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Are You Aligning Your Training Goals with Your Business Goals? 

Note from Evan Hackel: Today I am pleased to share this article from my partner and colleague Cordell Riley, Founder and President of Tortal Training.

Are You Aligning Your Training Goals with Your Business Goals? 

Four Keys to Establish Congruency  


By Cordell Riley 


There are really two types of training. The first and most basic centers on teaching employees to improve their performance of required skills and tasks. The second type does that too, but produces far more transformational results, because it also teaches skills and behaviors that align with larger company initiatives and goals.  

A way to illustrate this point is to envision a golf caddy as a trainer. That caddy can walk the course and hand his golfer one club at a time and say, “This is the best club for this shot.” That might improve the golfer’s game. But what if the caddy added a higher level of information by giving perspective on the overall layout of the hole, the potential hazards in the path, and even a strategy for playing the entire course?  

Similar lessons apply in many settings. Do you want your son or daughter’s piano teacher to only teach the mechanics of pushing down a key, or to give an overview of a piece of music? If you are hiring a landscaper for your yard, do you want to discuss only one plant, or do you want to collaborate on an overall, transformational plan? 

Given choices like those, of course, you prefer the bigger picture. But how do you do that in planning your company’s training process? Here are four important steps to take.

Define and Keep Your Most Important Objectives in Mind

 Are you striving to create a company known for delivering superlative customer satisfaction? That is a great objective, but reaching it means defining specifics that can get you therewhat you would like your training to achieve.  

 For example, you could plan to train your phone reps to resolve 90% of all complaints during customers’ first callsOr you could focus on training those reps to deliver the kind of care that gets 90% of callers to report that they are “extremely satisfied” on post-call surveys. When you define goals, you can design training that achieves them.   

 Another way of stating this principle is, “begin with the end in mind.” That means understanding the bigger vision of what you would like your organization to become, then defining specific training steps that can get you there.  

 Break Down the Silo Walls

 Trainers are often brought into different company sectors and encouraged to stay in them. They might teach only skills for servicing or installing products, providing customer service, preparing food, or selling on the retail floor. But what if your trainers thought outside the silos and delivered valuable things that result in improvements across your entire organization?  

 One way to reach this objective is to initiate discussions between your training team and the people who create marketing and advertising, manage your supply chain, oversee your online presence, and more. The more disciplines you invite into the process, the more likely your training team will find ways to make the training process more encompassing and effective.  

 Don’t Create Training in a Vacuum

 Whether your training team works inhouse or you use an outside training development company, make sure to engage them in conversations regarding company collateral. This should include everything from company quarterly reports, relevant trade publications, news stories about your organization, press releases, and all other pertinent documents you can provide. Do all those materials suggest any untapped opportunities to align your training specifics with larger trends, goals and initiatives? 

Tie Your Training to Measurable Metrics 

It is essential to develop a set of clear metrics to measure before and after training. It is the only way to understand what your training has accomplished and how much closer you are to meeting your goals.  

Here are some suggestions for developing metrics that don’t just gather data, but reveal deeper progress: 

  • If your vision is to become a leader in customer service and retention, you can survey customers before and after your employees have gone through the training program. You should ask them about their overall satisfaction with their last purchase, the likelihood they will recommend you to other customers, and other factors.  


  • If you want to gain maximum value from a limitedtime offer and offer training to support that goal, your goal could be a certain percentage of sales improvement among employees who took the training.  Measure and report on those results after the training has been delivered. 


  • If you are implementing HR training in an effort to increase employee retention and become an “employer of choice” for job-seekers, you can measure retention rates before and after training and survey employees on metrics like, “I see a clear career path if I remain employed here” or, “I understand the criteria that my supervisor and company use to evaluate my performance and progress in the company.” 

 In Conclusion . . .  

If you ask a group of businesspeople to define what training is, chances are that most of them will say something like, “Training is a process that teaches people the skills they need to do their jobs better.” Of course, that is true. But if you then go on to ask a series of deeper questions like, “Wouldn’t you like your training to build a workforce that builds your brand . . . helps your company achieve its mission . . . and communicates what you stand for to the world?”, I believe that all those business people will enthusiastically reply, “Yes, we would!” 

As you launch new training initiatives or refine those you already have, I urge you to keep those larger issues in mind. The better you can align training with them, the more successful you can become.  

 About the Author 

 Cordell Riley is the founder and president of Tortal Training, a leading provider of training solutions in the franchise industry. Cordell is a 20-year franchise veteran and a Certified Franchise Executive. Before joining Tortal, Cordell was with Driven Brands in various Operations and Training roles with increasing levels of responsibility.  He currently serves on the Educational Foundation for the International Franchise Association. For more information on Cordell Riley, please visit www.Tortal.net 


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Four Ways You’re Paying for Training . . . Whether You Know It or Not

Every company pays for training. You can either pay for it up front or you pay for it through poor results at many times the cost of doing it right. People don’t think about it this way, but they should. Let me tell you a story about a company where a lack of training was costing $1.68 million a year.

I once directed a team that took over the operations of a chain of nine floor covering stores, a business that was doing $12 million in annual sales. Our overall goal was to show that our training and merchandising tools could increase profits. We noticed was that the average profit margin on products sold was 34%. We knew we could improve that with the right kind of training.

We used a two-part strategy. First, we introduced a more sophisticated merchandising program that included a pricing model, supported by a new store design that communicated the message, “lower pricing” to customers. Second, we trained salespeople to use the tools, communicate that message to customers and focus on solving their problems by focusing more on their needs and helping them find real value vs. simply a low price.

As a result, we increased the margin from 34% to 48% – a 14% improvement. In that $12 million company, the result was a $1.68 million increase in gross profit dollars plus increased sales. The improvement in profit was demonstrable. The reality is that the true differentiator was the training. If we’d simply changed out the merchandising without doing the training, we would have had a much smaller impact.

Another way to look at it is that for years, a failure to train was costing that company $1.68 million a year in gross profit. The cost of training for this company was in essence $1.8 million a per year because they didn’t spend any money on training.   You see, every company pays for training. You can either pay for it upfront or you pay for it through poor results at many times the cost of doing it right

Are you too paying for training without knowing it? Let’s take a close look at just how that could be happening to you.

Lost Opportunity: You Can Train Staff to Close More Sales

Let’s say that your staff should be closing 40% of sales, but currently they are only closing 30%. That means you are losing 25% of potential sales; if your company is doing $10 million in annual sales, you are losing $3,333,333 in sales.

With training, increasing a close rate from 30% to 40% is a reasonable expectation. It can mean training staff how to be more polite, listen better, present products more effectively – and ask for the order. It is very, very doable. And if you are not doing it, you are paying for training without even realizing it.

Which is more costly, losing $3 million in sales or investing in training?

Lost Opportunity: You Can Train to Improve Employee Retention

Losing employees is costly. According to a study by the Center for American Progress, the cost of replacing a worker who earns between $30,000 and $50,000 a year is 20% of annual salary, or about $10,000. (If you’re losing employees who earn more than $50,000, replacing each of them will cost you even more.)

Let’s assume that you have 250 employees and that your annual turnover rate is 30%. So you’re losing 75 employees a year and spending $750,000 to replace them.

(You’ll also be losing money by paying unemployment benefits, losing sales during the time their jobs are not covered, and more, but let’s not figure that in.)

What if you did a better job of training employees and cut your turnover rate by 5%, from 30% to 25%? That is also very doable. That 5% improvement will pay you back more than you expect. If you have 250 employees, you will be losing only about 60 workers a year, not 70, a saving of about $100,000 a year.

Incidentally, the link between training and retention is well documented. Well-trained employees are happier and therefore less likely to leave. And because they do their jobs better, you will have to fire and replace fewer of them.

Which is cheaper – having a high turnover rate that costs you $100,000 a year, or investing in training?

Lost Opportunity: You Can Train Salespeople to Sell Just a Little More on the Average Ticket

Let’s assume that your average customer spends $25 on each visit to one of your locations. Through training, you can increase that average ticket to $28. Your staff can learn to refer customers to other products, upsell, and apply other simple strategies.

Let’s further assume that you have 400,000 customer transactions a year. If you can train your salespeople to increase ticket size from $25 to $28, you will increase annual sales from $10 million to $11,200,000.

Which is cheaper, losing a $1,200,000 in sales or investing in training?

Lost Opportunity: You Can Train to Improve Customer Retention

If your company does that same $10 million in annual sales and your customer retention rate drops five percentage points, that means you have lost $500,000 in sales. Yet the right kind of training in areas likes sales and customer service has been shown to retain many more customers. Again, it is “doable.” And the result can be a big improvement in profitability.

Which is cheaper, losing $500,000 worth of customers a year or training?

Let’s Review

You pay for training, one way or another. Every company pays for training. You can either pay for it upfront or you pay for it through poor results at many times the cost of doing it right.

Your company results are affected by the quality of the training your company provides. Investing in training upfront is going to provide you a 10x or greater return on your dollar.

Additionally, training is the safest investment you can make. If you spend more money in advertising, it may or may not be effective in bringing customers to your business. Training is about improving results with the customers you already have coming to your business.

Every business is different, but how much is poor training costing you? How could investing in training upfront improve your profits?

Those are critical questions to ask in our highly competitive world of business.




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Five Small Things That Add Up to BIG Training Success

You’ve booked a room for your training session. You’ve ordered coffee, tea, water, and a table of snacks. Of course, you’ve made sure that the projector and sound system will work. So all the bases are covered, right?

Maybe yes, maybe no. Because the fact is, there are a lot of “moving parts” in any live training session. Paying attention to even the smallest of them can help assure that your day of training will be effective, memorable, motivating, and much more.

Pick the Right Seating Arrangement

Here are some configurations to consider:

  • Banquet-style seating, where attendees sit at round tables spread around the training room, works well for training groups of 30 or more.

Benefit: Attendees will already be in groups and there is no need for people to move around for breakout activities.

Downside: Half the people at each table need to turn and twist in order to see the presenter. Because trainees tend to sit with people they already know and like, your trainer might need to mix things up by assigning tables to trainees by putting table numbers on their name tags or have trainees change tables when breaking out into groups.

  • Theater-style seating, where attendees sit in auditorium-style rows, can accommodate very large groups of 100, 200 trainees or even more. It works well when your presenter wants to deliver a big or motivational message.

Benefit: This layout focuses on the attention of trainees on what the presenter has to say, by slightly limiting their ability to interact with each other.

Downside: Be sure to consider the training sessions that will follow a theater-style training session. If trainees will need to break out into small groups, you might want to move later training sessions in the day into another room with banquet-style seating, send them in small groups to different rooms, or make other accommodations.

  • Seminar-style seating, where trainees sit in a U-shaped formation of chairs with the presenter in front of them, works well in smaller groups of up to 20 trainees.

Benefit: Focuses the attention of the group on what the trainer has to say and encourages group discussion.

Downside:  If you are planning a full day of training, it is best to plan to move trainees into other configurations as the day progresses, since sitting seminar-style can get tiring in the long haul.

Offer the Right Food and Snacks 

This is especially important when training starts in the early morning. Of course, you or your planner will provide coffee, tea, and bottled water, but the selections that you make beyond that can affect your trainees’ ability to focus and get the most from training.

Opinions differ on what to offer, but the best thinking today holds that it is smartest to steer trainees away from sugary breakfast items – which can cause energy highs followed by energy crashes – by offering fruits and (if they are in your budget) healthy breakfast cereals like granola and protein-rich selections like eggs and breakfast meats.

Consider Circadian Rhythms when Planning Your Training Day

People tend to have high energy levels first thing in the morning, settle down slightly and become attentive by late morning, then become sleepy after lunch. With a little thought, you can plan accordingly.

One option: Because trainees can tend to “nod off” immediately after lunch, schedule breakout sessions, interactive training exercises, and other energizing activities immediately after lunch instead of lecture presentations. Steer away from lectures where information is delivered one-way.

If Possible, Pick Training Rooms with Natural Light

It’s not always possible. But if you have sat in training sessions in rooms with exterior windows, you know that training in natural lighting usually works better because people feel more energized and positive.

Tip: Post-lunch training sessions when people are likely to be sleepy can become deadly in the dark interior or basement rooms.

Allow Adequate Breaks to Check Phone Messages and eMails

If you’re training a group of new employees, they might not need to check too often for incoming new messages – only about once an hour for personal messages. But if your trainees are your current executives, managers or salespeople, allowing more frequent breaks will let them focus more closely on your training.

Tip: Encourage current employees to “triage” incoming messages by having their clients, administrative support staff and others send them text alerts – which are hard to miss – when an important message needs immediate attention.

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Coaching People to Move through Discomfort

In a webinar that Anthony Amos gave for us at Tortal Training, he made a comment that we’ve been thinking about ever since . . .

“Good training coaches people to move through discomfort.”

The more we think about that comment, the more we realize how wise Anthony is.  After all, discomfort is one of the main reasons people silently resist training . . .

  • Sales trainees learn your company’s strategies and scripts for structured selling . . . but some never admit that they feel uncomfortable about “asking for the buy” and closing sales.
  • Some mature trainees who are returning to the workforce might be reluctant to admit that they feel insecure about using new technologies.
  • Executives in your leadership training programs take part in workshops that encourage them to work closely with other departments . . . but some of them secretly feel defensive about sharing too much information with the heads of other divisions.
  • Some of the phone representatives who you are training to make cold sales calls never admit they hate to pick up the phone and call people they don’t know.

Dealing with Discomfort 

Before you can overcome discomfort, you have to find ways to uncover where it lies.  Here are some effective ways:

  • Start asking for “mood feedback” as soon as training begins. Asking a question like, “everybody good with that?” or, “anybody got a problem with that?” consistently through training can set up an atmosphere that encourages trainees to open up about any areas of discomfort. If you keep the mood lighthearted and fun, trainees will be more likely to say what is on their minds.
  • Anticipate and deal with possible “hot button” issues when designing your training. If you think about who your trainees are and what you would like them to learn, you can often identify areas of discomfort ahead of time and teach to them.

Effective Coaching Techniques for Areas of Discomfort 

  • Use simulations. If a trainee for a calling center job says that she fears having to deal with angry customers, let her handle two or three simulated calls from dissatisfied customers. (Other trainees can play the part of the callers.) Once she sees that she can handle those calls well, she will gain the confidence she needs.
  • Use videos in your training. If you can show employees dealing with situations or issues that you expect will cause trainees to feel discomfort on the job, you can proactively train employees to perform better.
  • Let trainees break into small sub-groups to discuss what they are learning. Trainees who are reluctant to air fears or concerns before a room full of other trainees are often willing to share their feelings in small groups of their peers. One good technique is to ask each group to appoint a leader to collect comments and then report them to the entire training class.
  • Consider using anonymous feedback. You can ask trainees to anonymously write down their areas of discomfort on index cards, or have them text the training leader. Once those comments are collected, your trainer can talk about them openly with the entire group.
  • Be respectful of trainees’ feelings. You want to keep the mood light but resist the temptation to poke fun at trainees’ fears. If a trainee opens up about something that is on his or her mind – something that is a concern – part of a trainer’s job is to discuss the issue respectfully and carefully.
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You Never See it Coming

I woke up in a reflective mood this morning as I’m preparing for BOTH Easter and Passover this year and thinking about the challenges faced by our ancestors.  For some reason I was reminded of a woman I met on a long plane ride several years after 9/11,  Anna was a portly woman, probably in her early sixties, possibly older.  We were coming back from Los Angeles, so it was going to be a long flight and I welcomed the diversion of some light conversation.  Also, being a writer, I’m always looking for opportunities to hear a good story.

After the usual introductions, I asked about her work. She replied that it had changed significantly over the past several years. Previously, she was a project manager with an office in the World Trade Center.  Now she was in a different building closer to where she lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  I couldn’t help but ask where she had been when the planes hit.

She said she was at her computer when the announcement came to drop everything and move to the stairwell.  No one told her why she had to leave her office. Confused, she joined the rush of people making their way down the forty flights of stairs.  Rumors spread.  She began to realize something terrible had happened, but exactly what wasn’t clear. Her mind started to race, even if her feet could not.  She decided that she had to get to safety.

Suddenly, the exodus came to a halt.  Although the group had arrived at the lobby level, the guards in charge were instructing people to stay in the stairwell.  This did not make sense.  She squeezed her way through the crush of bodies and out the stairwell door.  People yelled for her to get back into the shaft.  Instead, she sprinted across the lobby while the guards shouted after her.

Most of the exits to the outside were locked, but one of the doors remained open.  Without hesitation, this overweight, out-of-shape, sedentary woman began running — all the way from the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan to her apartment on the Upper West Side of the city.  She never looked back, never stopped running until she was home on 79th Street and Broadway – more than 6 ½ miles from where she’d started.  When I asked what was going through her mind, she said she couldn’t believe she had left her favorite red heels under her desk.  Not her laptop, not her phone, not any files, but her sexy, red-spiked heels.

I was impressed.  This matronly woman — without any information and acting on only gut instinct — saved her own life.  The others in her group who obediently stayed put were crushed when the Towers came down.

The Takeaway?   Just when everything appears to be going well, a plane will suddenly appear in the sky and slam head-on into either your life or career or something else you value. You won’t see it coming but be assured; it happens to us all.  Marriages end. Careers derail.  Fortunes are lost. The people you counted on suddenly disappear.

When the calamity arrives, what will be your response? Will you sit there stunned, unable to move, and scream at the moon that it’s all unfair?  Or will you refuse to be crushed and instead take action to regain your life, as Anna did?

A few years ago, when I was staying at the Westin in Philadelphia, the fire alarms went off in every room and all the hallways with instructions to head to the stairwells.  My heart raced as I remembered Anna.  Hotel guests were standing in the stairwells waiting.  I couldn’t.  I pushed my way through the throngs and sprinted down the stairs and out onto the street and safety.

I found out later it was a bomb scare.  The bomb squad found it and dismantled it.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.  But I assessed the risk as well as I could and acted on my own behalf, the way Anna did.

When life challenges confront me I remember Anna and take action rather than allowing circumstances to control my fate.  And I always make sure to have my red stilettos somewhere safe. 😉

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Why Failing to Train Your Employees Costs a lot More Than You Think

Let me start this article by quoting a conversation between a CEO and a head of training.

The CEO says, “What if we spend all this money training our staff and they leave us?” And the head of training replies, “What if we don’t train them and they stay?”

The point of this adage is that if you spend a lot of money and they leave that is not great. But if you don’t train them and they stay, it costs you a lot of money.


Early in my career when I worked for CCA Global Partners, I supervised operations at a number of flooring stores that practiced a philosophy hiring philosophy that seemed logical. The company routinely hired salespeople who had worked at other flooring retailers, and then didn’t train them. The assumption was that experienced salespeople were “pretrained.” Training them would be costly and superfluous.

That assumption might have made sense, but it was flawed. The fact that those salespeople had experience didn’t mean that they came armed with the best selling skills. So, my team and I developed a blended program of live and eLearning that taught the comprehensive selling skills that our company needed. We trained salespeople on the products they were selling, on how to increase the size of the average order, on how to explain to customers what to expect when their new flooring was installed, and more.

The performance of the experienced people we trained was dramatically better than the performance of experienced people who were allowed to “learn on their own.” For every $750,00 in sales made by salespeople we trained, the “learn on their own” salespeople generated only $400,00 in sales, or only about 60% of what trained employees did. Another way of looking at it? Untrained employees contributed about 60% of what the trained employees did against margin (the amount of money they generated after subtracting the cost of commissions, the cost of goods sold, the cost of processing credit cards and other expenses).

And the advantage becomes even greater when you consider the additional cost of employment that include benefits, social security taxes, the cost of a desk and a phone, and other expenses.

In my years of analyzing training results, I have seen time and time again that the ROI on training is dramatically greater than most company executives believe it will be. In simple terms, if a trained worker becomes 100% productive and an untrained worker is only 60% productive, you are losing $40,000 in value on every $100,000 of business you conduct.

And here’s another statistic that should catch your attention. When you look at the amount of money that each employee contributes after commissions (the “contribution margin”), properly trained salespeople generate something on the order of $122,000 more for of $1 million in sales that your company makes. And when you tally those gains across a salesforce of five, 10, or more employees, you easily see that the gains are significant.

Why Trained Employees Generate More Income

There are many reasons. Trained salespeople . . .

  • Close more sales
  • Generate larger average sales
  • Sell fewer products at discounted prices, and more products at list price
  • Make fewer mistakes
  • Sell the right products, reducing the cost of returns and product replacements
  • Build customer relationships that result in more repeat business
  • Generate more positive reviews online
  • Increase your net promoter scores
  • Help keep morale and productivity high among all your employees, because people don’t like to work with untrained people who don’t know what they are doing

There are many more reasons why trained employees contribute more to the bottom line. Even if you have a company that attracts a small volume of walk-in traffic and only a small number of customers come through your door, for example, trained salespeople will increase profits for you, even if you do not increase the number of customers you attract, your business will still be up if you train them to sell each customer just a little bit more, to make higher margins.

Training Is Not Just for Salespeople

To cite another example from my years in the flooring industry, I was once responsible for creating a program that trained flooring installers the basics of customer service, such as explaining to customers exactly what to expect during the installation process. Thanks to that program, we took the percentage of customers who said they would not buy from us again from 13% down to less than half a percent.  We dramatically increased the likelihood of doing referral business by word of mouth advertising.

In Closing . . .

Not training is hugely expensive . . . far more expensive than training. In your company, I urge you to look for all the opportunities where proper training can dramatically increase profits, reduce waste and provide an outsized ROI for every training dollar you spend. If you start to look, I am willing to wager you will find many more opportunities than you expect.

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What If Your Dream Came to Life?

What if you could breathe life into one of your dreams?

What follows is step by step guide to help if you’re really interested in achieving your wish this year, set aside a block of time for the next few days, get yourself a notebook or open a file on your computer and give yourself the luxury of reflecting and seriously considering what dreams may come. 

How to Fulfill Your Dreams

1. Select a Dream:

Think about the different dreams you have.  In your imagination, step into each one of them, one at a time and experience what life would be like when you realize that dream. What do you see? Hear? Feel?

  • What changes?What’s good about it?
  • What’s not as good as you hoped?
  • How might you change it for the better?
  • After you explore the impact of having those dreams, pick one that you’d most like to bring to life.

2. Analyze what you need to do to make that dream come true:

  • What skills and strengths are required for your goal?
  • Which do you currently have?
  • Which do you need to acquire?  How can you acquire them?

3. What hurtles might present themselves:

  • What might get in the way?
  • How can you problem solve those potential obstacles?

4. Find a champion:

Find folks who can listen and respond, who can provide an outside perspective as well as cheerlead you.  These may be people you know or you might join a local or online meet-up of people with similar goals. Or start your own meet-up. Set up meetings with them to discuss your dreams and bring them to life.

5. Create a Plan:

Just like making a business plan, create a reasonable,  step-by-step personal plan with tasks, actions and deadlines along the way.

6. State your intentions publicly.

By sharing your dream out loud with others, you magnify your cheering squad many times.  It’s like telling people you’ll stop smoking.  The success rate rises dramatically because there are many others beside yourself that you want to avoid letting down.

Similarly, if your goal implies a new capability or accomplishment, start referring to yourself as such.  I’m Jane the artist; Jim the author; Jen the marathon runner; Dan the pianist.

7. Find a partner to hold you accountable:

Meet with him/her in person, by phone, online at least weekly to review the actions you’ve taken and refine your plan on a regular basis.

To learn more about creating and achieving your personal and career goals click here.

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Why Every Business Needs a Personal Brand

Over the past several years, personal branding has become a hot topic across the business world.  That’s because it’s tough out there with the competition increasing daily.  Not just for businesses but for individuals as well.  Just consider the statistics.

In the United States there are currently: 1.3 million lawyers.  1.24 million accountants.  659,200 management consultants.  There are nearly 28 million small businesses in this country, more than 800,000 of them in New Jersey.  Yet the competition is so fierce that 50 percent of these firms including 80 percent of all restaurants fail before their fifth anniversary.  In 2018, more than 3800 major retail stores closed their doors.

What can you do to ensure that you don’t become one of these statistics?  The first step is to recognize that the way to successfully market and promote your business has changed dramatically over the past decade.

Today, the number one way that people find new companies, products and services is by accessing your website through the Internet, primarily by using Google Search.  The majority of those searches are done via smartphones.  When someone arrives at your website, you have approximately ten seconds to capture and hold their attention.  If you don’t, they’re off to one of your competitors.

The initial challenge is to get people to your website.  One way is by utilizing online advertising.  The problem is that online advertising is expensive with costs rising 5x faster than inflation.  The average small business effectively using Google advertising can today spend as much as $10,000 per month on their online advertising campaigns. That’s $120,000 per year.  Another problem is that consumers just don’t trust advertising. In a recent survey, less than 1% of Americans said that advertising had Influenced them.

That’s the bad news.  Now here’s the good news.  Unlike online advertising, social media is not only inexpensive but highly effective.  It’s also highly personal with almost half of all Americans reporting that they have had meaningful interactions with companies via social media.  Most importantly, social media gets people to your website — not by tricking them into clicking on a link or an ad, but by building a personal brand that generates trust and credibility for your business.

What is a personal brand?    According to Amazon CEO, a personal brand is what people think and say about you when you’re not in the room.   It’s what differentiates you and sets you apart from the competition.  It’s not simply a logo or a website — although both of these are important.  Instead it’s what you say and do that resonates with your target audience.  It’s the articles, the videos, and the photos that you post.  The advice you give and the ideas you support.  It’s what makes you special and unique.

So the next time you need to set your business apart from the competition, consider personal branding and social media.  Together, they’re a powerful combination that will help you not only survive but prosper and grow.

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How to Clarify You and Your Clients’ Goals

Coaching helps people with their goals.  But as simple as that may seem, it’s not always clear what their goals are or how that goal might improve their lives.

When a new coaching client comes in for a consultation they usually have a stated goal in mind.

It’s important to help them assess the viability of the goal based on their strengths and skills as well as understand what that goal will give them.  In a sense, what’s the goal behind the goal?  Why is getting to this goal important?  What will it bring you in a positive way?  How might your life change because of it?  Have you considered all the pros and cons?

There’s an illuminating model that has been used in the Navy’s Human Resource

We can ask the following . . .

1. What are you trying to achieve? Or, what do you want that you don’t have?

2. What are you trying to preserve? Or, what do you want to maintain that you already have?

3. What are you trying to avoid? What don’t you have that you don’t want?

4. What are you trying to eliminate? What do you have now that you don’t want?

This is a powerful assessment to help your client think through their potential goals. Just ask them to fill in these questions and use it as fodder for your coaching session on the goal. Suppose your client is interested in becoming a Professional Coach.  Here’s how the conversation might go . . .

Sharon: You said your goal is to become a professional coach.

Joe: Yes

Sharon: What might that give you that you don’t have now?

Joe: I’d feel like I was contributing to society while also making a living.

Sharon: How is that giving you something more than now?

Joe:  I get to work with people but I don’t really have an opportunity to help them move forward in their lives?

Sharon: Why might that be important?

Joe: I make great money at my job, but sometimes I feel bad that I have all these relationship building skills that are wasted.

Sharon: And . . .

Joe:     I’m at a point in my life where I feel grateful for what I’ve achieved and want to give back.  So it’s a win win.

Sharon: Great.  And what do you want to maintain that you already have?

Joe: Well  . . . my standard of living!  [He laughs]

Sharon: Uh huh

Joe: And the recognition and respect I currently enjoy in my career

Sharon: Great.  And now, what is important to avoid in this career move.  That’s to say what don’t you have that you don’t want?

Joe: I don’t have money worries and I really don’t want them!

Sharon: And what do you have now, that you’d prefer to get rid of

Joe: Well, I don’t punch a clock but it feels like I do because of having to be at my office regardless of my work load or my preferred times when I’m more productive and less so?

Sharon: Tell me more

Joe: I have to drive in rush hour twice a day, which is tiring and frustrating on a daily basis, while I’d prefer to have a lot more flexibility with my hours.  I have great energy early in the morning when I can get a lot done, but then I’m dragging my mental feet in the afternoon when I’d love to be exercising or taking a long hike and then returning to work.  I COULD do that as a Professional Coach

So let’s take a summary look at what we learned about Joe’s goal with our 4 element model 

Goal – I want to become a Professional Coach

Don’t Have                           Currently Have

WANT                      ACHIEVE – Satisfaction of helping others     PRESERVE – $$$$

DON’T WANT    AVOID – Money Worries.     ELIMINATE – Rigid Schedule

You can conduct this type of analysis with any goal. Why might you want to become a Professional Coach?

What might it help you achieve, as well as how does that goal stack up on the other factors? Good food for thought, right?

NEXT TIP heading your way tomorrow

Thinking about getting certified as a Professional Coach? Want to talk about it? Or any questions you have about professional coaching? Let’s talk and see whether or not it makes sense for you to become a certified professional coach.

Learn more about our upcoming Fast Track programs in NYC and Dallas in March

Warmest regards,

Sharon 🙂

Dr. Sharon Livingston


603 505 5000 cell



Best Practices Growth Human Resources Management Personal Development Women In Business

How to Listen to Engage in a Win-Win Business Relationship

Listen, listen, listen and then reflect

One of the best secrets of great coaching [and all good relationships for that matter] is the ability to listen attentively. You demonstrate to your client that you are engaged and responsive while avoiding expressing your opinion or giving advice or instructing.

We call this Active Listening.  (Some call it Reflective Listening…)

I personally prefer Active Listening because it suggests involvement and engagement with your client. You’re not just a sounding board who repeats the others words [Reflective Listening] but you’re fully present, responding authentically to what you hear and see and sense.

Active Listening creates a safe environment that allows the client to go deeper, and often come to new realizations. It’s the basis for connection, trust and respect.

Further, when you as coach Actively Listen your clients get to hear their words and tone as you mirror them.  It’s almost like being an outside observer. This perspective helps them to have compassion for themselves and often helps them begin their own problem solving of challenges and paths to their desired goals.

There’s also a major benefit to the coach, particularly for those who are starting out.

Many new coaches and managers feel compelled to provide an answer or give direction.  They think they have to do the heavy lifting telling the client what to do next, or sharing how they did it themselves, or coming up with a brilliant solution for a tough problem.

Listening in an engaged manner keeps the focus outside onto the client.  There’s no need to provide a solution.  All you have to do is be there in real time and play back what you experienced to spark their creative thinking.

Here’s an example.

Lisa rushes into her friend Jodie’s office, closes the door and begins:

Lisa: I’m sorry to dump this on you, but I had a fight with my sister and we haven’t spoken since. I’m upset and don’t know who to talk to.

Jodie: I’m right here.  Go ahead.

Lisa: Well, we were arguing about what to do for our parents’ anniversary. I’m still so angry.

Jodie: You SOUND angry.  Tell me more.

Lisa: Yes, she just makes me so angry. She assumed I would help her plan this elaborate party—I don’t have time! It’s like she couldn’t see things from my perspective at all.

Jodie: She really upset you by not taking you into account?

Lisa: Frustrated. Angry. Maybe a bit guilty that she had all these plans and I was the one holding them back. Finally, I told her to do it without me. But that’s not right either.

Jodie: Sounds really upsetting.  And as if her plans are your problem.

Lisa:  Right?  Now I’m the bad one and I hate that.

Jodie:  It feels bad being the bad one.  So sorry.

Lisa: Yes, Exactly. So frustrating and I do want to be part of it but I’m so overwhelmed with things right now.

Jodie: It sounds overwhelming!

Lisa:  Thanks for listening, I just needed to vent. I’m already beginning to think of how I can talk to her.

Jodie:  That’s great. If you want to tell me more about it . . .

Lisa:   [Sigh] I think I’ve got this.  I do love her and my folks.  Just hate feeling like I’m being pushed around and invisible in what I need.

Jodie: [Smiles] I see you.  I think you’ve got this too.

Lisa:  Yeah, I’m going to call her and see how we can work it out.

Jodie:  Sounds like a plan.  Keep me posted?

Lisa:   Sure.  Thanks so much for listening!

Can you see how this engaged listening environment gave Lisa just the help she needed to express her feelings and thoughts, relax and be accepting of herself so she could rethink what happened and solve her own problem?  That’s a major benefit of the Active Listening technique.

Thinking about getting certified as a Professional Coach? Want to talk about it? Or any questions you have about professional coaching? Let’s talk and see whether or not it makes sense for you to become a certified professional coach.

To Learn About Our Upcoming Fast Track Certification Workshop This March in New York City

The cost of $75 for the 30 minute consultation can be applied to the TLC Professional Coach Training program if you decide to join.

Tip 3 will be along tomorrow.

Warmest regards,

Sharon 🙂

Dr. Sharon Livingston


603 505 5000 cell