CEO Advisor Newsletter™
July/August 2009

Grow your business to the next level™           

In This Issue
Seven Deadly Sins of Small Business


I used to think that if you worked really hard, profits would inevitably follow. Not so.  I'm confident that most owners of failed businesses worked hard.  Some really hard. They failed because they didn't accomplish everything they needed to in order to be successful.  Here are seven most common mistakes I've seen that ultimately cause ventures to fail.

1. Sloppy Accounting
Done properly, accounting is a diagnosis of everything that's right and wrong with your business.  It is critical to understand and review your financials to run your business optimally.
2. Unrealistic Pricing
You must truly understand your costs, which include critical components like direct labor and materials and often neglected components like freight, damages, theft and obsolescence. Stay on top of industry pricing and the pricing of your competition.
3. Naive Hiring
It takes patience and skill to hire the right people. Here's a suggestion for smart hiring: Always do a background check, then call references, ask them the right questions, and listen intently to their answers. Key question: "If Bob is so great, why doesn't he work for you anymore?"
4. Fear of Firing
As in any competitive endeavor, it's critical to have the best people. Keeping mediocre people will hurt you in the long run. Here's a good test: Would you be relieved if anyone on your team quit tomorrow? If yes, you've got a problem to resolve.
5. Lack of Standards & Controls
One of your main jobs is to set standards in such essential areas as quality control, customer service and the company's image. It's easy enough for customer service failures, pricing errors and quality issues to get lost in the shuffle. You need to identify and fix these problems before they do lasting damage.  
6. Lack of Sales Management
Sales management, including hiring, training, motivation, strategy, goal setting and actively being involved in the sales process is critical to your success.
7. Poor Branding & Marketing
In business you brand yourself every day in a million ways. The real issue is to have a well defined, written marketing plan and budget, and execute on it monthly, while closely tracking the results.
Most small business owners and CEOs aren't naturally talented in all seven of these areas, and that's the reason a lot of businesses fail.
CEO Advisor, Inc. has the experienced advisors to help you avoid these errors, grow your business and increase your profits. Contact
Mark Hartsell, MBA, at for a free consultation.
Words of Wisdom
"There is less to fear from outside competition than from inside inefficiency, discourtesy, and bad service!"
~ Tom Peters

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    At CEO Advisor, Inc., our mission is to provide CEOs and business owners of small to mid-size companies the needed focus and expertise, coupled with hands-on advice to grow your business.
    With 30 years of business experience from corporate America to funding, growing and selling a software company to a large NASDAQ company, I have the experience to drive your company forward. I have a Masters Degree in Business (MBA) from Loyola University and a certification in Mergers and Acquisitions from The Wharton School - University of Pennsylvania.
    To grow your business to the next level, contact Mark Hartsell, MBA, CEO/President at or visit us at for more information.  
                                Mark Hartsell, MBA
    Protecting Your Business
     in Tough Times
    Young executives 

    Regardless of how long you have done business together, it is critical to understand and protect your relationship with your best customers - the ones that you count on to meet your goals for a stable stream of revenue and a healthy balance sheet for your company.  

    In a challenging economic climate, you may be finding that prospective customers are strongly focused on downsizing and cost cutting rather than on expanding their business or acquiring the latest product features. Companies that may have been in growth mode last year are putting projects on hold, reducing capital budgets, and paying renewed attention to cash management.
    In the face of retrenchment, it is increasingly costly and time consuming to develop new business. Now, more than ever, it makes sense to keep your existing customers close and invest in expanding business with companies that are already buying from you. In challenging economic times, your key customers may be far more vulnerable to lower-priced offers and discounting than they were when times were good.
    What can you do to protect your base from price cutters, and continue to expand your business, even in these hard times?
    The first step is to reassess your relationship with each of your major accounts and determine how likely they are to consider changing suppliers in the near future, as well as determine their needs in today's environment.
    The second critical step is to develop strategies to shore up your defenses and reduce the risk of losing customers to predatory competitors, and provide innovative solutions for profitable growth with a true ROI.
    Strategies for protecting your base. 
    Regardless of where you feel your current customers are today, you can protect against erosion of your existing relationships, and even expand your share of business. Focus on how you can increase switching costs and reduce the probability of engaging in unprofitable price wars just to keep your current customers. Additionally, focus on providing real value every month and document that value to customers so they understand your worth.
    Look at how customers use your product or service offering.
    If customers view your offering as a "commodity", consider how they buy it, use it, and dispose of it or re-order at the end the usage cycle. Can you link to the customer's ordering and purchasing procedures? Can you offer innovative solutions for replacing or recycling? These kinds of links can be developed with any customer, whether their current switching costs are higher or lower.
    Make sure you are performing at the highest level to meet customer requirements.
    Consider not only whether your customers have invested in dollars, equipment, procedures, etc., but also what other sources of value you are providing. If they care about delivery, conformity to specifications, and quality, is your company aligned with how they need and want to buy? Make sure your company is performing in all areas to the highest standards. If it is not, identify ways to enhance and improve performance on all critical factors.
    Make sure the customer is aware of your value.
    Don't assume the customer understands the extent to which your company is meeting and surpassing their requirements with every interaction or order. Arrange a meeting with customer executives to provide an update on what you are doing to help them meet their business requirements.
    Look for new ways to address the customer's current business issues and concerns.

    Ask how you can provide additional value and benefits that will help the customer's business succeed. Consider the expertise of your sales representatives. Since they are the first line of customer contact, can they serve as genuine business partners in solving problems and advancing the customer's goals?
    Developing innovative approaches that impact business results will differentiate you and your product or service, and will create unexpected value to the customer's organization. You might be able to improve how you are delivering products or services to help your customers gain competitive advantage in their own markets.
    Consider this:
    Most sales representatives spend far more time researching and preparing for calls with new customers than they do on preparing for calls with existing customers. This is because they believe they "know their customers" and that they have already won their loyalty. In fact, rapidly changing conditions are affecting your existing base just as strongly as they are affecting prospective customers.

    Maintaining a keen awareness of your current customers' issues and concerns and taking steps to strengthen your relationships can make the difference between falling behind and continuing to thrive, even in hard times.
    CEO Advisor, Inc. provides CEO advisory services, including business and strategic planning, operational efficiencies, sales planning and team building, marketing planning and implementation, mergers and acquisitions and other services to CEOs and owners of small and mid-size companies. Contact Mark Hartsell, MBA, at today for a free consultation.
    Client Testimonial 

    "I want to start by telling you that I am very pleased with what we've accomplished. Although, it would probably be more accurate to say that I'm pleased with what YOU have accomplished. You have done what you said you would; actually DOING things instead of just telling me what I needed to do. This is always my big concern when working with consultants. So many times they offer sage advice but fail to actually do anything more than talk. You have produced a good volume of tangible work that will be useful to me and my management team as we work hard to build the company in 2009 and beyond. Thanks for driving us forward."
    CEO, Media Services Company