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Posted in General Management with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2014 by Robert Finkelstein

Along with hundreds of inspirational quotes, beautiful images, recommending reading, and my own personal and business blogs, at “Behind the Scenes / Virtual COO” you will find the writings and videos of those whose intention is to inspire, motivate, educate and push us to think outside the box.


birds-flying-leadership-1940x900_34932Given the same set of circumstances, some people create team success and others fail. Great leaders know how to turn tough times into big wins. Here’s how they do it.

If there is one thing consistent about business it’s the inconsistent dynamics of business. Great leaders can navigate turbulent business climates just as well as they can sail a calm sea of activity. Often they use those frenetic circumstances to capitalize and strip away competition. Sure, some of the successes that come from chaos are pure luck, but once you dig in to the stories you find out there were intentional key decisions that launched the team to exponential success.

Success or failure during times of peril depends on your ability to get your team moving with strength and confidence. Following are 8 examples where strength, focus and resolve will help you avoid the temptations that lead to failure in difficult times.

1. Temptation: To spread your sense of urgency and panic.

When a state of panic sets in, reactive leaders will ramp up the energy and stress. Some problems do need to be solved IMMEDIATELY. But if the boss is frantic and emotional, everyone else will be too, and efficiency will diminish.

What great leaders do instead: Learn to break the news calmly, while making the seriousness of the situation clear. Take a breath and carefully assess the situation so you can work with the team to clearly set the appropriate priorities. Then you can be effective and efficient internally as you deal with the outer chaos.

2. Temptation: To lay blame.

When something goes awry, people naturally start to ask, “Who did this? Whose fault is it?” It is good to know the root of the problem, but this often descends into counterproductive finger pointing. While everyone is focused on avoiding the burden of guilt, the situation may be going from bad to worse. A leader who allows or participates in the blame game ends up with a diminished team full of distrust.

What great leaders do instead: Help the team focus on moving forward. Ask “What do we need to do to recover quickly?” and then get the team working together to make those things happen. A team will be more successful by creating heroes who inspire others to step up.

3. Temptation: To let your emotions drive your response.

It may feel better to yell or bawl someone out when you’re angry or tense…at least it provides a momentary sense of release. But it does more harm than good in the long run. Your people become resentful or fearful and less likely to give you their best efforts, or bring you news that might trigger a tantrum.

What great leaders do instead: When your emotions flare, give yourself a moment to let your rational brain step in. Excuse yourself for a moment if you have to, or just take a few deep breaths. Find productive ways to channel the negative energy into positive results.

4. Temptation: To make assumptions.

In moments of small vexation or serious crisis, people often scramble to identify a cause, sometimes allowing existing assumptions to drive conclusions rather than facts. Do you actually know the reason the reports are not in the box? Are you sure the marketing people missed the deadline? Is IT really being lazy? If you have existing concerns or criticisms, it is especially easy to jump to conclusions that may or may not be accurate.

What great leaders do instead: Ask more questions that frame the big picture. Calm, value neutral questions allow you and others to diagnose what’s truly going on. Sometimes they know what caused a breakdown, sometimes they don’t, especially when there are a lot of moving parts in a lot of departments.Often a small issue that seems to be a choke point is only symptomatic of systemic issues that are largely hidden. Careful analysis with the team may surface core issues that can lead to exponential efficiencies.

5. Temptation: To publicly speak critically of an imperfect employee.

Sometimes we all need to let of steam or grumble a bit when someone frustrates or lets us down. Doing that in front of the rest of the team spreads dissatisfaction and mistrust.

What great leaders do instead: If you really need to kvetch, do so privately, in a journal or with someone unrelated to the office. When you’re feeling calmer, approach the employee directly and politely but firmly share the truth about how they have fallen short.

6. Temptation: To withhold information.

If the truth is scary, it can be hard to share it with everyone for fear that panic will ensue and everyone will desert the ship. But if you leave them in the dark, your people are likely to fill in the blanks with even scarier conjecture. Most people will paint a more desperate picture when uncertain about their own future.

What great leaders do instead: Give your people as much good information as the situation allows. Promise to keep them updated, and keep them focused on the work they CAN do, rather than worrying about what they CAN’T. That way you can lead them to success instead of managing their fears.

7. Temptation: To softball criticism.

Employees are people with thoughts and feelings, and it can be painful to watch them wilt under criticism. So rather than address their failings directly, it sometimes seems easier to drop oblique hints or bury suggestions under insincere praise.

What great leaders do instead: Tackle the hard stuff first, directly and without hesitation. If they don’t know they are creating a problem, they won’t know they have to fix it. You can follow up with encouragement and praise to soften the blow without muddling the message.

8. Temptation: To draw comparisons between employees.

“Try to be more like Tim.” “Adriana never leaves a customer on hold for more than five minutes.” We love our star players, and we want others to emulate them. Your employees probably know exactly what makes their co-workers shine. That does not mean everyone wants to be continually compared to the office favorites.

What great leaders do instead: Evaluate each employee on their own strengths and weaknesses, using a clear rubric that is fair and equal for all. Base your comparisons on an ideal, not any one person, as your standard. Then take the time to work with each team member to perform at their personal best. Sure you are busy, but showing the person they are a priority will motivate them beyond their fears and concerns.

by Kevin Daum / Inc.

If you’re interested in a complimentary 30-minute business strategy session with Chief Operating Officer, Robert Finkelstein, or for more information, please refer to Behind the Scenes Consulting. If you have questions, please email Robert at Your comments are welcomed below. Thank you.



Posted in Business Plan, General Management, Life Management, Why Tough Times Are Good Times to Start a Business with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2010 by Robert Finkelstein

In addition to the inspirational quotes, the beautiful images, my own personal and business blogs, the recommended reading list, and information on my consulting business, I would like to share some of the writings of various thought leaders.


The weak economy is making jobs harder to find. One option for frustrated job seekers is to stop looking for employment and start working for themselves.

A recession is an excellent time to launch a small business. Larger companies rein in their advertising and expansion plans when the economy slows, making it easier for new companies to get noticed and capture market share.

Newer, small companies also tend to have lower fixed expenses than older, larger ones — and that allows them to underbid their competition. That’s very important during a recession, when customers are particularly price-sensitive.

The trouble is that starting a new business is risky. Sinking all of your savings into a start-up or taking out a small business loan could leave you in a deep financial hole if the business fails.

There’s no way to eliminate all the risk from entrepreneurship, but you can greatly reduce your downside if you keep your business’s expenses to a minimum. Here’s how to launch a business for less than $5,000…


The service sector offers the best opportunities for low-cost business start-ups. Unlike retail or manufacturing businesses, service-sector companies…

Rarely require major up-front outlays of cash for inventory or materials.

Often can be run out of the home, eliminating the need to rent an office, factory or storefront.

Tend to be local, so there’s no need for expensive nationwide marketing campaigns.

Four ways to come up with a low-cost service business idea…

Keep lists of the things that frustrate you and the things that you wish you didn’t have to do for yourself. Consider both your personal life and your previous professional career. Perhaps other people would pay you to help them avoid these annoyances.

Example: Two brothers in Irvine, California, were frustrated that it took them much of their lunch hour to get from the local business district to area restaurants for lunch. They started Restaurants on the Run, a service that delivers restaurant food to office workers at their desks. The company has expanded into multiple cities and now does millions of dollars in business each year.

Find out which service-oriented businesses (and other low-cost businesses) are thriving in big cities. Trends tend to begin in big coastal cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, and only later work their way to the rest of the country. Read the business and lifestyle sections of magazines and newspapers from major coastal cities to find out what new business ideas are thriving there. Consider whether similar businesses would be successful in your region.

Examples: Frozen yogurt franchises and bakeries specializing in high-end cupcakes are among this year’s hot new businesses in large, trendsetting cities. Buying a franchise or opening a bakery would not be cheap, but perhaps you could inexpensively open a street-corner dessert cart selling comparable frozen yogurt treats… or bake premium cupcakes at home and sell them through area stores or restaurants.

Target a growing demographic. Open a business that serves a rapidly expanding demographic, and the odds of success are in your favor. Currently the fastest-growing demographics are seniors and children. (Make sure these national trends apply to your local region before launching your business.)

Examples: Potential service businesses that cater to seniors include transportation services… shopping and grocery delivery services…adult day-care services… and senior “transitional” services, handling the details involved in moving to a nursing home or assisted-living facility. Service businesses catering to the youth market include day care… transportation services… tutoring… college-prep classes… and college-application assistance.

Search for service opportunities related to your professional experience. If your new business is in a field that you already know well, your learning curve will be shorter and your Rolodex will already be full of potential customers and other useful contacts. Make sure that your new business does not violate any non-compete agreements that you might have signed with former employers.


Start-up expenses that your business can live without…

Renting an office. Work from your home if at all possible. Meet with potential clients and other business contacts in their offices… at the local coffeehouse… or in the lobby of a hotel.

Buying office furniture and business equipment. Try to make do with the furniture, phones and computers you already own. If you must purchase business furniture or equipment, search for used items. One advantage of starting a business in a recession is that other companies are going out of business and selling off their business furniture and equipment at low prices.

Expensive marketing efforts, such as direct mail and television ads. Their high cost makes them too risky for your start-up.

Helpful: Turn your customers into your marketing team. Tell them you’ll give them a good discount on their next order if they refer another customer to you and it leads to a sale.


Not all start-up expenses should be avoided. Do try to do the following…

Incorporate your business. A lawyer might charge about $2,000 to help you set up a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or corporation, but it’s money well spent. If your business is not an LLC or a corporation, your personal assets could be at risk in a lawsuit.

Launch a Web site. A Web site does not need to be elaborate, but it must look professional. This is particularly important if your company doesn’t have an office or a long track record. To learn more about how to start a Web site for your business, go to and type “Web site” into the search window.

Arrange for health insurance. Obtaining health insurance at a reasonable price can be a major problem for those who are self-employed. Find out if you are eligible for COBRA benefits from your last job or if you can get coverage through your spouse’s health insurance plan. If you are past your 50th birthday, you should be eligible for health insurance through AARP (888-OUR-AARP, Or find out if a health insurance plan is offered by a trade association that your business makes you eligible to join.

Buy Business Plan Pro. If you don’t have experience writing business plans, this software is the cheapest, easiest way to do so. (Palo Alto Software, $99.95, 800-229-7526,

Business plans are like road maps. They help you lay out your route to get from where you are to where you want to be. Good business-plan software prompts you to think about factors such as competition, pricing, staffing and marketing.

– Rieva Lesonsky

If you’d like a complimentary 30-minute business strategy session with me, for more information, please refer to my Behind the Scenes Consulting. If you have questions, please email me at I welcome your comments below. Thank you.