How To Build A Corporate Team Step-By-Step

Sometimes it’s not clear how cross-team projects should be launched, function and proceed.

Follow these simple guidelines for accomplishing as a group what individuals on your team could not accomplish alone.

First, set up your basic parameters: a goal for the next meeting; roles; and type of discussion (e.g., brainstorming vs. goal setting). Be sure to include any earlier discussion points and agreements.

Then use the following framing questions. First ask:

  • Where are we so far?
  • Can we report the status of the project’s main elements, listing and including everything we know?
  • What do we want to achieve at this meeting, specifically?

At the next meeting, ask:

  • What is the best way to reach and/or exceed our goal for this meeting?
  • Should we brainstorm or share what we’ve learned and  what we’ve prepared?
  • How should we best think this through as a group, inclusive of everyone’s input?
  • Let’s throw out a few options and work out how to move the needle forward?

Finally, make assignments and tap the energy of the group.

  • what are our “Action Items” moving forward?
  • Who is the best person to focus on each particular “Action Item”?
  • How do we make this happen?
  • What’s our deadline? (This is essential in order to avoid a myopic approach to task assignments)
  • Next Steps?

Learn more Here!

Raising The Awareness Of A Small Business Brand

Regardless of the size of your business, “Brand Awareness” plays an important role when your customer segment makes a decision to buy. It’s utterly important that you understand and establish your brand “values”, what they are and how they relate to many areas. From product attributes to the less tangible aspects of your businesses reputation, such as good customer support to a top-notch web presence. By being able to communicate and establish the values of your brand, you establish how your product, your service, and your business is perceived by your customer segment and the marketplace.

Can A Small Business Use Branding?

ABSOLUTELY! You have to understand your own brand and what you want your brand to stand for and represent, since you will have a brand or corporate image in your market whether you like it or not! Smaller businesses increasingly compete with large, well-identified brands – in todays globally advanced society – so the objective of branding is to differentiate your business or product, to convey its unique attributes. Don’t be a secret agent. Be sure that your name, address, contact details, and logos are featured prominently on your Web site, catalogues, quotes, leader headers, even surveys, and packing slips.

How Important Are Brand Values?

Branding is often mistaken as pure customer marketing as a strict discipline. However, historical data indicates that B2B (Business-To-Business) purchasing is a complex process influenced by perceptions as much as by hard evidence on product/service performance.

How To Make It HappenIdentifying The Most Important Elements Of Your Brand

The most important attributes of a business brand will include the following:

  • fitness for purpose – is it the best at what it does?
  • value proposition – does it solve a particular problem or make a customer pain go away?
  • value for the money – if not offered at the lowest price, does it represent a good deal compared to the competition, even if it isn’t better?
  • quality – is it better built or better managed?
  • extended market presence – does the brand work in many related markets?
  • business stability – does the brand come from a stable company with a reliable history?
  • proven product/service – is the brand associated with a successful track record?
  • future investment in product development – is ongoing innovation important?

Find Out What Is Important To Your Customer

Although the above noted brand values can be applied to business products/services in general terms, it’s utterly vital to understand how your customer segment rank those values. What you may think is important, may be irrelevant to the customer.

Talk To Customers

This is the easiest and most common sense way to find out what your customer segments value, but be careful not to talk exclusively about the physical benefits of a product/service. There will be specific aspects of the product/service that is most important to the customer. Be sure to ask “open-ended” questions about the competition for example:

  • Who else have you looked at?
  • What do you think of them?
  • What is their biggest strength or weakness?
  • What do other people who you know think of them?

Conduct Customer Surveys (nPS – Net Promoter Score)

In order to identify what your customers consider important, conduct a survey; if your budget allows for it, this should be done through a third-party research company so that respondents feel that the survey is independent. It should ask respondents how they rank the different brand values, and how they believe your company and a number of its competitors compare across these values.

Review Industry Trends

When you are trying to do a million things at once, as most small business owners do, keeping on top of Web sites and publications relevant to your industry can be difficult, but is absolutely essential. Spending a few hours each week (45 Minutes A Day) finding out about new developments, trends, product ideas, and so on can be both energizing and helpful. Industry associations and publishers also produce surveys into the buying behavior in their industry sector, and these can highlight issues that can impact or be of concern to the whole industry.

Communicate Through All Channels

Advertising and marketing communications are the most important media channels for raising “Brand Awareness”. However, there are specific direct and indirect channels within the 113 various marketing channels that are specific to your industry and customer segments including:

  • products – the design and brand symbolism can convey tremendous brand values;
  • services – the way you deal with customers can demonstrate your commitment to your customers and their specific needs;
  • packaging – can carry messages regarding your brand;
  • distribution facilities – can give an impression of your approach and values;
  • Web Sites – must be consistent with your key brand values;
  • Customer Service Facilities – must deliver on the “Brand Promise” whatever it may be

Assess Your Branding

Does your product/service communicate your key brand values? The most important values are listed above, but brand values extend to the very core of your business and the ultimate customer experience.

If your nPS (Net Promoter Scores) are consistently low and the data illustrates a poor perception, or if your customers are not aware of your strengths, you must take a closer look at your product/service development programs. Also review the communications with your customers to see how the customers perceive the image of your brand.

Build Brand Values through Your Website  – Social Media Content

An effective e-commerce Web Site and Social Media Platforms is one in which various technical and design aspects all work together to drive traffic and create customer interest, build trust, communicate product/service value, and support convenient profitable transactions. Even if you don’t sell directly from your Web Site, Facebook, the key is that your customers must feel they have gained something from the visit that exceeds the “cost” (even if only in time) of visiting the platform.

Monitor The Levels Of Your Brands Awareness

Customer perceptions are their reality, and change over time if you do not plan for and make the efforts of influencing your customer’s perception of your brand. Continuous research and ongoing nPS (Net Promoter Score) efforts must be committed to and maintained in order to be continuously aware of your customer segments attitude toward your brand. This type of research is known as tracking research, and it helps to measure the effectiveness of brand communications programs.

Smith Gruppe as a “Certified Inbound Marketing” company can help with conducting A/B Testing Models to clarify whether or not your small business has any degree of “Brand Awareness”, call us 980-221-9377 or contact us at today for assistance and guidance in this matter.


Failing To Monitor Customer Perceptions

As stated before, continuous research and ongoing efforts  is critical. The small business owner mus know how the business is perceived by its customer segments so that you can plan for and position the way your brand is presented to the marketplace in the future.

Overlooking Customer Segment Preferences

Industry research may provide a broad view of brand values that are important to the overall customer segment. However, it is urgent to understand how individual customers – specifically your most important customers – rank individual values. This is of the utmost importance if your small business serves a niche market. The only way that this can be achieved is continuous research and an attentive ear to the ” Voice Of The Customer”.

Ignoring Communication Channels

Brand values are communicated through a myriad of channels, not just advertising, marketing or social media. Customer Segment attitudes and perceptions are shaped and formed by customer service, customer support, distribution channels as well as many other factors.

Be absolutely certain that every aspect of customer interface reflects your “Brand Values” and those most important to your customer segment!

Feel free to Contact Us – 980-221-9377 or Follow Us: Gruppe   Twitter: @SmithGruppe

Education & Training Events:



Crossing The Bridge To 2018 – What Is Your Strategy For The New Year?

Most companies are fresh off of some sort of Executive Retreat and/or end of year Team-Building exercise in the form of Strategic Planning. The problem is that as soon as the participants entered the workplace after the first of the year, they were confused and clueless on the day-to-day deployment plan for implementing the very strategic objectives that they were excited about and task with in the Strategic Planning exercise.

Now that its “game-on”, they are disconnected from the big-picture strategy; and completely removed from their functional accountability.

Where are you?

In this writing, we will cover the “Best Practices” that allow for an intentional and purposeful “crossing of the proverbial bridge from 2017 to 2018.

Using the featured image template, let us walk you through the atypical exercise that Smith Gruppe goes through; as well as how we assist our clients in crossing the Year-To-Year Bridge.

First Things First – Your Purpose

The first thing you want to be sure of is your company’s “purpose”, or your basic reason for existing. Is your purpose” still in alignment with your overall Vision and Mission. This answers clearly for everyone in the organization the “Why” questions: Why is this company doing what it is doing? What is the company’s higher purpose? Why should I have a passion for what we are doing? If your “Sandbox” (e.g. in terms of customers, geography, and product/service mix) and the measurable Brand Commitments to those customers have changed? You can rest assured your “purpose” has changed in some type of way. —- Once defined, fill in your “purpose” for 2018!

High Points And Low Points

Next, you want to lead a go-around session in group setting offering each individual and/or department head an opportunity to express “High Point” and a “Low Point” for them in this past year.  There is to be no judging and/or scrutinizing of anyone personally expressed feelings/opinions. A good leader, who should also be a good listener will use this opportunity to gather whether or not there is unity in participating in the company’s Shared Vision. —- Be sure to have your scribe record these responses!


Now, we jump over to “Aspirations” on the template. In a similar go-around session in group setting, each individual and/or department head gets an opportunity to express what success looks like to them by the end of 2018. What milestones, objectives and results will the team have achieved? What does that success feel like individually and respectively as a team? —- Be sure to have your scribe record these responses! Further quantify whether or not such results are identified as being one or all of the “Critical Few” milestones, objectives and results that was critical to the success of the company.


The real work starts now. Initiate a brainstorming session as to where each individual and team identifies both the individual “Actions” and team “Actions” they need to take to achieve their aspirations. Use sticky notes to identify department and/or team actions. As it relates to individuals, this is a great opportunity for Managers and Team Leaders to implement performance review mechanisms in the form of IP’s (Individual Plans).

The evaluation of IP’s (Individual Plans) at the end of each quarter is a critical step for any business serious about building and sustaining business excellence.

It helps individuals learn how to plan, to anticipate problems, to anticipate the unexpected, identify dependencies, and most importantly to communicate clearly with team members. Moreover, if this exercise is compared to the roles and responsibilities on the company’s fACE (Functional Accountability Chart Exercise) and pACE (Process Accountability Chart Exercise); then individuals and teams take greater responsibility when goals aren’t met. —— This process will help Managers and Executives identify “why” the company is under-performing and allow them to introduce countermeasures; ultimately leading to BETTER EXECUTION!  


Discuss the “Resources” you will need to be successful. I cannot stress enough the necessity of being realistic. A lot of company’s have huge aspirations; however lack the necessary “Resources” needed to ultimate realize its “Vision”.

Make it an exhaustive exercise in identifying the necessary “Resources” namely but not limited to hard and soft skills, stakeholder buy-in, financial support, people, and partnerships.


Back to brainstorming, think of the “Challenges” that you may face as you work to accomplish your “Actions”. Record the “Challenges” and tie them to the “Resources” that you have listed.

Again, be realistic about each “Challenge” and whether or not the company’s track record illustrates that it has dealt with and overcome this type of “Challenge” before.

Remember, “In order to do and accomplish things that the company has never accomplished before, the company must become a different company than it has ever been before!”

Review And Summarize

Now take a step back and review and summarize each major point on the template.

Emphasize, and re-emphasize the necessity of  laser focus for the entire company on the company’s “Actions and Aspirations.”

Circulate the room and secure the absolute “Commitment” and “All-In Buy-In” of each individual and team.

Next Necessary Steps

Have the scribe and/or note-taker for the meeting step forward. On a separate flip-chart, record “Next Necessary Steps” noting each department and/or individual responsible and the timeline for completion.

In order to secure absolute “Commitment” and “All-In Buy-In”, have each individual sign off on their IP (Individual Plan) and place their initials on the company’s respective fACE (Functional Accountability Chart Exercise) and pACE (Process Accountability Chart Exercise).

Cascade And Communicate  

Take a photograph of the Template and convert the document to a PDF. Send the document around to everyone to post in a visible location as a reminder of the Company’s Actions and Aspirations for 2018. For co-located groups post the document in a document repository for everyone to view online.

Consistently communicate the Actions And Aspirations for 2018 at the beginning and end of meetings to build momentum and follow-through.

Should you need assistance in this invaluable exercise, please do not hesitate to contact us at Smith Gruppe ( 980-221-9377; so that we may facilitate this business development training module.

Organizational Core Values – To Thine Own Self – Be True!

Values are deeply held views, of what we find most meaningful in life. They originate from many sources: parents, education, friends, religion, people we admire and in many instances our culture. Some go back to childhood, while others are developed as we mature between adolescence and adulthood. As is the case with what we think as a mental model, there’s a major difference between the values we “espouse” – which we hold to dearly – and the “values that are validated,” by our actions that actually direct our behavior.

When you decided you wanted to start a business, and you thought  of the values that you wanted your business vision to espouse, was there something inside you on certain thoughts that said; “That’s not really me or what I want my business to represent?”

That pang you felt in your gut was in opposition to a deeply held value that you maintain. These values are coded into our brains at such a fundamental level that we can’t see that they actually control our actionable behaviors.

Organizations should be extremely beware of the temptation of allowing their “Organizational Core Values” to fall by the wayside in difficult times. If your organization has honesty listed as one of its core values, it should share the financial status of the company with the employees – even if the financials set forth that the business is failing. If employee loyalty is one of your core values, it means that even in challenging times; it will not lay off employees. You may eventually have to lay off people, however your strategy should be to avoid such at all cost because it is contradictory to your core values.

How To Create An Organizational Core Value Checklist

Step 1. Create A Core Value List

The Founder(s) should gather together the team and create a short list of maybe 10-20 values that it may want to espouse as its “Core Values”. These words and/or phrases should act as a guide to behaviors and character of what the business will represent, or how the business wants to be viewed.

Step 2. Scrub The List

Now that you have identified 10-20, imagine that you are only able to keep 10. Which 10 would you give up? Remove them from the list.

Now repeat the process until you have 2 Core Values. Which is the one single item on the list that the Founder(s) care about the most?

Step 3. Communication

Now go back and take a look at your Top 3 Values and then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do they mean to the Founder(s) and employees, exactly? What will you expect from yourself and the employee – even in the most difficult of times?
  • How would the company be viewed and the leadership of the company be viewed if the “Core Values” were prominent, lived and practiced on a daily basis?
  • What would an organization look like whose leadership and employees lived up those values?
  • Does the “Vision” of the company align with those values? If not, should the “Vision” be expanded? Or are the Founder(s) prepared to reconsider the “Vision”?
  • Are the Founder(s) willing to dedicate their lives, and the organization to realizing a “Vision” in which the “Core Values” are paramount?

In the many situations and environments in which Smith Gruppe has conducted “Building A Shared Vision” training exercises, entrepreneurs, seasoned executives as well as management has gained meaningful understanding about themselves and the organization they work for.

In the current environment of irresponsible leadership, in which leaders are not willing to be held accountable and/or responsible for their actions and decisions; millennials and Generations X and Y are looking for authentic leadership that are capable of  living up to Shakespeare as stated by Polonius: This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.

If you are interested in establishing time-tested “Organizational Core Values” through our Core Values training exercises, please contact us today at 980-221-9377 or by e-mail at



Mapping The Sales Process – The Key To Customer Acquisition

Whether you are a start-up or a SBE (Small Business Enterprise), mapping a clearly defined sales process makes for a competitive advantage and identifies the drivers of costs in your sales processes. Once you have successfully mapped out your sales process, you will know how to make the sales process shorter and significantly more cost-effective.

In our most recent post “Listen To Your Customer … And Increase Your Revenue” on September 8, 2017, we spoke on calculating the lifetime Value of the customer. Now let’s take a look at Mapping The Sales Process that will bring that customer into your business.

Sales Processes Evolve Over Time 

The sales process necessary to reach and close your customers at start-up requires much more focus and investment of resources than the same process does once your business ins mature and poised for exponential growth and/or scale.

There are typically three segments of time that you would want to consider in order to be successful in generating sales revenue. Although the methodology and combinations of methodologies will vary, the primary focus is the same.

  1. Short Term Sales: In the short-term timeline, the primary focus of the sales process is to properly engage potential customer at the right stage in the “Buyers Journey”. Whether that be at the Awareness, Consideration, or Decision Stage, your sales process should create demand for your product or service. Your marketing campaigns being customer-centric means that you have created a product or service the customer wants and needs, your product or service is relevant to your customer and/or market segment; therefore you will need direct interaction with the customer in the space that is most utilized by the customer to explain why your product or service is unique and relevant to their needs or wants. Otherwise, you are obscure and unknown to the marketplace. The most important reason to be in constant and direct contact with your potential customer segment is so that you can quickly iterate to improve the product and/or service offering based upon customer feedback, which is more difficult if you funnel sales through third parties such as intermediaries or distributors. This is the infant sales stage and it will come to a close once  you start to see demand for your product or service that you did not generate through your own sales processes.
  • Direct Sales Team – often referred to as “Business Development” team – traditionally a wise and effective sales approach at start-up. However, they are costly and they require time and training to generate revenue effectively. The “Pareto Principle” is always in play, that 20% of your sales professionals will generate 80% of your sales revenue. The remaining 80% will generate a mere 20% of your revenue, as well as consuming a lot of time, energy and resources in training and re-training the sales team churn. Top sales talent is hard to retain, and identifying “rainmakers” versus the mediocre is hard to do while in start-up phase. Do your best to hire the top talent, pay them well at the start-up stage, not just at later stages when the company is starting to mature. Despite these challenges, a strong sales team is the only option you have when it comes to ensuring that the business does not run out of cash.
  • IoT (Internet Of Things) or Web 2.0 techniques, such as inbound marketing (Smith Gruppe is a Certified Inbound Marketing Firm), e-mail, social media marketing, and telesales can help lessen the burden of sales training and the expense of a sales team, especially at the start-up stage. Many products and/or services, particularly web apps, do extremely well with a free trial and well documented testimonials and high nPS (Net Promoter Scores) rather than the costs of a sales team. The greatest reward of this tool is that you can get extensive analytics on your customer segment through Facebook, Linked In, Google Analytics and other IoT type tools on your customer that are just  not possible through the human sales channel.
  1. Medium Term Sales: At this point in time, the focus of the sales mapping process moves from demand creation to the fulfillment of committed products and/or services as a word of mouth and the sales and distribution channels start to take on the burden of demand creation. You will know own the accountability and responsibility of customer relations, client management, and product and service support, which is paramount when it comes to customer retention and the ability to create additional sales opportunities.

Suppliers, Sales Channel Distributors as well as Re-Sellers are often used to serve   markets outside of your initial customer and/or market segment, or smaller   customers segments with a lower LTV (Life-Time Value). This way, your direct sales   team (who can tend to be more costly) can focus on the larger customer segment   with higher LTV (Life-Time Value). Sales Channels, Distributors, and Re-Sellers   ultimately lowers your Cost of Customer Acquisition (COCA); which we will cover   in our next blog post.

  1. Long Term Sales: Your direct sales team will focus on sales and product and/or service fulfillment. Once you have a mature business case, usually starting at year 3; your business will do very little demand creation, and will mature in customer relations, client management, product and service support. IoT, In-Bound Marketing, and telesales channels are beefed up when deploying long-term strategies. The business will make adjustments over time as the competitive landscape adjusts, which will affect the businesses ability to get to the long-term stage and what to do to maintain its market position and ultimately its competitive advantage.

Sales Process Map

In order to develop a short-term, medium-term, and long-term sales strategy, the business must understand which of the over 133 marketing/sales channels it will use and how the use of the marketing/sales channels will change over time. You can identify trends and the aligning KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) specific to your industry as benchmarks.

The key to any degree of success is asking and addressing the right questions that your sales process is designed to address, and they are as follows:

  • How does your “Buyer Persona” and/or Customer Segment become aware that they have a problem and/or opportunity?
  • How will the “Buyer Persona” and/or Customer Segment learn that your product and/or service is the solution to their problem, or learn there is an opportunity that they were not previously aware of?
  • Upon your “Buyer Persona” and/or Customer Segment learning about your business (i.e. product or service), what is the education process by which they will become well-informed of your product and/or service; and thus analyze and make an educated decision to buy your product or service?
  • How do you close the sale?
  • How do you collect your money, and is the collection process mapped out in the CCC (Cash Conversion Cycle) of your business plan?


  • Direct Sales From Sales Team (100%) … All “Buyer Personas” Customer Segments -Focus On Target Markets

*This process continues until your business has consistent Word Of Mouth and becomes a mature product/service that is well-respected in the marketplace.


  • Direct Sales From Sales Team (50%) … Largest “Buy Personas” and Customer Segments
  • Suppliers, Sales Channel Distributors, Re-Sellers (50%) … Medium “Buyer Personas” and Customer Segments ; Low LTV (Life-Time Value)

*This process eventually evolves into a laser-focused intentional e-commerce platform as the product/service becomes the marquee product/service that can be expanded into new market segments.


  • Direct Sales From Sales Team (25%) … Largest “Buyer Personas” and Customer Segments and New Markets
  • Suppliers, Sales Channel Distributors, Re-Sellers (40%) … Medium “Buyer Personas” and Customer Segments ; Low LTV (Life-Time Value) and Non- Core Markets
  • IoT, Inbound Marketing, Web 2.0 and Telesales (35%) … All “Buyer Personas” and Customer Segments in the Core Market with shared revenue and commissions going to Suppliers, Sales Channel Distributors, and Re-Sellers

Once you have gone through the necessary iterations of mapping your sales process, be sure to vet it with the experienced trusted advisors at Smith Gruppe.

Smith Gruppe has decades of experience across multiple industries, whether in a B2B or a B2C environment; and have helped many a client evolve from traditional to highly advanced and complex sales strategies. Call us today at 980-221-9377 or visit us at the “Our Services” page at We would be more than happy to help!

What Gets Measured – Gets Done!

As a start-up or small business enterprise, one of the first things that you must master is your data components; and how to interpret the organization’s numbers. The leadership must then dumb those numbers down to the point where every department and/or individual has a single imperative but reasonable number that guides their day-to-day work initiatives. This set of numbers enables the founders and/or leadership to create a dashboard of clarity, accountability and responsibility throughout the organization. One can then track performance down to a granular level and a single person responsible for output and performance.

In that we practice what we advise, within Smith GruppeEvery Department And Individuals Has A Number”. Whether it be the underwriting department turning around a LOI (Letter Of Intent) for funding within 48-72 hours, or working capital cash flow department disbursing within 48 hours; we all have a number.

Here Are 8 Reasons To Measure!

 1. Numbers Communicate Clearly

When an owner ask the question of how the month is going to a sales manager, the response is usually “Great, and we should do well this month as we have a lot of great opportunities right now.”

In a numbers based culture that measures consistently, the answer is crystal clear. We have 6 deals closed against our monthly goal of 10, and we have 2 weeks remaining in the month. If the answer is 2, and the goal is 10 with only 2 weeks left in the month; then the lagging sales issue needs to be addressed. Better to address the issue now, rather than at the end of the month when you are way short of the goal.

Numbers are not just for that sales manager. It is a communication tool between the founder/leadership, the sales manager and the sales team, and the entire company creating the basis for comparison, unemotional dialogue, and most importantly constructive coaching to increase results.

2. Numbers Create Accountability

When a number is set and properly communicated, the expectations are clear. Accountability starts with clear expectations, and nothing is clearer than a specific number. Take our previous sales example, if in the entire sales department the team expectations are “increased sales,” that is ambiguous and unclear. However, if the sales team is to produce 10 closed transactions, $7,000 in fees per minimum transaction, or total new sales volume of $70,000, that is a clear expectation. The sales team and each salesperson know exactly what their target is.

3. Accountable Leaders Respect Numbers

The right butts in the right seats take great pride in the fact that they can be held accountable for the success of the business. This level of leadership within your business loves clarity. Knowing the numbers they need to hit, they enjoy being recognized as producers.

One of my mentors quoted, “people will work 10 times harder for recognition, than they will ever work for money.” Always recognize your producers and leaders as well as praising progress for the up and comers.

Accountable leaders within your business creates an esprit de corps and embrace an organizational culture where everyone is held accountable. This leads to overall business success because the right people want to be successful; whereas the wrong butts in the wrong seats will resist accountability because they are not producing.

4. Numbers Create Commitment

There is a major difference between commitment and compliance. Compliant team members will do just enough to comply or get by and not get fired, and you are likely to pay them enough for their nominal production that they will not quit – Bad Move!

Committed team members are clear on their numbers and have agreed that they can meet and/or exceed that number, this is commitment. There are no gray areas.

A great way to secure company-wide commitment is to post a Vision Board in the Conference Room or most frequently visited or visible place in the company. Share the sales goals and other key initiatives and/or quarterly themes with everyone, and tie their number to incentives.

This results in everyone knowing how their number and/or role contributes to the overall success of the company, and just how important their numbers are in the grand scheme of things.

5. Numbers Create Healthy Competition

Healthy internal competition and a little pressure is a good thing. As noted in Point #4, making the target numbers of all teams public knowledge and known to all teams creates competition.

Departments can then challenge each other to meet and/or exceed their number against other departments.

This is a healthy practice across multiple departments within the business because although each employee and department are in pursuit of their own number, they are aware that they are interdependently accountable for the overall company number; which lends to greater incentives and success for all. – It creates greater camaraderie between departments in that it illustrates how each role and responsibility supports a greater role and responsibility.

6. Numbers Produce Re$ults

Similar to the way Steve Jobs helped turn Apple around, knowing your number can create amazing results. If the sales department’s expectation is to up sell one existing client a month in order to increase the CLV (Customere Lifetime Value), by hitting this number, the ultimate result is increased customer retention and customer loyalty.

However, if your nPS (Net Promoter Score) process is to identify opportunities to warm transfer MQL’s (Marketing Qualified Leads) so that you increase your lead-to-conversion rate; and they know that 20% of your MQL’s result in a minimum of $3,000 in ancillary sales. You will typically meet and/or exceed your sales goals than if you don’t set a number. What gets watched also gets improved.

7. Teamwork Makes The Dream Work – Numbers Create Teamwork

When your entire business team has the right butts in the right seats, and they uniformly agree on a number to hit; they ask themselves “how can WE hit the number,” creating greater camaraderie and peer pressure.

When a team of top producers and leaders are challenged to produce at levels previously unattained, they will generally pull together and figure out a way to collectively meet and/or exceed the number. – This can b an excellent way of separating the creme from the milk, as it often results in those that aren’t pulling their weight or hitting their number being called out by the other team members that are performing to task.

8. Faster Problem-Solving Capabilities

When your business case is results oriented, it is often important to conduct an ABC (Activity Based Cost) Analysis. If your data indicates an increase in costs, and an activity-based number is out of line; identifying the number associated with bringing that cost back in line is tantamount to your survival. You can then take a proactive approach to attacking the issue in order to solve the problem.

Being proactive will allow for you to deal with the issue sooner, rather than later when it may be too late to adjust the number and have an impact on the end-result. Hard data allows you to cut through the noise of subjective and emotionally attached opinions.

In a small business enterprise, time is always of the essence and decisions have to be made quickly.


If you’re still stuck, Smith Gruppe offers training on understanding how to identify the 5-15 high-level weekly numbers that you should be looking at.

We do this through our tools and training on how to draft and create fACE (Functional Accountability Charts) and pACE (Process Accountability Charts). These charts allow for you to keep your finger on the pulse of the important numbers, as well as giving you the ability to predict the impact of adjusting the necessary numbers to drive revenue and increase the profitability and success of your business. Call us today at 980-221-9377 or e-mail us at and request a FREE consultation on measuring the right “NUMBERS”.


Pivot – Deliver Value By Leveraging Strengths And Opportunities Ahead Of Industry Trends

A business “Pivot’ can be viewed in a couple of ways. In most cases, a pivot could be a complete restatement of your business model. It is not a set of incremental changes to a product or service that result from your business analytics. Rather, it could be high level adjustment in strategy or execution that affects the entire business model.

Take for example, you decide to adjust or replace a couple of features in a suite of product/service features, that does not constitute a pivot. However, if you were to disband all of the features associated with that product or service to reorient your business case around one core set of features, that would be a pivot.

Additional points of view on a pivot is as a compass check that results in charting a new course in a new direction. In today’s technology advanced global society of uncertainty, businesses need to mitigate risk by nimbly moving toward a customer/product-market fit. If you are able to predict how much time it will take to make the adjustment, and move through the pivot, along with the opportunity cost associated with that pivot, then you can successfully determine the number of pivots that can be achieved with the remainder of runway that you have.

Lastly, another description is that “pivots” are Vision-Mission Driven, not Test-Driven.

Now lets take a look at the different types of “Pivots” that a business may consider

Granular Pivot

In this scenario, what previously was deemed a single feature in product/service becomes the whole product/service. This spotlights the value of “focus” and leverages a cost advantage by delivering the product/service more quickly and efficiently.

Satellite View Pivot

In the reverse of the previous scenario, there are times when a single feature product/service is insufficient and out of line with the customer segment; and cannot support or deliver value to the customers needs. This pivot was considered when the previous whole product/service became a single feature product/service of a much larger product/service.

Customer Segment Pivot

The customer always being right, especially when your product/service can attract real customers, but not the customers in the original vision of your product/service. In other words, it addresses a problem, but needs to be re-positioned for a more engaging customer experience. The result is a more appreciative customer segment, and a differentiated value proposition for that customer segment.

Customer Needs Pivot

Awareness Stage customer feedback in the “Buyers Journey” is a clear indication that the problem that your product/service has solved is not that important to the customer, or that the price-point is above their purchase threshold. This also requires re-positioning, or a completely new product/service offering, to find the customer problem worth solving that can still generate profit for the business case.

Business Platform Pivot

In this case a change from an application to a platform, or vice-versa. Our experience has shown that during the Concept-Ideation Phase, founders envisioned their product/service as a platform for future products/services, but did not at the time have an innovative application yet. The majority of the customer marketplace buy solutions, not platforms.

Business Architecture Pivot

Jeffrey Immelt, many years ago, observed while leading GE that there are two results oriented business architectures: High Margin, Low Volume (complex corporate systems), or Low Margin, High Volume (volume-centric operations). Even large highly capable corporations are incapable of executing both models at the same time.

Value Driven Pivot

This is the innate ability to monetize the product/service to generate ongoing revenue. Adjustments to the way a small business enterprise captures and creates value can have a tremendous impact on the business, its products/services, and its overall ability to market its products/services. Business statistics validate the fact that the “FREE” model neither captures or delivers any value whatsoever. The landscape is littered with the skeletal remains of non-value driven business concepts.

Driver Of Growth Pivot

As we have educated and trained hundreds of start-ups, more than ever of late they use one of three particular growth concepts: viral, sticky and paid exponential growth models. Choosing the right model makes all the difference in the world as to whether or not you are successful, and most importantly the pace and profitability of your growth.

Distribution or Sales Channel Pivot

Using sales terminology, the mechanics by which a company delivers its products/services to customers is called the distribution and/or sales channel. Channel pivots require unique skill-sets and resources in pricing, feature, and competitive positioning adjustments.

Augment SWOT With SOT

For Entrepreneurs and Founders, Smith Gruppe proposes that you should augment the age-old SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) with SOT (Strengths Opportunities Trends) model.

We’ve observed for decades how start-ups eventually fall behind and lose ground because they are blinded by their current reality. In other words they fall prey to constantly looking inward at their company and industry challenges, or what we call “inside/industry myopia,” which stunts growth and causes paralysis.

Entrepreneurs and Founders should look at major trends, such as changes in technology, distribution, product/service innovation, forward and backward integrated links in the value chain, consumer and social behavior within customer segments, and economic developments.

You need to look beyond the competitor across the street to a company on the other side of the world that might put you out of business, or disrupt the industry and cause a major shake-up. Ask yourself if there is anyone on the scene that may change how everyone in the industry does business?

We encourage our clients on a quarterly basis to identify and list the four to six trends that could shake up their industry and put them out of business? From there identify the handful of strengths (core competencies) that they possess and align them with an industry trend that would lead to a “blue ocean” opportunity for themselves. An opportunity where they change the rules of the game to their extreme competitive advantage.

If  you have any questions or need guidance in designing and implementing a “Pivot”, please call us at 980-221-9377 or Click Here to go to “Our Services” page to find more helpful information.

Small Business Drivers Of Value

As I educate and train small businesses across the land in various and sundry places, trade associations and higher education; I am often asked the million dollar question by most entrepreneurs “How does one create and sustain value as a small business?” Moreover, “Where and how does one intelligently invest time, energy in efforts in creating a Unique Value Proposition?”

The answer is actually quite simple and not overly complicated. Hopefully one has conducted a thorough market and competitive analysis at the concept and/or ideation phase of considering the undertaking of launching a business case.

A solution to a problem, or the ability to address a need should have been identified. In the process of identifying your customer and market segment, one should have also conducted enough research to have identified that market as a growth market or “Blue Ocean” opportunity. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to enter a market segment as a “New Entrant” in an eroding market; you are out of business before even getting started.

Revenue Growth

As noted in the infographic, as a new business case 60% of the focus of your time, energy and resources will be spent on generating revenue. Identifying with your “Buyer Persona’s”, and moving with them through the Buyers Journey. Whether that be educating them in the “Awareness Stage” of the Buyers Journey, nurturing them through the “Consideration Stage”, or positioning your product or service when your client/customer is at the “Decision Stage”.

Either way, you must be capable of delivering a differentiated value proposition in order to create and sustain “revenue” for your business. Ongoing and consistent “Cash Flow” that flows to the Top Line or Bottom Line in the form of “Profit” is what the game is all about.

This is your primary focus and where you will spend the majority of your time from Start-Up through Year 2.

Cost Reduction

At the end of year when you sit down with your “Trusted Business Advisor’s” as you should, you now begin to be properly educated and trained on raising your level of “Financial Intelligence”. This is where an additional 20% of your time, energy and efforts will be spent.

Your ability to take in and interpret the data/numbers on your Cash Flow Statement, Income Statement, and Balance Sheet is vitally important and a competency you should be developing.

The behavior of a company’s costs and its cost position are a result of the activities  company performs in competing in its market segment. In a meaningful cost analysis, you will learn to identify costs within the day-to-day business activities and not the costs of your company overall. Each value activity has its own costs associated to it, and once you learn how to reduce those costs; you ultimately increase your revenue streams and hopefully your profitability.

It’s all right in front of you in your financials!

Other – Strategy

Now that you are feeling pretty good about yourself and the fact that the business is actually making money and has established itself as a recognized brand in the marketplace – the real fun and hard work begins!

The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi started training camp every year of their dynasty with the same opening statement to his players, “All the hard work and everything that you have done up until this point to get you here as World Champions, will not be enough to keep you here as World Champions. You are going to have to get tougher, smarter and better than you have ever been before if you want to stay here as World Champions”!

The same is true for the great game of business.

You must now spend at least 20% of your time on “Strategy”. How to grow and increase your “Intellectual Property” advantages. What “Technology Enhancements” will make you better and more efficient in delivering your value proposition.

Securing the necessary coaching, mentoring and business/industry education and training to become a true entrepreneur; one who works on his/her business, not in his/her business.

Sustainability Over Survival

This is by no means a comprehensive or exhaustive end-all be-all solution. Launching and standing up a business in today’s global economy is an intimidating and daunting task.

It takes courage, tenacity and an enduring amount of faith to realize a “Vision”; however it can be done by following these few simple steps to “Sustainability Over Survival”.

At Smith Gruppe, we assist our clients in developing a “Sustainability Over Survival” mindset. Our clients not only survive, they “thrive” as a result of our comprehensive Trusted Advisor resources. Call us today for a FREE Consultation at 980-221-9377 or visit us at www. and click on the “Our Services” tab.


Listen To Your Customer… And Increase Your Revenue!

Business owners often remind themselves that the primary reason that they are in business is to sell their products and services, but that is really just one piece of the overall puzzle in the grand scheme of things. It is a crucial mistake to forget that these four simple imperatives keep you in business:

  1. Getting more customers to buy from you.
  2. Getting them to buy more frequently.
  3. Getting them to spend more with you in each customer engagement with your business.
  4. Getting them to recommend you to your friends in a B2C environment, and colleagues and associates in a B2B environment.

So why, then, do most businesses concentrate all of their efforts on a SINGLE experience and/or transaction?

What if, instead of ending with a single purchase action by a converted customer, you began with the following actions and, in doing so, focused on 3 primary goals:

  1. Building solid, ongoing, and authentic relationships with your customers.
  2. Transforming customers/clients from a singular transaction into returning clients, and ultimately stark raving fans and advocates.
  3. Leveraging the unstoppable power of direct referrals, recommendations, and word-of-mouth for outreach to other potential customers through social networking. (Remember Know Me-Like Me- Trust Me, Buy From Me!) Referrals, recommendations, and word-of-mouth gives your business and established degree of trust.

What if, by following these rules, you were able to increase  your Top Line Growth by 25%-40%? Basically tapping into an existing resource (current customers), and creating a platform for future growth from your existing customer base.

Don’t Forget The 80/20 Rule

20 percent of your customers, likely produces anywhere in the range of 80 percent of your revenue.

Do you know where the majority percentage of your sales are coming from: new or returning customers?

Identify what percentage of your company’s sales come from first-time customers, and what percentage comes from existing customers who make repeat clients/customers, upgrade to  higher levels of spending, or refer other clients/customers to your business?

Once you have identified your higher percentages, and where the majority of  your sales are coming from; compare and contrast the total amount of money and time you spend on acquiring customers versus maintaining, nurturing and retaining your existing client/customers. You are likely to notice a huge imbalance between the two analyses.

It’s not just that you are likely spending the most amount of money and mis-allocating of resources on the customers that return the least value. What adds insult to injury is that, in doing so, you alienate your business from its most loyal buyers. How do the clients/customers that enjoy your product or service interpret the message that you send when offering new clients/customers extreme discounts and promotions? — They are likely feeling disenfranchised at the least when you are still charging them full price without any bonuses, but yet you offer bonuses and promotions to clients/customers who have never bought from you before.

Time To Stop Losing Customers

Let’s be clear: Losing a single customer is unacceptable. Ever. You need to obsess with customer retention.

  • No cable customer should ever have to switch from one provider to another.
  • No person should ever have to decide whether or not they need to try a new tooth paste.
  • No human being should ever have to switch from Sprint to Verizon – Can You Hear Me Now?

Yet, it happens every day. All too many businesses give their customer base too many reasons to consider an alternative to what they offer. They make it easy in the five following ways:

  1. Pure Neglect – Lack of caring.
  2. Horrible Customer Service.
  3. Losing Touch with their customers. (Not updating their Buyer Persona’s as market demand requires)
  4. Not using the customer feedback loop to improve the product/service or the buying experience. [EMPHASIS THROUGHOUT]NOT LISTENING!
  5. Lack of Innovation.

The Key To Success

Start with “Retention”, rather than as an ending point.

By increasing your ability to maintain and retain clients/customers, you invariably increase your competence in knowing how to retain clients/customers.

This will allow you to decrease your attrition rates, and turn your passive approach into a proactive and actionable approach ; and further allow you to be intentional and strategic in your imperative of growing Top Line Growth.

Lastly, it will allow you to break your addiction to client acquisition as a growth strategy!

Call us Today – 980-221-9377 if you need help! 

4 Reasons Why The SBA Will Turn Down Your Loan Request

Commercial mortgages backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) are an attractive option for business owners because of their low rates and business-friendly terms.  And the banks and agency sponsors who offer SBA loans like them as well – mainly because the U.S. government guarantees up to 80% of each loan.

The problem is that the majority of small business owners are not able to qualify for SBA loans.  Most commercial loan officers who have sought this option for their small-balance clients know this.  But they may not know about the alternative to bank and SBA solutions that Smith Gruppe offers in today’s competitive market.

The SBA reports that around half of the 28 million small businesses in America are operated outside the home.  If you consider the fact that a sizable number of business owners are not able to qualify for SBA loans, the need for alternative to bank commercial finance solutions becomes clear.  Smith Gruppe is the #1 provider of alternative to bank financing for small business owners who have shown a pressing need for mortgage financing.

Here are the “4 Reasons” why small business owners fail to qualify for SBA loans, followed by fallout alternatives you can present to your clients.

Common Reasons For SBA Loan Rejection

Business owners must meet certain requirements to qualify for the SBA Certified Development Company (CDC)/504 or 7(a) programs, which are the real estate options offered.  Unfortunately, many borrowers fall short for the following reasons:

  1. Borrower/Business Make-Up

The structure of a business can render it ineligible for an SBA loan.  A few of the most common disqualifying factors include:

  • The applicant is not determined to be a small business
    • Avg. net income after taxes over the last 2 years must be less than $5 million
    • Tangible net worth needs to be $15 million or less
  • The business owners don’t have enough equity in their business
    • For a new business, the borrower should have approximately $1 of cash or business assets for each $3 of the loan
    • For an established business, the post-loan business balance sheet should show no more than $4 of total debt for each dollar of net worth (this may vary by industry)
  • The borrower has been in business less than a year and has no industry experience
  1. Ineligible Use For Funds

Business owners often wish to refinance their commercial property in order to consolidate debt.  Unfortunately, the CDC/504 Program lists that as an ineligible use of funds. SBA programs also prohibit borrowers from using the loan to repay delinquent IRS withholding taxes, sales taxes, or similar funds.

We offer 100% “Un-Restricted” Cash Out up to the full LTV of the loan. For example, if you qualify for an 80% LTV, you can get up to the full 80% with no restrictions and can use the excess cash beyond the property value for whatever you choose.

  1. Lack Of Documentation – Fair Credit

Many entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals have difficulty producing tax returns that accurately illustrate the success of their business.  Those who fall into this category face significant challenges when applying for an SBA loan.

You qualify for our loans with a minimum 640 Credit Score! – Poor or slow credit and anything less than a 720 credit score without a credible net worth will disqualify you for an SBA Loan.

  1. Ineligible Real Estate

A prospective borrower will fail to qualify for an SBA loan if the real estate in question is either an investor property or an owner-occupied property of which they occupy less than 51%.

We offer investor and/or Non Owner Occupied commercial real estate financing as well.

It is also worth mentioning that some borrowers who actually do qualify for an SBA program eventually back away from the deal when they learn about some of the associated fees, such as the loan guaranty fee of 3 to 3.5% of the SBA loan portion.

SBA Fallout Solutions

Borrowers who fail to qualify for SBA loans may not know that other options exist.  Here are 2 alternative to bank solutions you can use to secure the capital you need.

  1. Short-Term Bridge Financing

If you have a pressing need for financing, a short-term solution may be the best option to ensure you get the funding you need right now. Then you can work to address the reason for their denial and, if possible, correct it in time for another refinance down the road.

For instance, you may not be able to secure an SBA loan because of the business’ projected cash-flow. If you are confident that you can improve earnings within the next year, it could be a smart move to take out a bridge loan for the time being and try for the SBA loan again in a year’s time.

Since this type of loan is really just a stop-gap measure, it would be wise to consider the option as part of a larger plan for your finances. Then the you will be more likely to get approved when the need for a longer-term solution arises.

  1. Non-Bank Alternative Programs

Not all business owners who fail to qualify for an SBA loan are willing to settle for a hard money solution. We provide you with options that either closely mirror SBA programs or represent an equivalent value.

Those types of programs are less common, but they do exist. Here are 3 solutions Smith Gruppe offers to business owners looking for an SBA alternative:

  • Complete Program

Borrowers who require flexibility beyond what an SBA lender can offer may be a better fit for a standard non-bank solution, such as Smith Gruppe’s Complete Program. Many of the SBA restrictions on the use of loan proceeds and general borrower/business makeup are lifted, allowing a wider range of business owners to secure the funding they need.

Our Complete Program does feature higher interest rates than a typical SBA solution typically between 6% – 9%, but the increased flexibility and expedited transaction process are a reasonable trade-off for many business owners.

  • Stated Owner-Occupied Program

This stated income program is a smart alternative for borrowers who struggle to provide the documentation necessary to secure an SBA loan.

The Stated Owner-Occupied Program utilizes a proprietary algorithm that enables Smith Gruppe to pull data from various sources, meaning borrowers can get approved without having to provide business financial statements or personal/business tax returns. In fact, the only documents needed at the beginning of a transaction are a loan application and credit report.

You may be familiar with stated income alternatives, but they likely associate any such program with unfavorable terms and high interest rates. Our stated income program gives business owners the opportunity to secure a fully-amortizing, long-term 5-7 Year Loan with industry standard 25-30 Year Amortization Schedules at a competitive interest rate – much like an SBA loan.

  • Bank Statement Program

The Smith Gruppe Bank Statement Program is an innovative solution for credit-worthy borrowers who would rather use bank statements instead of tax returns to prove their income.

To determine whether you are able to repay a loan, our expert underwriters review 12 consecutive months of bank statements for the business’ operations to determine gross revenue.  We then apply an industry standard expense factor to determine the net cash flow available to cover the business, personal, and subject property debt obligations and debt service coverage.  It’s a simple way for successful business owners to qualify for commercial mortgage financing.

With some digging, you may be able to discover other non-bank lenders that offer additional SBA turn-down solutions.  Armed with these alternative options, we help underserved groups of business owners secure the funding they need.



The CDC/504 and 7(a) programs are fine solutions for eligible small business owners.  However, it’s important to remember that alternative to bank solutions do exist for those who fail to qualify for an SBA loan.  If you have are an investor or owner-occupied commercial business or real estate owner that needs financing, feel free to reach out to us today.  You can also get free information and pricing for your scenario by “Clicking Here”.

The Business Loan – Funding Request Checklist

For most entrepreneurs, securing a business loan is an exciting step. It means you’ve launched your company, have a product or service you think you can scale, have a few customers to get you off the ground, and can see a promising future that involves monetary success.

Asking for money, though, can be little daunting. True startups—those that have an idea and no product or customer—often turn to angel investors or go to the Small Business Administration (SBA) first for financing.

“Normally, startups don’t find their first round of financing at a bank, unless the company already has an outside source of income,” says Antoine Smith, Chairman & CEO of Smith Gruppe.

Smith Gruppe maintains a huge resource of Alternative To Bank Financing Programs that can give established companies a much-needed financial boost and help them get to the next step— whether it’s hiring another employee, purchasing new equipment, expanding a product line, or moving into a new office space.

Here, we break down a few things to bring to your business loan meeting with us.

Your Resume And Company History

We will want to know more about you, your management team and the origin story of your company before sourcing and identifying the right capital stack and fund your request. It’s a good idea to provide this in a written format (PowerPoint is also acceptable)—explain the resumes/titles of everyone on your team, the history of your company and why you are looking for a loan. It’s also important to present a well-thought-out business plan (doesn’t have to be the War & Peace Format – A concise One-Page Business Plan is the New Normal).

Annual Company Financial Statements

“We will want to see three years worth of annual financial statements,” says Smith, adding that we often prefer professionally prepared financial statements. “Many of our investor/lenders will have thresholds for size; a really small loan won’t necessarily require a high-quality financial statement done by a CPA; however, any request over $250, 000.00 will require a professionally prepared high-quality set of financials. But a larger company asking for a larger loan—those will often require audited and professionally prepared financial statements.”

Simply handing over your financial statements (this includes tax returns) isn’t enough. These statements need to show your company’s track record, that you’ve been making (not losing) money, if you’ve previously enlisted the help of outside investors, etc.

Smith Gruppe can help you with structuring your loan documents to ensure funding – Contact Us Today – 980-221-9377!

Personal Financial Statements And Income Tax Returns

Entrepreneurs who solely own their business are often required to take “personal recourse” (i.e. collateral) for the repayment of loans.

“This means he or she will be personally responsible if the company can no longer pay down the debt; the business owner will need to sign a guarantee of debt,” Smith says.

For this reason, entrepreneurs must hand over their own financial statements and personal tax returns as part of the loan process to ensure that they have the right amount of assets (homes, cars, etc.) to allow the investor/lender to recoup the loan, should anything go wrong with the business.

Smith Gruppe, through its Access To Capital Programs offers both Recourse and Non-Recourse loans that require no Personal Guarantees; neither do we require extensive PFS (Personal Financial Statement) requirements. In many cases, PPE (Personal Property and Equipment), existing Cash Flows, and/or an existing Contract can act as your “collateral”.

Legal Documents

Bring any licenses, contracts, leases or business registrations to your business loan meeting. A business development/loan officer will want to see that you’ve kept meticulous records of all transactions.



Bonus Tip: Pay Attention To A Loan’s Structure

Business loans vary wildly, so it’s important to do your homework in advance and come prepared with questions.

“Often business owners are surprised by the structure of a loan,” says Smith. “A line of credit may have a five-year maturity or sometimes even a one-year maturity, which is when you must pay back the loan. It’s also good to know the difference between a line of credit, which involves working capital; and a term loan which can involve equipment purchases and real estate purchases.”