“Flying in the Fog – The Importance of Financial Mastery”

I flew airplanes for a few years. While flight was always exhilarating, a pilot learns quickly how conditions like fog affect your ability to fly safely. For those non-pilots, you have likely driven an automobile on a foggy night with low visibility.  There is really not much you can do but slow down.  But that is not an option when you are flying an airplane.  You are dependent on your instrument panel to tell you what is happening.  This is certainly no time to “fly by the seat of your pants”.  You need to know your instruments and you need to know critical numbers like air speed and elevation.  Your system is telling you your position and helping guide you to a safe arrival at your destination.

The same is true in business. As a business owner, you’ve probably “felt the fog” while “flying the plane” of your small business.  You need to be watching your instrument panel to successfully navigate the challenges.  The instrument panel of business is financial reporting.

Today I want to focus on Financial Mastery, which is a business’s instrument panel.   I can already hear the groans from some of you.  The fact is that financials can be FUN!  It really is a great feeling to know what is going on, and be planning your activities based on great feedback.  DENIAL is not bliss.  NOT KNOWING is why many small businesses struggle and often fail.  They run out of money.

So let’s take a brief look at the most important issue in financial mastery – cash flow.  The foundational tool to manage cash flow is a cash flow budget.  Simply put, a cash flow budget is a tool to plan and track your cash coming into the business, and leaving the business.  Cash is the fuel for the business.  For us to continue to fly, we must always have fuel in the tank and flowing to the engine.  A cash flow budget is a weekly or monthly summary and projection of money coming in and money going out.  It is important to understand that cash is NOT profit.  I have spoken to many business owners that are confused because their P&L statement shows a profit, but they have no cash.  For example, not only must you sell, but you must collect the money.  Also, if you have periods of time where your business is not profitable (e.g. a seasonal business), then you need to have other sources of cash available (e.g. savings, lines of credit) so that you don’t run out of gas.  All of these issues are displayed in your cash flow budget.  It is the fuel gauge for your business.

Now is the time to make sure that you have a working fuel gauge.  We would love to help you get a good cash flow budget in place for your business.  Next time we’ll take a look at another key financial mastery tool – breakeven.  This one helps you determine the profitability of your business and helps you understand what the business must produce to provide what you want.   


To check out your instrument panel and improve your strategic  business plan in 2011…call Ohio Business Coach, Ralph Berge 440.838.0991

Do You Have A 4-H Club?

For those of you I’ve coached and others who have sought customer advice, you have heard me say “don’ be afraid to fire a customer”. Frankly this has shocked a few business owners. So to help I’ve worked with them to study and classify their customers. We do this by establishing who they are: A, B, C or D customers.

Another way to look at this is by establishing your own 4-H Club: Hilarious, Happy, Hassle or Horrible.

Here is how the concept fits together:

A (Awesome) customers are Hilarious

B (Basic) customers are Happy

C (Can’t Deal With) customers are a Hassle

And D (Dead) customers are Horrible

Think about your customers.  Typically 10-15% are horrible. They drain the money and energy from you and your business.  Another 10-20% are hilarious and are a sheer delight to work with and serve.  The other 65-85 % are either basically happy or a hassle.

As a business owner, your responsibility is to free yourself from horrible D customers by finding someone more appropriate to serve them. You also must be taking the hassle out of dealing with C customers by raising your prices and better positioning (converting them to B’s and A’s).  And, finally enjoying your happy B customers, and celebrating and laughing with your hilarious A customers.

Another way to think about this is to:  Imagine and dream of your ideal customer.  What do they say to others about your service and product?  How much do they buy from you?  How do they treat your team?  How concerned are they about your success as well as their own?  How do they feel about the value you bring to them and your pricing?  How loyal are they?

Do you have a clear picture of these magnificent, appreciative people?  You should, because they will help you and your business be successful.

Here’s the coaching question(s) of the moment:

Why would such a customer choose your business?

Why would they buy from you?  What changes do you need to make, and what kind of business do you need to create to attract and keep such people?

The truth is that it is our responsibility as the owner to create a business that will attract our ideal customers.  Stated another way, you will always have the customers you deserve.

Here’s my coaching challenge for this week:  Get with your team and ask these (above) questions, and then create an action plan to start doing and being what you need to be to attract and keep the very best customers and to position those C customers higher in your 4 – H Club.  I would love to hear some practical ideas that each of you are implementing.  Call me with some of your thoughts concerning this concept.  Hilarious, Happy, Hassle, or Horrible.

Who you want to work with and serve is your choice.

Find those prefect customers and improve business sales in 2011…call Ohio Business Coach, Ralph Berge 440.838.0991


Are You Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions?

I know it’s only just started, but how has 2011 been going for you? Did you create some New Year’s Resolutions?

If you did, you might be interested to know that University of Minnesota research showed that 80 percent of people give up on their goals after only two months.

Will you fall into this majority — or will you achieve the success you crave?

There are often many reasons why we don’t achieve our goals. Sometimes the goals we set are unrealistic. Actually, New Year’s resolutions are typical examples. Suddenly, we expect to change the way we eat, or the way we exercise just because the calendar changes. It’s like expecting a child who’s never ridden a bike to suddenly jump on and go, or for you to run a marathon without months of training. These goals are based on illusion with little regard to natural growth. You must be able to crawl before you walk.

Over several decades, I’ve studied the great achievers of the world. What I discovered is they all share certain characteristics — and I immediately set to work, examining each characteristic of their achievement. My goal: to determine how I could break these down into easy-to-apply techniques anyone could use to successfully achieve their goals.

So, how do we set and achieve goals? Stephen R. Covey says it best in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”

The benefits of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results orientated, Time-framed (S.M.A.R.T) goals have been written about for years. So, it follows that goal setting is obviously a powerful process that will achieve success with your goals.

Here’s an example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal that you might have chosen for 2011:


My goal is to maintain a healthy body.


So that:

I can be fit to do the things I enjoy.

I can be an example to my children in health management.

I can build my personal character strength


Good nutrition: I will increase my intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and decrease my intake of sugar, fats, salt and red meat.

Physically: I will exercise aerobically 3 times a week for 30-minute periods.

Focus: I will be aware of my body and look out for any health problems.

Focusing on the smaller, short-term goals and achieving success will give you the confidence to set other goals. We remind clients it’s about, “eating the elephant, one bite at a time” and of turning your goals into achievable, actionable things. It’s the common denominator of successful individuals and businesses.

So, remember, set your goals based on the S.M.A.R.T. principle to have the best chance of achieving your goals.

Make 2011 your year of setting sensible, achievable goals…That’s great New Year’s resolution!

Improve your team and yourself in 2011…call Ohio Business Coach, Ralph Berge 440.838.0991

Quit Wrestling and Take Some Dance Lessons!

Today I want to suggest an alternate to wrestling with employees – dancing!

Let’s compare wrestling and dancing.  Both require energy.  Both typically involve two people.  Both involve close contact.

Wrestling wears you out.  It is filled with struggle, resistance, and dominance.  It is characterized by sometimes violent and aggressive movement designed to bring the competitor into submission.  It is definitely a win: lose sport – for one to win, he must defeat the other.

Dancing on the other hand is energizing and fun.  As one person leads another, together they produce a beautiful expression of grace and cooperation.  There is a mutual submission and cooperation with the goal of communicating affection and friendship.  The goal is to lead and follow and flow together.  In a great dance, both partners win!

The question I want to ask (great coaches ask great questions) is this:  Are you dancing or wrestling with your partners, managers, and employees?  Are you trying to dominate, control and win, or are you leading them to create a beautiful win: win scenario?  Are the emotions often violent, hurtful and aggressive, or filled with enjoyment, fun, and cooperation.

A lot of people in small business feel it is impossible to create such a harmonious scenario. A basic business coaching concept that we teach to our clients is to manage “agreements” not people. This means that first of all you have to have tight “rules of the game” for  your company as well as what we call “positional descriptions” for employees, which outline what is expected of them and the repercussions of not meeting those expectations. These “job-descriptions” can be discussed and modified, within limits, with each team member so that you can both come to an agreement. But once you have that agreement in place, stick to it. If you laid out that coming in late 2 times in a one month period means taking a one week unpaid “vacation,” then make sure you enforce that strictly when it occurs. This communicates that you can be flexible when making agreements, but that you stick to those agreements once they are made. Believe it or not, employees will often appreciate this just as much as the owner because they know where the lines are drawn.

It is your business, your career, and your job, your team, and your choice.  If you are tired of wrestling, I would love to teach you even more specifically how to dance with your team.  Give us a call and consider team building coaching. Let’s get started!

Improve your team and yourself…ask Ohio Business Coach, Ralph Berge 440.838.0991

Why People Challenge Price…

Customers want several things from their suppliers.  What do you think are most important?

Consumer surveys have shown that most customers want timely service first, quality products and services second, and low price third.  However what’s interesting is what many sales professionals think is the right sequence. When asked in one of our sales seminars, “what they think is most important to consumers”? Sales people offered consistent feedback:  they believe the consumer wants low price first, quality second and good service last. Clearly, there is a difference between what customers really want and what salespeople think they want.

Most consumers tell salespeople they want a low price, when what they really want is low cost.  Think about it.  Do you want the cheapest, or that which effectively solves your problem or fulfills your need or want?  Customers want their problems solved.  They realize they get what they pay for, and that the memory of poor quality lasts far longer than the immediate high of a low price deal.

People object to price when they feel that you are asking them to pay more than what they perceive the value to be.  When most salespeople get price resistance, they simply lower the price.  Usually it’s not a price issue, but one of low perceived value.  So how can you raise perceived value?  Through asking great questions and listening to discover what is causing your customer to be dissatisfied.  Then you will be equipped to show them how your product or service will remove the pain and satisfy their need, and even exceed their expectation. This will ensure that price will be secondary and improve business sales.

An example of a good question you might ask is: What will it cost you if you wait and buy this later?  What will happen if you don’t buy this?  What if you try to save and get a poor cheap substitute?   Another example more specific to our business would be: “What would one lost sale cost you in comparison to the fee for a sales training program?”  “What would it mean to gain one great customer per salesperson this year based on better training?”  The point is, we need to get people focused on — the cost of not doing it or the cost of doing it wrong vs. the value from the investment they will make.  (This assumes your product/service actually does save them money, time, effort, and provides value over time)

Real sales professionals focus on value, what the product or service does for the customer, and not price.  They understand that, while price is an issue, it’s not the most important one.  Price will always seem high when perceived value is low.  Don’t lower prices, raise perceived value.  Lowering price only makes your original price suspect and undermines your credibility.

Remember!  Once you set a discount or concession precedent, you’ll live with it for years with that customer.

Improve business sales…ask Ohio Business Coach, Ralph Berge 440.838.0991

5 Ways to Increase Your Profit …

If you have been around me and Business Coach for very long, you have heard of the “5-Ways”.  It’s great to know about simple profound principles that can really improve business sales and boost your business success.  However, the only way that the “5-Ways” is going to do that for your business is by taking ACTION.  So here is a challenge for every reader of this blog.  Today, create at least one strategy from each of the five ways to implement in your business over the next 30 days, and do it.
CLARITY + ACTION = RESULTS.  Here’s how to do it!

1. Review and understand the formula:
#Leads x %Conversion = #CUSTOMERS

#CUSTOMERS x Number of Transactions x Average $ Sale = REVENUE


#Leads – the number of prospects expressing interest in buying from you

%Conversion – the percentage of those prospects who make a purchase

Number of Transactions – the average number of times customers buy from you in a given period of time

Average $ Sale – this is the average amount that customers spend on each transaction

% Margin = the percentage of the revenue you keep (profit) after expenses are paid

2. create a strategy for each one of the 5 Ways by answering these questions:

1.  What is one way that you will increase the number of people interested in buying from you?

2.  What is one way that you will help a shopper say “yes” and buy from you?

3.  What is one way that you will encourage a customer to buy again from you?

4.  What is one way that you will help a customer buy a little more from you?

5.  What is one way that you will increase your profit margin?

It is also critical that you measure the result from each strategy.

Improve business…ask Ohio Business Coach, Ralph Berge 440.838.0991

Executive Team Building Builds Successful Companies

Ralph Berge is an Ohio Business Coach who helps build effective corporate teams. Corporate team building training is used to create rapidly changing conditions that require strategic thinking and imaginative problem solving.  Corporate team building training can be used to effectively enhance both teams and management in many ways including:

  • Building team trust
  • Improving communication
  • Developing strategic business planning to manage change
  • Teaching team member to think smarter and improve worker productivity
  • Managing change and help the team to accept change in the workplace

The “right” team is a businesses most valuable asset. An investment in corporate team building training has a high ROI. Regular training team training is essential.

Why Are You in Business?

The strategic business plan explores key questions about the purpose for being in business. On a regular basis business owners and their teams must answer these questions and agree on the answers. The answers help to determine the essential elements of the strategic plan, such as the sales planning process. From a business strategy consulting standpoint, the key, broad subjects to be incorporated in a strategic business plan are:

   Vision

   Mission Statement

   Key Objectives

   Milestones

   Implementation/ action plan and time table

This plan, which includes strategies, actions and responsibilities, becomes the foundation of the firm’s strategic business plan. This is not a document to be completed and left in the desk drawer. It is to be shared with the team and developed into 90 day plans for the management and team to implement.

Building Your Team is Both an Art & a Science

To build highly-effective teams you have to create an atmosphere for it to happen. Ralph Berge an Ohio Business Coach who provides executive team building suggests, “We must create an environment where each team member feels free to express their concerns with no retribution.” Business owners and management must understand that no idea is wrong. Team building coaching dictates that every team members’ suggestion needs to be considered and, if possible, built upon.

Remember we learn from mistakes and teams must be given an opportunity to try new ideas without admonishment for mistakes. Instead, a failure should be an opportunity to gain knowledge and to praise any safe-guards which were included in the plan. Give Ralph Berge a call (440.838.0991) for more on executive team building and team building coaching.

When is the Right Time to Exit Your Business?

What can exiting from your business mean to you?  It can be as emotionally difficult as a bankruptcy or forced liquidation or it can be a planned sale with all debts paid, money for retirement and peace of mind. Planning for succession means you should plan to sell when the sale will provide the funds necessary to retire or move on to a new opportunity. It can also be passed on to your heirs, employees or partners with proper pre-planning to fund the sale.

Ralph Berge is an Ohio Business Coach who helps business owners plan their succession management.  “Succession management is an exit strategy that simply means you have planned your transition and you are ready to take advantage of the options available to you’ says Berge. Call Ralph Berge, Business Coach 440-838-0991 to get moving on your business exit strategy.