A Shout Out for Michael Couch: A Pittsburgh Entrepreneur

September 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Growth 

“Never buy anything from someone who doesn’t use or do what he sells.” If you agree with my mantra, then you should know about Michael Couch.   While many Industrial/Organization Psychologists say they can help corporations with strategy, culture, talent and processes, Michael has a most interesting way of showing how.  Michael Couch & Associates Inc.  www.mcassociatesinc.com helps the consultants who help his clients!   Interested? Learn how Michael does it here.

How did Michael get started? After 25 years plying his trade in OD, HR and Quality Improvement roles, and running a Business Unit that manufactured and sold small diameter steel tubing, he founded MC&A Inc.

When Michael started MC&A Inc., scores of local consultants were attracted to his value and supported, guided and challenged him.  He didn’t want to lose his valuable resource so he assembled his like-minded solo-practitioner consultant-fans into a local network he calls “The Pittsburgh Consulting Community”.  The Community has grown into a tribe of more than 350 folks that have a mutual interest in learning how to run and grow a consulting practice.  The group is connected virtually but also meets regularly to share successes, hear from experts, and discuss opportunities to collaborate.  Michael “walked his talk” when he graciously invited me to speak to his community. If you are interested in consulting with Michael or joining the Consulting Community, contact Michael at http://www.mcassociatesinc.com.  And just think of how he can bring your organization together!


You Can’t Be Serious!

After last month’s piece in the Pittsburgh Business Times,  (read it HERE), a Pittsburgher challenged me; “You can’t be serious!  Topography can’t be why Pittsburgh has thrived relative to Cleveland!” Seriously, I believe Western PA is mostly thriving because it’s mustering energy, creativity and commitment to keep climbing out of its valleys and avoid falling off its mountains. I’m finding Pittsburgh’s business community to be focused on innovation, science, and applying what they have learned to help new customers rather than fixating on politics and the economy. There is a steep learning curve for those uncomfortable with change but every day I’m meeting more businesses who are driven to understand and solve new problems of their customers and create more profitable growth. In this month’s newsletter you will read about the best practices I am seeing and a story of one local entrepreneur I’m watching succeed through his Junoon. Give me a piece of your mind publically here on my blog.

Here’s to your profitable growth!  – Andy.


A Shout Out for Razi Imam: Pittsburgh Entrepreneur, Author of “Driven”, and Teacher of “Junoon”

August 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Growth 

Recently, I’ve had the chance to work with a most interesting entrepreneurial and thought leader here in Pittsburgh, Razi Imam.

Imam is the founder of both Landslide Technologies and now, 113 Industries, an incubator for Nano technology-based material science companies. In addition to his entrepreneurial success, Razi has created some breakthrough work on how CEO’s can create high performing cultures with a singular focus on their founders’ missions is particularly compelling to me. And Razi’s brand new book “Driven” by Wiley, not only describes his crazy experiences but presents his unique concept called “Junoon.”

Junoon is an ancient expression that refers to a very powerful state of achievement. The one common trait of all high performing companies is that leaders like Steve Jobs, Andy Grove, and Herb Kelleher remain in this state and know how to transfer their Junoon to their entire company. Their Junoon spreads virally throughout their organizations resulting in a culture that is passionate and emotionally committed to fulfilling their leaders’ goals. So I called Razi and arranged for a one-on-one workshop where he is teaching me to achieve my Junoon of helping business leaders to achieve more profitable growth. While I’ve helped 450 company owners grow, I’ve seen thousands more who need sustained confidence and conviction to reach their breakthrough goals. Thanks to Razi’s successful methods many more owners will be able to achieve their Junoon and because of his generosity you may now. download a free chapter of Driven. Razi’s methodology makes perfect, practical sense and I recommend every CEO, founder, and entrepreneur read this book.
You will find it here on Amazon.


Do Your Sales & Marketing Dollars Work for You?

Six Ways to Tell if You’re Getting Your Money’s Worth:

Despite many experts who insist that “Sales and Marketing are different,” why aren’t they just as accountable as Finance is for accurate results and Production is for working products? When good products and services are well marketed and sold smart, profitable growth happens. But when they are not, it’s a disaster.  For example:

  • A distributor negligently promises to sell a manufacturer’s new product line to her current buyers without learning that different employees at the customer make these decisions
  • A manufacturer says that his research shows buyers consumers want new improved products. Their outside rep company agrees to get paid on commission and invests months of selling only to learn that the research was never done.
  • An ad agency develops a campaign to reposition a services firm based on bad historical sales data only to have it flop and fight to get paid.

Despite “everyone’s” best efforts, why do 95% of new products and services fail, and why do so few manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and services firms feel that their sales and marketing arms got their job done?

When was success impossible and when is a sales and marketing leader deficient? How and when can a business leader know that their sales and marketing leadership simply didn’t do the job or even try? Here are six key responsibilities any P & L leader should demand are completed and done well.

  1. Understand, agree on and communicate your firm’s Best and Highest Use and product/service features, benefits and advantages. Provide your firm’s Best and Highest Use to your partner in writing and demand they do the same for you
  2. Define, quantify and target a niche of buyers assuming reasonable market penetration of a sizable, addressable market. Expect and confirm you can identify at least 100 prospects for each buyer you must close.
  3. Devise a simple growth strategy reflecting a clear understanding of your buyer’s behavior. Ensure you agree on exactly who your buyers are and the simple process you know they will follow to buy from you.
  4. Develop and execute thoughtful, practical and cost-effective sales and marketing tactics. Have measurable programs for finding, keeping and growing your customers.
  5. Build and your through a practical budget and timeframe for implementation by accountable individuals. Budget and adhere to hard costs of finding, keeping and growing your customers.
  6. Stay disciplined to capture and analyze feedback of your results. No program ever goes as planned, but failure to respond to market feedback equals failure.

Will taking these steps ensure that your sales and marketing programs work for you and your partner?  No, but if these steps aren’t taken, its failure was a function of negligence in addition to incompetence. Need help telling the difference between negligence and a good effort that can be fixed? Contact me at 412-973-2080 or at abirol@andybirol.com  for more of my help.


Innovation! Don’t Stress Me But Tell Me What Kind You Need!

I am sitting here facing a deadline to write this article on innovation!  Isn’t it ironic yet obvious how innovation, stress and deadlines always seem to go hand-in-hand! Everyone needs and craves innovation, yet the more we chase it, the more elusive discovering the next “it” or “thing” seems to be. Most of us have cut all the costs we can and are already working harder than ever. In this stagnant, doubtful economy, innovation seems be the best path to success. What breakthrough can we create to enhance our results and profits? But given the choice, innovation always seems to take a back seat to whatever is immediately needed or can be quickly done. 

Given my procrastination in writing this article, I have to approach writing it spontaneously rather than by first reviewing the vast body of work on the topic of innovation. Simply stated, I see innovation as an individual’s or organization’s response to a condition, stimulus or demand that we face in the course of our work. The condition is uncontrollable and can be good, bad or boring. We can however choose innovation as a controllable reaction in the face of actions we cannot. So just are we seek to understand before we are understood, let me suggest we try to understand what kind of innovation we must respond with and then proceed to create it.

For me, innovation falls into three categories.

  1. Premeditated: Opportunity-driven and optimistically embraced. A proactive innovation happens when an individual, group or company sees a way to create or add value that improves some aspect of their clients’ or their own condition. Apple’s IPhone and IPad are great examples. Teams were assembled to build Steven Jobs’ vision. Their goal is to improve the lifestyle of a mobile, social populace. Artificial deadlines and real milestones were set to assure ongoing progress and profitability. The results continue to enhance millions of customers’ lives and spur development teams to create more and more innovation.
  2. Reactive: Crisis-driven and fearfully approached. A reactive or fear-driven innovation occurs when someone or some organization is confronted with a real or perceived threat to their well-being. BP’s Mexican Gulf oil fiasco demonstrates this. Society has put BP is on the defensive to take all steps possible to mitigate and repair the damage it has caused. Until but only until the economic, political and health threat to BP’s future is eliminated, we have the corporation’s full attention. Without public oversight and pressure, most would agree that BP’s efforts to solve the crisis might wane and would end as soon as they discovered the most expedient solution.
  3. Spontaneous: Serendipitously discovered. An accidental connection is made despite someone’s primary focus being elsewhere; perhaps as a result of being distracted or perhaps bored. Silly Bandz, the silicone rubber bands formed into animal shapes and worn as wristbands exemplify this third category. According to Wikipedia, “the idea was inspired by shaped silicone office products that were created with the hopes of being a green product. They did not work as companies did not want to spend much money on rubber bands. They were then made larger to fit as bracelets and rebranded as Silly Bandz.” Interest in such innovations is always limited to the consumers’ attention span and need to be immediately and constantly cost-justified accordingly.

So the next time you are asked to be innovative, try to understand what kind of innovation you are being asked to create. Your understanding of the demanding party’s reasons will help you determine what kind and how much innovation they will pay for, embrace and sustain. And keep asking for!


Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland: Why business in the ‘Burgh beats Cleveland.

“So, Andy, why is business better in Pittsburgh than in Cleveland?”

After repeatedly being asked, I wrote an article for today’s Pittsburgh Business Times answering this question. 

While I can say the answer has to do with topography you can click HERE to read it now if you are a subscriber, or send me an email requesting a free copy when its available in 30 days or simply call me at 412-973-2080 and I’ll be glad to share my thoughts in person.

To your profitable growth!   


Is Your Business Ready for World Cup Contention?

July 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Top Line Growth 

Is Your Business Ready for World Cup Contention?I’d like to point you to a piece I’ve just written titled, Is Your Business World-Cup-Worthy? In this piece, I posed a question to you, the reader.  And that question is,

If your company was a World Cup team, how would it do in terms of. . . :

  • Preparation
  • Coaching
  • Fans
  • Commentators

Is your company focused on common goals?  How does your team do when the pressure is on?  Do your customers really like you or is it just business as usual?  And lastly, how has your company been portrayed in the public eye?

Small business owners share many of the same dynamics that world cup teams do.  So now that you have a picture of the concept I’m referring to . . . how does that picture look?  Is your business a contender?

*NOTE: This article is originally published at Small Business Trends*


To My Pittsburgh Friends and Clients

June 29, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Business Growth 

Being welcomed and given opportunities to speak, write for some of Pittsburgh’s most important publications and consult and coach several local businesses has been a gratifying and invaluable opportunity for me to learn how the town works and has succeeded so well. Being invited to join the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence and most recently being accepted into Leadership Pittsburgh’s class of 2011 are profound honors.
I want to thank all the business leaders who have encouraged me to make a positive impact on the region by helping Western PA businesses grow as I did in Ohio.  Furthermore, I want to accelerate my assimilation into the Pittsburgh community and apply my business growth skill set to other organizations where I can help.  Pittsburgh is clearly a community of dedicated, progressive professionals working together to create regional success.  I want to quickly understand the deep roots and collaborative nature of my new home to help small businesses and other organizations uncover your Best and Highest Use®.


To My Cleveland Friends and 450 Clients

June 29, 2010 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Business Growth 

Looking back, it’s been a great privilege to help you grow by over $400 million and I look forward to continuing to do so. Being recognized as an asset to Northeast Ohio’s economy was a great honor and I hope that you will reach out to me whenever you and your business needs my specialty of empowering optimism and helping you and your business discover and leverage your Best and Highest Use®.

My role as a catalyst for many NEO business owners to develop the courage and conviction to invest in themselves has been my life’s work. I have profoundly enjoyed helping stalwart business leaders see past their limitations and grasp and commit to opportunities to take their businesses to the next level. While there are many organizations and associations I have helped lead, my biggest contribution has been working directly with the business owner to accomplish their ends, rather than by joining organizations to create the means for economic development.  By taking this contrarian approach and investing hundreds of pro bono hours annually, I was able to have a direct effect on many small businesses that I could not have had by working “within the system.”  As the number of business owners I helped grew, my work was recognized by all of Cleveland’s mainstream business media and organizations that focus on small business.

My biggest challenge was continually finding the strength and conviction to help these businesses take responsibility for their own success despite extreme economic pressure to do the opposite.  While thousands of businesses went bankrupt, I fought with and for scores of firms that survived and are contributing taxes, employment and hope to a region reeling from economic decline.

If I have one parting wish for Northeast Ohio, it would be that it rejects its reliance on traditional practices, leaders and ideas for solving the insidious challenges it faces and engages new methods, voices and solutions quickly.


Defining Points, Popeye Moments and Entrepreneurs

June 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Growth 

Popeye MomentsI’d like to point you to a piece I’ve just written titled, Entrepreneurs and Defining Points: Have You Had Your Popeye Moment?” At some point in everyone’s life – you reach a defining moment.  Take, for instance, the examples below:

“In the fifth game of the 1986 World Series, Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner flubs the game’s final grounder, igniting a Mets comeback that not only wins the game but ultimately the Series. From that moment on, Buckner is forever branded as the goat of the game.

In the epic play Les Miserables, the hero Jean Valjean, confesses to his pursuer, Inspector Javert, and then saves his foe’s life. This selfless gesture of grace lifts Valjean up from his life’s fate but drives his captor to question his very purpose and ultimately to suicide.”

Have you reached your defining moment? That moment in time when you’re summoning up the strength to overcome what seems like insurmountable odds?  Much like Popeye proclaiming, “That’s all I can takes, because I can’t takes no more!”  Have YOU cracked open YOUR can of spinach?

*NOTE: This article is originally published at American Express OPEN Forum*


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