an original painting for so long and not know its value?  The reality is, it may be easier to do than you think, and your own business might have some good examples as well (maybe not priceless art, but still valuable).

    Are there valuables (unnoticed) in your Business Closet?

    It sounds like it would be hard to do, yet we tend to see versions of this in businesses all the time.  Companies have something that is unique to them but no one really knows about it.   It isn’t leveraged to make the company more valuable.  Instead, they exist for years blending in with all the business that offers a similar product or service.

    The truth is almost every business has something unique about it, something that no other business has, their own “unique work of art”.   The older the business is, the more likely you may actually have several of them.   Why?  Because older, successful businesses are more likely to overlook how valuable their unique offerings are.  They have been doing it for so long, they take it for granted.

    Three places to look for the Rembrandt(s) in your business….

    Your Story:  Every business has a story.  Often the path to success for a business and why they do what they do is so inspiring and memorable you can’t help but want to do business with them.   Chances are there is something unique about your company’s story, too.  The roots of the owners, the original location, why it was started, how you have impacted your community or other parts of the world and how that ties into the company you are today; that is your story.  Are you telling it?

    As an example – check out the Shatto Milk Farm story, it will make you feel good about enjoying their great products.

    Your Processes:  No companies do everything the same way.  What is your business doing that is unique from all your competitors?  Maybe it’s a system you have created that reduces waste or improves reliability.  Most successful businesses have little tricks they have incorporated over time that have significantly improved the business.   The challenge with a lot of businesses is these processes aren’t documented so unless you are trained first hand, your company misses out on the opportunity to leverage the real value of it.   Could this be you? Could your unique process be hiding a great customer experience?

    Your Products/Services:  Depending on your business you may provide one or both of these.   If you have created a product or service that is truly unique, you may want to consult with a patent attorney and see if it is patent-able.   But even that isn’t the case; there is still a very good chance that there is something unique in how you deliver your product or service.   By design, does your product or service generate reoccurring revenue?   Do you package a group of services together that fills a certain niche in the market?  If this sounds like your company, are you strategically approaching your customers to maximize the benefit for your customers and your business?

    What do think?  What is unique about your business?   Are you maximizing its value?  Do your customers know about it?  Are you sure?   What about the Bosch painting found at the Nelson…have you ever run across something valuable in your own house, on an estate sale/garage sale, using a metal detector, or other?   As always we love to hear any comments in the space below.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    22 Dec

    Christmas Tree Branches Border. Vector Illustration

    This past week “The Voice” crowned its latest winner, 22 year old Jordan Smith. His final performance was the powerful Christmas song “Mary Did You Know” and he nailed it. The recording became the number #1 download on I-Tunes overnight. It held that spot for several days and continues to be near the top as we head into this week of Christmas.

    It got me thinking about popular and timeless Christmas songs. I thought it might be fun to put a little twist on them….and ask “If your business could sing a Christmas (or Holiday) song what would it sing?”

    These are a few to choose from….

    Carol of the Bells

    This song has a lot going on, sometimes the tempo is fast and sometimes it is slow, but when all the harmonies come together it delivers magic.
    If your business has a lot of moving parts and a normal day consists of several different functions being executed simultaneously in the delivery of your product or service, this may be the song your business should sing. There is a good chance Amazon and the delivery companies are singing this right now!

    You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

    No one dislikes the whole Holiday season more than the Grinch. His heart is an empty hole and of course those three words that best describe him… Stink! Stank! Stunk!  Hopefully this isn’t your song or your business’ song. However, if you think it might be, or maybe your employees or customers think this is your song, don’t despair. Jan. 1st is just around the corner, a perfect time for some New Year’s Resolutions! 

    Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

    Rudolph was an original; he didn’t fit in with the rest of the crowd. That is, until that one foggy night, his Red Nose solved a problem no other Reindeer could.
    If your business has a niche product or service, this may be the song of your business. This may also be the song for an entrepreneurial business that is constantly thinking outside the box and doesn’t accept the status quo. They are open to new ideas and aren’t afraid to try something different.

    And then there is Mary Did You Know

    This Christmas song is a conversation with Mary about her newborn son. Mary is being asked if she realizes who her baby is and the impact her baby would have on the rest of the world. (Here’s the link if you want to see Jordan’s Smith’s Performance – Mary Did You Know). The intended comparison here is just thinking about everything that can be impacted by a business; the employees, the vendors, the customers, the environment. How are you helping people? Adding value? Think about some of the inventions that have changed the world, did their inventors have any idea of their impact initially? Did they know?

    It is hard to believe another year is coming to a close. We want to wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and the best in the New Year! As always, please leave any thoughts in the space below. And of course, if you have a favorite Christmas song you want to add to this list please do so.

    Chris Steinlage   Kansas City Business Coach

    24 Nov


    How thankful is your business?   With it being the week of Thanksgiving, there may be no better time to ask that question.   Maybe the more important question is how thankful would your customers say your business is?

    Most businesses are in some mode of growth.  Unless someone is intentionally trying to sabotage or methodically wind down their business, they are typically looking for stronger numbers on their bottom line year over year.   That growth mindset naturally drives them to marketing and looking for additional business.   But that mindset can also expose their current customers to be left feeling unappreciated. Those current customers are the ones who are already making an investment in your business.

    Businesses, like people, tend to think more about what they don’t have than what they already have.  We dwell on the deals lost more than the deals we have won.  The reality is you should feel a whole lot better being thankful for the business you have, than fretting over the business you don’t.   So let your customers know; do something simple and sincere and let them know you appreciate their business.    When is the last time you simply reached out to your customers and said, “I am thankful for your business?”

    “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”
    – W.J. Cameron

    There is also the significance of looking inward at your business and being thankful.   Don’t underestimate how it impacts your employees, co-workers, or other team members.    A business may have a strong team of employees where 95% of their efforts are benefiting the business, but it is the 5% of missteps that gets all the attention. That can leave the entire team feeling demoralized and unappreciated, when they could instead be acknowledging the 95% to be thankful for.   Which focus would produce the most positive results?   Continuous improvement should be part of every businesses mantra, but remember high tides do raise all ships.

    What would your customers say about your business?  What would your employees say?   What would your vendors or other business associates say?   Let your customers know you are thankful for their business.  Maybe you can’t talk to each of them personally, but today there have never been more avenues to reach out and say thank you.

    In that spirit, during this week of Thanksgiving, we would like to say thank you to all of our clients past and present.   We truly value your business and hope our efforts in working with you and your business is impacting it in positive way.  That is our goal.   Thank you to our business partners who think of us when you see a successful business facing some type of challenge and trust our model to be the means to help them through it.   And finally, thank you to our friends and families who support us.  We truly are thankful.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    02 Nov


    Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals on a great season and a great win in the World Series last night!

    Arguably the Royals didn’t play anywhere near their best baseball in the playoffs (uncharacteristic errors, big lack of power hitting compared to last year’s playoffs or even the regular season) and yet they were still able to win against a very good NY Mets team in 5 games…unbelievable and well deserved championship for a truly different kind of team.   Keep the line moving!

    And also congratulations to Kansas City and all of the fans!  This is more than a World Series Championship…this is an acknowledgement that Kansas City truly is a world class city. That goes beyond baseball – the energy, excitement and well deserved optimism in Kansas City extends through all aspects of what it means to live here.

    This championship may not have been 30 years in the making…but it’s been at least 9 years (Dayton Moore came to KC in 2006).  And through that period of time (and a good decade or two before that) the fans and the city in general endured a lot of really bad baseball. And maybe we all took it personally during those down years. Maybe that’s why the city had developed a reputation (internally and externally) of being a nice little place with not much going on. But all of that’s changed…and this World Series victory is the icing on a cake that’s been building (baking?) for at least the last 5 years.

    Between Google selecting Kansas City for the roll out of their new network and numerous publications touting Kansas City as the new great place to visit or great place to start a business, the Kansas City of today is much brighter than even just a few years ago.

    And that civic pride is showing. You’re seeing a lot of Royals shirts around town…and a fair number of Sporting and Chiefs gear as well, but what you’re seeing even more of are shirts that support KC in general. Local company Charlie Hustle has built a booming business primarily on that local draw and it all started with their iconic KC Heart shirts that you’re seeing everywhere these days.

    There’s a well deserved pride (and maybe a little swagger) showing in Kansas City these days and the current Royals team is a great reflection of what makes this city great – here are just a few things they have in common:

    • Built on character and integrity – Dayton Moore built a team we could be proud of, and it reflects the kind of people that live here. There was no looting or rioting after the win last night – why would there be?  But that’s not true in a lot of cities.
    • Work hard and never give up – this sentiment definitely describes the team, but it also describes the culture of the city in general…who else would be willing to put up with the awful stretch of bad teams that KC has dealt with over the years?
    • Don’t take things too seriously – The Royals players love the game…and the MVP of the series is Salvador Perez – a great player, but he’s best known for his after game Gatorade showers of other players and his infectious smile.  What a great ambassador for the game and for Kansas City.

    Enjoy the celebrations Kansas City – but keep in mind this isn’t a flash in the pan achievement by a sports team. The Royals are going to be good next year as well…but more importantly Kansas City…the city…has let the world know what a great place this is (and has been) and we’re not going anywhere but up either!

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach