Posts Tagged ‘small business’

Uber-consultant Alan Weiss, PhD, is running the Million Dollar Consulting® Conference in Atlanta in March. He already has 130 people signed up, but his “stretch goal” is 200. As a long-time member of Alan’s excellent communities I can attest to the incredible value of this opportunity. If you’re a solo consultant, coach or speaker, or if you run any kind of professional services business (e.g., accounting, legal, etc.), then this is the place you should be.

The site is below, with dates, presenters, and logistics. This is also one of the most inexpensive ways to be with Alan, as some registrants have pointed out, since he’ll be speaking and present throughout the three days. Please note that the special keynote speaker will be Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of the entire field of positive psychology. Wow!

Million Dollar Consulting Convention

One of the main challenges in business is finding a way to grow. A company can choose the acquisition route. This is what Richardson GMP did last year when it acquired Macquarie Private Wealth to become Canada’s largest independent (i.e. non-bank) wealth management firm. GE is currently in the process of acquiring France’s Alstom to expand its energy business, while Medtronic is buying Covidien to expand the range and scope of its medical device offerings.

In reality, though, an acquisition is just a means to an end. Companies can also choose to grow “organically,” that is, to create new businesses from within on the basis of existing products and services. In either case, the growth can come from increasing its share and penetration of existing markets, offering new products to existing customers, seeking out new customers for existing products and services, or creating a whole new business by offering new products to entirely new customers.

There is a basic assumption underlying all of these approaches, however. It is that the company continues to define itself in the same way. If we take again the example of Medtronic, we can see that its acquisition of Covidien fits nicely within its corporate mission, which is: “To contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.” ( Medtronic and Covidien both make surgical and prosthetic devices based on biomedical engineering.

But what if we go beyond the assumption of staying within an existing business model and mission? When I engage in strategy formulation with clients I often introduce the concepts illustrated in the following graphic. I call these complementary approaches generalization and instantiation of value.

Generalization-Instantiation of Value

Whenever a business has a very specific value proposition, I encourage its executives to question that by having them ask: What is this value an example of? Alternatively, what is a more general, abstract, or higher order way to express our value and mission?

In the diagram I show the process for a restaurant. The most concrete value that customers get is to go to the restaurant for a meal. But what if customers could get value by buying a meal there but taking it out to eat elsewhere? It is obvious that many restaurateurs and customers have already thought of that idea. You can go higher in terms of generality. What if customers could get meals from that restaurant but enjoy them whenever or wherever they want? Then you get a selection of frozen or preserved meals. The same goes for offering catering to clients of the restaurant. You can have any number of levels, but four levels are probably a good number to start with.

You can do this exercise in more ways than one. The restaurant owner could decide to generalize by opening other locations, or franchising, or getting into other types of cuisine, or restaurant formats. The important thing to remember is that you work from very specific and concrete value to a more general expression and form of the same value.

The right hand progression in the diagram is the inverse of generalization. Instead of generalizing upward, the object is to proceed downward from value that is very general and abstract to value that is more concrete. The question to ask, then, is whether you can provide a more concrete instantiation of the general value you are already providing.

The graphic depicts this instantiation process for a company that provides event management consulting to its clients. Through asking progressively more specific questions, the company could go from offering general consulting on events, to helping their clients organize and run their events, to co-owning events (e.g. a conference) with clients, or owning them outright. This could even extend to developing part or all of the content within the event, and then controlling the intellectual property and subsequent rights to it.

The important thing is to see this as a heuristic device to either expand or restrict your business’ existing definition of value. This could even extend to redefining the company’s purpose by creating a new mission statement that is more specific and concrete, or more general and abstract.

© Alcera Consulting Inc. 2014. We encourage the sharing of this information and forwarding of this email with attribution. All other rights reserved.

Military forces engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade or so adjusted their structures, weaponry, and training to the exigencies of an originally unforeseen operational context. They went from Cold War based large mechanized formations to smaller, tailored units that could interact with local populations and government forces while keeping insurgent forces at bay.

The same applies to organizations and businesses in the public, private and non-profit sectors. How many organizations are still working within a framework that is no longer relevant to its new reality? I often say that the biggest challenge a small business faces is becoming a medium-sized business. The same goes for medium-sized organizations becoming large or multinational ones. Or vice versa, companies and institutions that must become smaller, more nimble, faster, and adjustable rapidly enough to remain relevant and continue thriving.


  • When is the last time you reviewed your organization, structures, systems, and processes to evaluate their relevance?
  • Do you have people and teams working on tasks and responsibilities that are low priorities while others working on high priorities and vital areas are starving for resources?
  • How often do you validate the relevance and effectiveness of your training and professional development?
  • Can you reconfigure teams quickly and effectively or does your organization meander aimlessly and sluggishly while the world changes?
  • Do you conduct regular after-action reviews with all stakeholders and people at all levels of your organization?
  • How quickly can lessons be learned and incorporated into your structures, equipment, training, processes, and systems?

Richard Martin is The Master Strategist. An expert on strategy and leadership, Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Guerrilla strategy is very misunderstood, sometimes even by military historians and strategists. In the simplest terms, guerrilla strategy is a combination of small-scale offensive tactics with a defensive strategy at the highest levels. Despite what many people think, guerrilla warfare is a strategy of weakness. I think people focus on the small-scale offensive manoeuvres and fail to see the big picture. So, for instance, when the Taliban adopted a guerrilla strategy in Afghanistan after their downfall, it was because they realized that they couldn’t win by large-scale offensive strategy, nor could they win by small-scale defensive tactics. When you’re very weak, not only can you NOT go on the offensive, but you also can’t even hold ground effectively, or prevent the enemy from holding it. So what do you do? You revert to what are called hit and run tactics. These include raids, ambushes, and a lot of propaganda to brag about the results of your actions out of all proportion to their actual effectiveness.

So how does this get translated to business practice? Here are a few ways, but I invite you to think about the ways you can use guerrilla strategy if you are in a position of weakness against a very strong opponent.

  • Apply subtle offensive tactics: infiltration; encroachment; reversal; undermining; diversion; deception and disruption; attrition through hit-and-run; psychological warfare; divide & attack piecemeal
  • Poison the well: raise doubts about your opponent or competitor
  • Claim you’re on the defensive but actually take small offensive actions
  • Temporary alliances with small competitors or partners
  • Strategic alliances with larger competitors or partners

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Recently, an acquaintance of mine posed the question, do small businesses need strategy? My answer is that ALL organizations need strategy, whether they are big or small, in the private sector or public sector, profit or not for profit. Whether it’s in the military, business, government, or social sector, strategy is about asking and answering fundamental questions about the nature of the organization’s purpose and mission. What are its goals, its purpose, its character, and what resources can and should be allocated to these ends? What are the organization’s key advantages and strengths, its competitors and stakeholders, and how should these all be exploited and leveraged in order to prevail and achieve the mission and vision?

Last year Facebook acquired Instagram, the service that allows users to upload and share photographs. The only problem is that the company up to then was essentially without a strategy or even a business model. Not surprisingly, it didn’t generate any revenue, and had little prospect of doing so until a basic strategy could be worked out. Facebook has since forced Instagram to get its act together and to start generating revenue. The process started simply enough: to find the company’s mission. That apparently took two whole weeks! I tend to get exasperated when that process takes longer than an hour when I facilitate strategy. But you have to take the time needed to get that part straight, because how do you know what your strategy can and should be if you don’t even know what your purpose and main objective is? This doesn’t create the strategy automatically, but it’s the start of the process of formulation, planning, experimentation, learning and refinement that leads to effective and implementable strategy.

Whether you’re big or small, you need strategy.

Food for Thought
What is our purpose? What are our fundamental values — what do we stand for? What are our goals? What are our key advantages and strengths and how can we exploit these to dominate the competition and secure our future? These are just some of the questions all organizations need to ask and answer to start the process of creating and implementing successful strategy.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Precision-Strike Strategy

My most popular interventions over the years have been my high-intensity strategy and planning sessions with organizational leadership teams. Using my 26 years of military command and leadership experience, I guide my clients from vague wishes and objectives to specific, concrete, and actionable plans, complete with measurable outcomes, mission, milestones, resource estimations, responsibilities, coordination measures, and supporting plans.

I want more businesses and organizations to access this timely, precision-strike strategy and planning so they can seize and maintain the initiative against competitors in highly volatile conditions. This is why I’ve created Precision-Strike Strategy, a special high intensity strategy and planning process involving 2 days of focused work with an executive team that produces outstanding value quickly for a very reasonable investment. I use military techniques that have been honed in the heat of battle to create outstanding strategy and tactics and the plans to execute them effectively and efficiently.

Precision-Strike Strategy is perfect for teams:

  • Formulating new strategy and plans quickly and effectively
  • Tweaking and adjusting existing strategy and plans
  • Validating current strategy and tactics
  • Considering various change scenarios and their effect on your business or mandate

“Richard facilitated a two-day strategy and planning session with me and my SVPs. Richard helped us to create a clear vision for the company and a realistic plan for achieving it. His ability to integrate his military leadership and strategic planning experience were key in keeping us all on track and identifying the results that each of us must achieve. …The disciplined approach that Richard learned in the army was critical in getting us to focus and work as a team. We finished the session pumped and ready to work together to implement our strategic plan and to grow the business the way it needs to be grown.”
Sylvain Thauvette, President and CEO, Business & Decision, North America
“Richard was instrumental in guiding us, from the president to the team itself, not only to create a new business model, but also to shape it. He helped us focus on the important, mould the new, and leave the rest. Richard has a keen sense to first hear what is important and matters to us, then to construct the appropriate road and finally to lead us all down that newly built path. Thanks Richard!”
Laure Gazalé, Director of Sales, JPdL Montreal
“Richard worked with us to create a clear mission, vision, and values for Kingston Transit. He helped us confirm that more than ever the driving force of our business is our ability to move people effectively and efficiently within a high quality network. This confirmation is already providing dividends as we implement network upgrades and new routes and invest in our infrastructure.”
Denis Léger, Commissioner of Corporate Services, City of Kingston, Ontario
“Your disciplined a  pproach and keen sense of organization allowed us to brainstorm freely within a structured framework while staying focused on the main objective.”
Linda Daoust, Chief Executive Officer, Mutuelle des municipalités du Québec

$8,500 for a 2-day Precision-Strike Strategy session with an executive/management/operational team

Laser Guided Coaching

My military leadership experience taught me the importance of honest and concrete feedback to improve performance. I’ve also realized as  a management consultant and executive coach that we all need the perspective and insight of a thoughtful and incisive advisor, someone who can provide unbiased council and reflective observations with laser focus and accuracy.

I’m getting more a nd more requests for exactly this type of focused and timely advice. This is why I have created the Laser Guided Coaching process. In only one half-day or full-day session I can guide any executive, manager, entrepreneur, or professional through a rigorous and enlightening process of personal development, strategy, tactics, and planning.

Laser Guided Coaching is perfect for executives wishing to:

  • Improve leadership skills and style
  • Critique or set personal strategy and plans
  • Explore solutions to specific problems
  • Set objectives and priorities
  • Examine basic assumptions
  • Assess strengths and areas for growth

The goal is to gain insight quickly with minimal fuss and disruption to organizational or team activities. I use my military and coaching expertise to help individuals focus in on problems, solutions, and decisions quickly and effectively. Where else can you get such Laser Guided Coaching for such a reasonable and predictable investment?

“As CEO I usually spend a lot more time working on current problems than planning for the future. By working with Richard, I was able to get from a vague idea of what I wanted for the company to a very definite strategy and plan. Initially, we spent a day together covering all aspects of the business, including my objectives, the market and competition, previous results and the current situation. Richard asked all the right questions, forcing me to think about issues I hadn’t previously considered, or to see them differently. His recommendations were spot on and I was able to start implementing changes right after a single day spent together.”
Sylvain Thauvette, President and CEO, Business & Decision, North America
“I’ve known and have worked with Richard for several years. He is smart, creative and talented and is devoted to constantly improving his clients’ condition. If you are looking for a thought leader, with great experience, who can help you and your organization, Richard is the one I highly recommend.”
Chad Barr, President, CB Software Systems, Inc.
“As a professional coach, I really appreciated your comparison of coaching and mentoring. You showed us the nuances and differences of both methods and this helps to dispel much of the confusion over these two concepts in the business community. Your discussion of supporting concepts such as the learning curve, progression by leaps, and the principles of information and feedback contributed greatly to our understanding and knowledge and synthesized much of the discussion. You also encouraged a free exchange of ideas in a relaxed atmosphere through your interactive approach and your open-mindedness.”
Sylvie Boisvert, FIAC, Professional Coach
“Rich Martin has an insightful, counter-intuitive Weltanschauung that I highly recommend to anyone who seeks analysis that goes far beyond the mere assertions of recycled media reports, suspect think-tank assertions, and the mundane.”
Sean M. Maloney, PhD, Royal Military College of Canada

$2,000 for a half-day or $3,500 for a full-day Laser Guided Coaching session

1-888-453-3993 (toll free)

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his
military and business leadership and management experience to bear for exe-
cutives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

Richard Martin est consultant, conférencier et coach. Il met son expérience de leadership militaire et d’affaires à profit pour les cadres et organisations qui veulent exploiter le changement, maximiser les opportunités et minimiser les risques.

I have been coaching and mentoring people formally for many years, both during my 26-year career as a military officer and as a consultant since 2006.

However, many people have been asking me for an informal, “in the moment” kind of coaching this year, and I’ve been helping in this manner:

* Weekly, set call for one hour for four weeks.
* Unrestricted email, Skype, and/or phone access for the duration.

While not something I ordinarily have done, it has turned out to be extremely popular with people who need “real time” advice and counsel with rapid response AND planned phone calls. I’ve been working on both strategic and tactical issues with clients, as you can see here:

“By working with Richard, I was able to get from a vague idea of what I wanted for the company to a very definite strategy and plan. Initially, we spent a day together covering all aspects of the business, including my objectives, the market and competition, previous results and the current situation. Richard asked all the right questions, forcing me to think about issues I hadn’t previously considered, or to see them differently. His recommendations were spot on and I was able to start implementing changes right after a single day spent together.”
Sylvain Thauvette, President and CEO, Business & Decision, North America

“Richard has given me the discipline to filter out the bad ideas so I can focus on the best ideas. He also provides ideas of his own that I haven’t thought of. When combined with Richard’s ability to hold my feet to the fire on what I need to do, I’ve become much more effective in leading and growing my company.”
Jean-Paul de Lavison, President, JPdL Multi-Management

“Richard’s coaching had a very positive effect on my time management and personal effectiveness. His unique point of view and constructive criticism were instrumental in allowing me to markedly improve my performance, especially my ability to establish priorities. He also gave me the benefit of his vast leadership experience as well as excellent advice on efficiently balancing work and family life. I recommend him highly as a coach to any entrepreneur or manager who wishes to radically improve his or her performance. Thank you Richard.”
Daniel Atangana, Financial Advisor

For Former or Still Serving Members of the Armed Forces or Police…

This program is particularly useful for former or still serving members of the military or paramilitary organizations seeking reorientation. I’ve successfully made this transition and can provide the benefit of my extensive personal experience in this area. Just remember this, if you’re leaving the military or police after a long career, you don’t need a second career plan, but you DO need a transition plan. I can help!


The total fee is only $1,000. You can obtain more details by calling or sign up directly by responding to this email. I will forward the invoice for credit card payment upon confirmation.

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

Brilliant Manoeuvre
Intelligence is everyone’s business.

Often, the best intelligence comes from ‘troops in contact’ with the enemy. They can see what’s happening and can provide ‘ground truth’ to corroborate or validate the opinions and assessments made through the intelligence estimation process. The same applies in business. All companies, even small ones, have sales people, customer service agents, and field service reps out in the marketplace. They can see things and hear things that might be highly significant from a competitive standpoint. They need to know and understand the company’s basic strategy, vision, mission and goals, as well as those of their own unit or division. Managers and supervisors must also brief them and debrief them on a regular basis to ensure that they are aware of the latest developments and goals, and so they can bring back critical competitive intelligence.

Managers and employees have to be on the lookout for opportunities and threats. They are the eyes and ears of the entire company, not just their own little part of it.

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Yesterday I posted a number of financial and investment principles that new entrepreneurs and business owners (including self-employed people) need to consider to be successful over the long run. I’d like to elaborate a bit more on the aspect of professional advisors.

I once met a self-employed consultant who did his own bookkeeping, accounting, tax returns, and GST returns. Needless to say, he was not maximizing his time and value, but also made basic mistakes that ended up costing him dearly.

I’ll start with my own example. I’m an independent strategy and management consultant. I have no employees, but I do occasionally collaborate with other consultants on joint projects. I have:

  • a bookkeeper/accountant who does my company books and assists with company returns, GST and provincial sales tax, and other matters – these can be two different people but in my case I’ve opted for one person
  • another accountant who does our personal income tax returns and advises us on these matters
  • an insurance broker for life and disability insurance (this includes catastrophic illness insurance)
  • another insurance broker for commercial insurance, including commercial and general liability, and errors and ommissions insurance, also known as professional liability insurance
  • a lawyer to keep our corporate records in order and to assist with any legal advice on an as required basis
  • a web developer and web hosting company – these can often be different companies/people, but in my case they are the same
  • my literary agent to represent me in my publishing goals – this person is also acting as my agent to help me secure speaking engagements to go with my book
  • other areas: translator, graphic designer, and I’m sure there are a few others that I can’t think of at this time.

Depending on one’s business activities, this list could easily be amplified: legal advice for export-import, or to work outside the country; PR advice; business coaching or mentoring; copy writing and editing; videographer; IT expertise; etc.

The critical point is this. You’re always better to get sound professional advice for business than to try to improvise or wing it. Business is too important to be flying by the seat of your pants, and your time is too important and valuable to be wasted on low value (for you) activities that are better done by experts.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

Anyone who wishes to become self-employed or start a business should consider the following key financial points, which is where many self-employed people have avoidable problems:

  • Whether you choose to consider yourself in business or simply self-employed, the market will consider you nonetheless to be in business. As a result, you have no choice but to think like a business owner and entrepreneur at all times.
  • A business with a great product but poor marketing will likely fail. On the other hand, a business with a so-so product but great marketing stands a much better chance of thriving. Consequently, as a business owner, you must continually invest in marketing and selling. At the beginning, this is more about time and effort than big bucks, but the tendency is to skimp on these as they can be hard. It takes sustained effort and perseverance to create the demand for your products and services (which is what marketing is) and to face refusals and obstacles as you start promoting and selling. The investment is psychological and physical, but it is real nonetheless.
  • Keep a tap on your ego. Ego is what leads people to buy a Mercedes as a company car at the beginning, rather than, say, a Honda. There will always be time for that later, once you’ve got better cash flow and are a going concern.
  • You should pare your fixed expenses to the minimum and transform fixed expenses into variable expenses. Do you really need to rent an office with a receptionist, or can you work out of a home office. The cash flow savings are significant as can be the tax implications. You also save on commuting in terms of time and money.
  • Build a safety net in the form of savings, commercial insurance (as relevant), supplementary health insurance, income replacement insurance, and catastrophic illness insurance.
  • Be prepared to invest in yourself and in time-saving approaches. For instance, you need regular professional development, professional memberships, and professional advisors (e.g. accountant). You also must consider the time value of your work and other activities. For instance, time spent doing household chores can be better spent marketing and selling for your business. It can be an investment to hire someone to do these while you invest your time and effort in your business.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.