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Clarus Advisors Clarus Business Advisors is dedicated to your success on a professional and personal level. Sun, 02 Feb 2014 13:21:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Seven People Who Help You Succeed Sun, 02 Feb 2014 13:20:44 +0000 Whether you are building your career or building your business, there are seven archetypal figures that can both support and hinder your progress.  It is critical that you recognize their characteristics and interact with each accordingly, in order to better assist you in your endeavors.  The seven types are;  Your First Boss, Wise Man, Brilliant Skeptic, Spiritual Advisor, Advocate, Catalyst, and Nemesis.

Your First Boss:

This is the first person in your career that saw your raw potential. He or she is the one who took interest in you and mentored you as first started to navigate the early stages of your career.  They protected you, yet they let you make the mistakes that served as the foundation of your current success.  Never lose touch with this person.  They knew you when… when you were a wide-eyed raw talent and the world was in front of you.  They will always have wisdom to share and the time share it.  They are a safe haven.

Wise Man:

The Wise Man is the one who sees the possibilities first.  The Wise Man understands the vision and builds on it.  They are realists, but yet optimistic that the objectives can be met.  These people boost and enhance your vision.  They let you expand your horizons and look at situations in new ways.

Brilliant Skeptic:

Not unlike the Wiseman, the Brilliant Skeptic “gets it”.  However, they always add the, “yes, but…” This person is not so much negative, as they are cautious.  They are able to see risks to the plan that others do not.  When you need to vet an idea or business plan, this is one of your go to people.  Their feedback may be painful to hear, as they will always find the weaknesses your ideas. But their view will make your plans stronger and help you avoid pit falls that you did not see.

Spiritual Advisor:

Your Spiritual Advisor knows your soul.  They keep you rooted in your core values and help you see when and where you might be on the road of compromising those values.  They encourage and cheer you on, but they will not be silent when want to take short cuts that may compromise your values.


The Advocate raises your flag.  They are enthusiastic about you and your ideas.  They provide the introductions and support your cause.  They do not have the capital or the clout to get you to the next step directly, but they are tireless in their support.


The Catalyst is the person who makes IT happen.  They heard the plan.  They take action to enable you to move forward.  They provide the platform, whether through a promotion, or providing capital.  This person provides the spark that allows you to achieve the next step in your journey.


Unfortunately, not everyone is on your side.  Not everyone wants you to succeed.  As Machiavelli wrote, in The Prince, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”.   Understand who may get in the way and understand why they might.  Do not hide or avoid these folks, rather be aware and interact with them.  They will make your ideas and plans better, their destructive tactics will force you to hone your thinking and improve your plans.

Be aware of the seven archetypes, they will help shape your plans, your career and your success.  How effective you are at recognizing the roles these people play, the more effective you will be.  Listen to them all because they will make you better.

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How many casualties did your crisis cause? Sun, 19 Jan 2014 14:00:55 +0000 Congratulations! You own a business! You are the boss and you are a person of action.  You are successful.  You have a strong team of associates that help you run your business and you are diligent about staying focused on the 5 Keys that Build Value in your business.  But you have this nagging feeling that the business is not as efficient/effective/profitable as it could be.  Your business is moving forward, but it does so in fits and starts.  There is not the traction you want. You are not quite sure what the cause is, but you know things are just not clicking.

Before you jump on your team, look at yourself.  Every business is faced with challenges large and small, long-term and immediate.  HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH THOSE CHALLENGES?  Does every customer issue or system glitch rise to the level of-Stop the presses, let’s get this fixed! NOW!

As the owner or CEO, as leader of your company you set the tone.  You set the priorities.  This is done partially through your words, but mostly through your actions. Ask yourself –

  • Have I assembled a solid leadership team and do I let them lead, or do I intercede on every decision – large or small?
  • How do I communicate when there are glitches in the businesses operating systems? Am I calm, working with team to resolve the issue within the constructs of processes that are already in place? Or do you rush in as if your hair were on fire?
  • As I am presented with a problem, what are my facial expressions saying? What is my body language saying? What is the tone of my voice?

Remember as leader you set the tone.  Your reactions are instrumental to determining whether you are fixing a business issue or creating a crisis.  Some points to follow the next time you are faced with a problem that is affecting your business:

  1. SCALE:  How serious is the situation? Will it bankrupt the business or destroy your hard earned reputation?
  2. SYSTEMS: Are there business systems and human resources to resolve the issue? Was it merely a mistake or was it evidence that the system needs to be overhauled?
  3. SOLUTIONS:  Seek a solution, not just an answer.  Do not worry about who is a fault, rather there is solution that is lasting.
  4. VOLUME: What is my team hearing?  Do they hear calm and pragmatic or do they hear a siren blaring FIX IT NOW!

Every time there is a “crisis”, there is opportunity lost.  People are pulled from their regular jobs. The normal flow of business is interrupted leaving the possibility of even more errors.  There is an emotional cost to the organization as well.  If your reaction to a problem is always hard charging, get the answers now.  You have to ask yourself, what is the cost, in terms of ongoing business operations or staff sanity?  After the “crisis” is over, look in the rearview mirror and see how many casualties were left behind by the frenetic effort to resolve the situation.  Stay calm, trust in your team, and work towards solutions and you will find business challenges will be easier and quicker to resolve.

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Effective Brainstorming – Getting the Most Out of Your Team & Yourself Sun, 12 Jan 2014 13:06:39 +0000 Brainstorming by definition is a group problem solving technique, but often it devolves into a session dominated by one or two individuals, or meanders aimlessly or becomes a group think rubber stamp.  This will not allow you to achieve your desired end – PROBLEM SOLVED.  In order to help get the most out of your brainstorming sessions there are several “tricks of the trade” that will keep you and your team focused and get everyone contributing.


At least one week prior to your brainstorming session, assemble the team and define the desired results in broad terms.  Assign broad areas where you like each team member to focus their efforts.  For example, logistics, accounting, marketing, etc.  Then provide the team with background information to ensure all members are starting from the same beginning.  Pre-reading materials must provide an overview of the situation to be resolved, including issues, constraints, and desired outcome(s) to name a few.  These materials provide background information, but do not provide solutions. They might include:

  • Financial Statements
  • Industry Statistics
  • Survey Results
  • News Articles or Relevant Books

Finally in preparation of your first meeting, lay out clear expectations as to what everyone is expected to contribute and timelines they have to work within.  Each team member should be prepared to discuss in detail the issues as it relates to their area of expertise, in terms of constraints, opportunities and impacts.

The Process:

Think of the brainstorming process as a blend, integrating individual thinking, group thinking and confirmation.

  1. Give each team member time to focus on their area of expertise and see how “their world” impacts the others. This is the purpose of the pre-work reading and assignments.
  2. The first team meeting is fleshes out issues, needs, wants, constraints within each functional area examined.  It is a group talk with each functional area discussion led by its assigned champion. CAUTION: you are not solving the problem here, rather it is a group think on the issues that you have raised in your pre-work.
  3. Capture the output of the meeting, compile it into a usable and editable form and circulate to the group.  The assignment here is again an individual think.  Have each team member flesh out and prioritize the needs/wants for the entire project – NOT JUST THEIR AREA OF EXPERTISE.
  4. Meet with each team member individually and have them present their ideas regarding the entire project.  As the leader you will use these results to identify synergies and conflicts.  Compile these results, highlighting both the conflicts and convergences and circulate to the group, with the assignment to be prepared to get concurrence in the next group meeting.
  5. Group Meeting… GET CONCURRENCE!   If you are not there yet then repeat the previous steps until you come to a common plan.
  6. Test the plan.  Once the team agrees on a approach, test it.  Meeting one-on-one with line people who will be impacted by the changes that are suggested to determine what the team may have missed and to bring a dose of “in the trenches” reality to the situation.

Rules of Engagement:

It is important to set not only expectations on results, but the individual and group behavior required as well. You’ve seen the lists before:

  • There is no such thing as a dumb idea
  • Listen fully
  • Disagree agreeably
  • Capture everything and narrow thoughts later
  • Participate

Establishing a clear set of rules and timeframes will keep you on track.  Move from the large to the small in terms of your thinking and recirculate the thinking from large to small, from individual thought to group think.  It is an iterative process.  Have fun with it.  Embrace the inevitable conflicts and seek solutions.  Happy problem solving!



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Three “MUSTS” that help organizational change stick Sat, 04 Jan 2014 11:35:01 +0000 Bringing change about in an organization is difficult at best and can be catastrophic to the long term health of the organization at worst.  While there many tactics used to facilitate change in a company there are three basic principles that must be adhered to if the organizational changes are going to stick.

  1. Build a Strong Team of Players:  This starts at the top.  At least one key senior executive needs to be ACTIVELY engaged in the change process.  But this is only the beginning.  The coalition of team members needs to be comprised of “strong players”.  This is in terms of not only position in the company but in terms of expertise, relationships, and leadership capacity.
  2. Consistent & Frequent Messaging: Communication is not just a speech from the CEO about where the company is headed.  Communications is a full blown “marketing” effort that keeps all associates informed of the direction and progress of the company and that solicits interaction.
  3. Celebrate the Little Things: It is human nature to get caught up in the “big-ness” of an organizational change and it is easy to lose sight of the progress the organization is making.  It is easy to get bogged down by the sheer enormity of the project.  To overcome this source of inertia it is imperative to celebrate the small victories as well as the large.  As milestones are reached, as new behaviors begin to take hold… take a moment and acknowledge and celebrate the small victories on both an individual and group basis.

There are many things that can derail change in a company, paying attention to these three MUSTS will help your company bring about the changes it desires.

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The My Way Trap Sun, 24 Feb 2013 16:32:28 +0000 My Way is a very dangerous place. My Way is the place we go to when we perceive we do not have time to explain a situation. My Way is the place we go to when we do not trust those around us. My Way is where we go to when we are afraid and confused. My Way means that decisions are made spontaneously, without research or review, and without collaboration, often causing people to either fail completely or fall short of their goals.

My Way is expedient, but in the long run it is not effective. A business owner must find a way to create the time and framework to allow him or her the opportunity to work on the business of running the business.  This is to say the owner needs to be able to step back from the day-to-day operations and review how the business is executing to its mission/vision. The owner needs to be open to the changing dynamics that occur due to changes in technology, or competition, or because the business has outgrown its own systems.  None of this can or should be done in a vacuum. 

This type of planning breaks down into three simple components.

  1. Build a discipline that gives you time away from the day-to-day aspects of your business to think and question. Keep an opened mind and be critical of your own thinking.
  2. Surround yourself with competent and curious people who share your values, yet are comfortable with speaking their mind, regardless of whether you are in agreement or not.
  3. Create a framework that encourages and rewards the free flow of ideas without fear of reprisal or ridicule.

Together, these three steps form the foundation for creative thinking and objective reasoning that will guide you and your business through both prosperous and turbulent times.  These steps will help keep from the My Way Trap and allow you to build your business more effectively. 

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What is the Biggest Threat to the Value of your Business? Wed, 30 Jan 2013 15:36:23 +0000 There are so many reasons a business can be derailed, lack of capital, poor execution/delivery, new technology, new competitors.  The list can go on forever.  Building value in your business takes patience, discipline, and perseverance.  It requires you to create a practice that clearly identifies the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW and most importantly the WHY surrounding your business.

Understanding “Where you are going, How you will get there, and Why you are going there.” Will help you stay on track.  But you also need to build repeatable processes and systems that your employees and customers clearly understand.  In addition, you need to be acutely aware of what new products and trends are impacting or may impact your industry, or who new potential competitors may be.  Finally, you need to build a “thinking platform” that allows you and your advisors to clearly and unbiasedly assess your progress.

But, doing all of this right still doesn’t necessarily add value to your business.  Because the single biggest impediment to increasing the value of your business is….


You are the reason your business exists. You had the vision, fortitude, and perseverance to get the business going in the first place. How can you be the biggest threat to creating value in your company? Simple: If you are central to the business, it does not stand without you. Hence, if you are the force behind your company’s value and you exit, value is destroyed.

How can you tell if you are the center of your business’ universe.  Try asking these simple questions:

1. Do you own the business or does the business own you?

Can you take a vacation or sick day without worrying about the basic day to day functions of the business? Or are you the person who brags that the business would be nothing without you.

2. Are you comfortable delegating important tasks within the business?

3. Do you listen to your advisors and act accordingly or do you surround yourself with “YES- People”?

In order to build lasting value in your business that goes beyond a high income for you, you need to build a business that can stand and flourish without your needing to focus on every detail or make every decision.  You need a strong management and advisory team.  You need simple processes that can be executed flawlessly nearly every time. You need to build an organizational culture that is consistent with your vision.

In short, to build lasting value… you need to move beyond an entrepreneurial mindset and begin thinking like a CEO.  By making yourself dispensable… you shift the value in the business from YOU to the business itself.  By doing this you create a better and more sustainable wealth engine.




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Why do so many businesses fail? Tue, 22 Jan 2013 22:32:40 +0000 It’s a simple question.  Let’s start with the assumption there is a market for what you do and your initial capital investment is adequate (without these basics the business is doomed even before it starts)… So why do the majority of new enterprises fail? Is it bad marketing? Too little cash flow? Poor quality (product or service)? Failure to adapt to change? These are some problems that can tank a company and I am sure if we put our minds to it, we could come up with a much longer list of problems.  However, these problems are not at the root of a business’ failure, they may have caused the final death blow… but these are really symptoms to a bigger problem.

I believe we can agree, that there are many technical financial, marketing and control reasons that could cause your business to fail.  But I believe these are merely symptoms, and that most of the time a business’ fatal wounds are self-inflicted and they come from a lack of focus and clarity.

Let me explain, everyone can tell you WHAT they do.  Most business owners and their employees can tell you HOW they do it, too.  But many cannot explain WHY they do what they do.  Without a clear mission/vision for your company it is impossible to create a focus on how and where you can WIN in the marketplace.  It is a clear focus on who your customers are (and why), and how you are going to compete that will allow you to be successful.

No business large or small can be all things to all people.  You need to carefully choose how you are going to compete, where you are going to compete and for what are you going to compete.  Decide how your business is going act and write it down… make it the center of what you do.  This focus will keep your business on track.  By being clear on your vision you can…

  • More readily identify risk
  • Control your growth so it doesn’t outpace your capacity
  • Make better hiring decisions
  • Build customer loyalty

With a clear focus and approach you can easily establish benchmarks and measures for your business.  You can invite your customers to join your “mission” and your customers become empowered in building your company.  With a clear focus your actions are consistent and as a result, you can more readily see what is and what is not working… and you can adjust.

Success starts and stops with a singularity of purpose.  It doesn’t mean doggedly sticking to something that doesn’t work, rather it means knowing where you want to go and why you want to go there.  It allows all the other details to fall in place.

I leave you with a quote from the movie City Slickers… The Billy Crystal character (Mitch) asks Jack Palance (Curly), “What is the meaning of life?” and the exchange goes…

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger]
Curly: This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: [smiles] That’s what *you* have to find out.

Find your ONE THING!




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Effective Meetings – Three Simple Rules Fri, 11 Jan 2013 16:06:33 +0000 Meetings are the bane of every business.  We’ve all heard the complaints – This is a waste of time. We can’t seem to stay on track or get anything done.  I’d be more productive if I didn’t have to go to all these meetings. That said, meetings (both formal and informal) are the way we communicate our business’ mission and vision, our goals, the obstacles we face and it is the way we celebrate our successes.  But how do you conduct an effective meeting?

It really is not that difficult.  Follow these simple rules and you will be well on the way to more effective and efficient meetings.


Don’t Boil the Ocean:

All too often managers try to cram too much into a meeting.  They attempt to cover a wide array of topics.  The result, the meeting rambles for hours and no one can tell you what was discussed or decided.  People leave the meeting frustrated and overwhelmed.

Segment your meetings so your communications are focused and clear.  For example, you may hold an annual planning meeting to cover your one to three key objectives, lay out budgets and challenges, and assign roles in order execute the plan.  Then you might hold a quarterly meeting to determine your progress.  And finally, weekly meetings with management and staff to keep everyone on track and raise/resolve issues as they threaten the plan.


Nothing derails the effectiveness of a meeting more than inconsistency.  If you have a weekly management meeting at 9AM every Wednesday, then keep it and be on time no matter what.  Nothing says I do not care more than cancelling or being late to your own meeting.

Put out an annual schedule of meetings.  Keep a consistent agenda. Keep them short and stay on time.  If you respect your team’s time, they will deliver for you.


There is an old Abbot and Costello routine, titled – Who’s on First?  I am sure you’ve heard it before.  The final key to an effective meeting is deciding who is doing what, and when will it be done.  This is a MUST for any meeting.  A word of caution here.  Many companies use a “stop light” system to track accountability.  Is the task green (on track), yellow (in danger), of red (off track). If you use a three tier system like this… SCRAP IT!

Tasks/Projects are either on time, on budget, and going as planned… or they are not! PERIOD.  Running a business is not a game of horseshoes.  Nearly made it – is not good enough.  If your plan is on track, great.  If not, glossing it over with an almost will not get you to a successful solution or your goals.  If you are off track… say it and figure out why.  Make the appropriate changes and move ahead.

In short, plan your meetings… be consistent… and hold everyone (including yourself) accountable.


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Change is Constant – Change is Hard Fri, 28 Dec 2012 15:50:50 +0000 We are confronted by change from the moment we are born until we take our last breathe, on a personal basis and on a professional basis.  So why are we so bad at effectively dealing with change? Why do we find it so challenging to manage change within the context of our lives and our businesses? I contend, it is mostly our fear of “WHAT IF?”.  Fear of the unknown.  We may know we need to make a change in order to stay aligned with our goals and values, but we fear the consequences of making a change may derail us, even though making no changes puts us equally at risk.

Mark Mueller-Eberstein did an excellent TedX talk that outlines how to successfully deal with and manage change.  It is an excellent video and well worth the five minutes required to watch it.  Enjoy.


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Value Building Resolutions for Coming Year Thu, 27 Dec 2012 18:04:39 +0000 As we close out 2012, reflecting on our wins and loses – and as we look to 2013 and its’ opportunities and risks.  These simple resolutions will help keep you focused on your mission.

1. Take the Time to Think:

Covey spoke of “sharpening the saw”, Gerber speaks of “working on the business of your business”, the point is you need the time to think and reflect on what is working and what is not.  You need to evaluate if your business is growing consistent with your goals and objectives. This means creating time with your leadership team and creating time for yourself outside the chaos of the day-to-day.

Opportunities to Achieve this goal:

- Monthly leadership meeting (preferably off-site) that focuses on the “big” things, not your tactics

- Read: Keep current to trends both in and out of your business

-Reflect: Take an honest look at what and how you doing, against the why your are doing it.

2. Inspect the Process

Are you measuring what you want to achieve? Does your scorecard align with your goals and objectives? Are you holding your team and yourself accountable for those results? Are you open to change when things are not going in the direction you desire?

3. Have Fun

Business and life certainly can challenge us, but when our goals-values-passions align it is easier to relax and have fun.  In sports, they say elite athletes have the ability to “slow down” the game.  It allows them to relax and execute.  In business we need to do the same.  Keep you goals and values aligned, use them as the basis for your decisions and the game “slows down”.  You do what you do because you love it… it makes even the most challenging days fun.  And if you don’t love what you are doing… well make the changes so you do.

Clarus Advisors wishes you a healthy and prosperous 2013



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