Category Archives: marketing

Five Critical Team Members For Business Success

Alan Hall, Contributor

You know your customers. You have a killer product to sell. The business plan is set, strategy thoughtfully documented and funds are in place. You’re ready to go to market or even poised for explosive growth. But, are you surrounded by the best possible teammates to make the dream a reality?

In my 40 plus years as a successful entrepreneur, angel investor and venture capitalist, I have learned that business owners cannot grow an enterprise singlehandedly.  Michael Jordan once said “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”  A championship team begins with an inspired coach who has a world class plan to be number one.  To achieve his dream, he recruits, trains and motivates skilled athletes who are willing to set egos aside for the good of the team.   Working in harmony with a single purpose and a dedicated effort, the coach and the players are able to achieve greatness in their sport. The same model applies to starting and growing an award winning business.

I view a business founder as a coach.  A leader who knows what has to be done, when and where.  Every growing company has multiple tasks that have to be performed for an enterprise to succeed and flourish.  The job of the coach is to recruit and hire the right people to accomplish given assignments.  From my own experiences as a serial entrepreneur and from what I have seen from other business founders I have supported financially, I have learned that exceptional organizations engage a cadre of talented business people who perfectly fit five vital areas of the organization.   Today I am pleased to share with you what I feel are the most critical team members any entity must have to win in business.

The leader.

It all starts with the leader. The best business coaches are servant leaders.  They recognize their businesses will soar if they hire great people and let them “own” their assignments. In this light, the business founder is there to support the employee’s efforts with needed resources, guiding principles and agreed upon priorities.  He or she encourages, motivates, rewards and provides feedback on job performance.  He corrects with kindness and celebrates achievement.  This leader knows if he takes care of his employees, they will provide superior service to customers, who will, in turn, continue to buy and tell their friends to do the same.  He is forgiving of mistakes.  He lets people learn and grow.  He provides a culture of integrity, honor, self reliance, innovation and camaraderie.  They daily play their best game.  Their output is superior to the competition. They are happy people and look forward to work every day.  In fact, the leader is loved by his employees and they will do any for him or her.

The expert.

Great business leaders succeed because they hire people who know the industry, the trends, the competitors, the market place, the customers, the products they sell, the vendors and investors.  They surround themselves with workers, managers and other leaders who have years of experience.  They bring vital information and deep knowledge to their assignments and are willing to share what they know with the business founder, peers and subordinates.  These expert employees mentor others who are learning the business.  They are vigilant and continue to watch and learn.  They provide guidance and wisdom on what works and what does not work in the organization; the results -mistakes are few, productivity is high. I speak from experience on this important topic. I have scars on my back from numerous failed start ups because I hired a team of inexperienced and unseasoned workers who had little knowledge and therefore couldn’t perform.

The financial guru.

Successful businesses all have an experienced and talented financial officer.  The importance of this critical leader can’t be overstated.  No company can survive or prosper without a person who understands accounting, finance, strategy and cash flow management.  There must be someone in the organization that can be trusted with the funds that are received and dispersed by the company.  He or she who owns this key responsibility must know at every minute the health of the company; the availability of cash should be top of mind.  I have learned that regular meetings between the financial guru, peers and the founder are critical to staying afloat.  All leaders and managers need to know where the company is financially and what must be done to sustain viability.  Again, from personal experience, I have watched many companies go out of business because leaders failed to put a competent financial player on their team.  Most planned to do it, but did so too late.

The strategist.

Having a strategist on the team is another critical element that ensures prosperity.  Why? Most entrepreneurs are busy taking care of day to day business.  They have their heads down making sure the company is making money and that the right products are being made and that employees and customers are happy.  They don’t notice the world is changing.  They lack intelligence on emerging industry trends, changes in customer behavior, new competitors and disruptive product innovations.  They are buried with huge tasks and pressing deadlines.  They don’t have time to lift their eyes to the horizon and learn what tomorrow will bring.  I know this life style.  I have been there many times.  I never had time to put my put my feet up on the desk and gaze into space and see the future.  Yet, the future is heading directly at business founders at high speed.   To maintain and grow, someone in the organization should be assigned to carry the crystal ball and report on what he or she sees.  Yes, growing companies’ need a visionary to research, comprehend and report on opportunities and challenges down the road.  Failing to have this key leader on the team will be catastrophic to the company.  No owner wants to wake up one morning to learn they are now headed to the cemetery of expired businesses.  Having learned this lesson more than once, I now have a strategist on my team that guides our enterprise into the future.

The executer.

Every great company has a leader that owns the responsibility to execute or implement company plans.  These assignments may encompass research, inventory management, manufacturing, distribution, human resources, IT, and marketing and sales.  In many businesses, the person who oversees these critical tasks bares the title of chief operating officer.  To carry out these responsibilities, he or she will hire an expert staff of employees with specific duties that must be accomplished for the enterprise to flourish.  These workers are the heart of the organization and deliver what customers want and buy.  Companies that fail don’t have this key person on the team.  Those firms that do, have found and hired a highly talented executive who know what needs to be done, when and how.

In conclusion, as an owner, shareholder or board director, does your organization have these five critical executives? Are they performing as expected or do they need to be hired, developed or replaced? I would appreciate hearing from you about your organization and its leadership.  I can be reached at @AskAlanEHall or via my personal website,


10 Not So Obvious Barriers to Effective Leadership

Leadership is not an accomplishment you check off your daily to-dos. At the heart of leadership is the omnipresent, bold belief that influence, relationships, dialogue and faith in people call forward our best leadership abilities. Leadership is inspiring others to give their best effort despite what they believe to get things done.

Yet, there are many well-intended (and some not so) people who hit barriers to their leadership abilities. At the risk of being yet another voice in the echo chamber, I want to share ten less obvious barriers to effective leadership. On the surface they seem obvious. Truth is, however, many of us are unwilling to look at these barriers. Going a step further, many of us are unwilling to admit some of these hold us back.

Your own leadership becomes great when you tend to your own internal well-being. That’s where things get tricky. Depending on where your attention lies when improving your internal well-being, you either entrench the barriers or move them aside.

Read the following ten barriers to get a sense of where your intentions must lie to amplify your leadership.

Need to be liked

Effective leaders understand unpopular views are necessary. The need to be liked interferes with the ability to see two steps ahead from where the team is and effectively navigate the team to the next level of performance and success.

Inability to decide

Admittedly this one is obvious. But a leader who can gather input or know when to unilaterally make a decision can gain trust, respect and signal confidence to followers. Poor decisions or no decisions causes anxiety, frustration, anger, and weakens confidence in the leader.

Unable to manage workload

Do more with less is an overused mantra in most organizations today. Effective leaders pay attention to the demands on their people and make changes when the workload is causing unmanageable stress, weakens quality, and becomes an expense to people and the organization.

Unclear on personal values

Values are the anchor that help us weather the drama, disappointments and temptations in the workplace. To not know your values leaves you susceptible to inconsistencies that baffle and anger you and your team.

No clear team purpose

Purpose is the why for the team’s existence. If the team’s purpose is not clear and only plucked from everyone’s intuition, then anyone can sway the team unproductively. That’s a problem.

Don’t network

Business has always been built on the back of relationships. It’s a weak excuse to blame workload and endless meetings for the reason you don’t network with other managers or divisions. Know what’s going on around you so you can prepare your team or position your team for success.

Don’t take a stand

Malcom X said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” If you don’t know what you stand for you and your team will never reach its full potential. Unnecessary hardships are wasted.

Don’t consider what’s at stake

Decisions to act or not act must be made when considering what actions to take. Without knowledge of what’s at stake, you appear erratic, too spontaneous, careless. What’s at stake for your team, the organization, the customer, for you? These are good places to look.

Don’t demand best from your people

Who has time for one-on-ones or give feedback? Effective leaders do. In today’s “do more with less” work environments, effective leaders help their people grow in their jobs. This only happens with care and intention to build up great people and teams.

It’s about you

Leadership is not about you. It’s about others. Ineffective managers fail to lead when they place their needs above what’s needed for the team, the organization, an individual. This is hard to swallow.

Eight lessons from successful business leaders

SUCCESSFUL people seldom get to the top on their own.

Advice from older family members, books and mentors has all helped shape the people who rule the business world.

In a series of articles from the most renowned CEOs and managers from around the globe, LinkedIn has published the advice that helped get them to the top of their game.

Richard Branson
Founder of Virgin Group

“The best advice I ever received? Simple: Have no regrets. Who gave me the advice? Mum’s the word.”

Jeff Weiner
CEO of LinkedIn Group

“As a child, I can’t recall a day that went by without my dad telling me I could do anything I set my mind to. He said it so often, I stopped hearing it … It wasn’t until decades later that I fully appreciated the importance of those words and the impact they had on me.”

Jim Clifton
CEO of Gallup

“The best advice I ever received came from my dad, Don Clifton. It was actually a piece of simple, yet profound wisdom that has shaped my life. ‘Your weaknesses will never develop’, he told me, ‘while your strengths will develop infinitely’.”

T. Boone Pickens
Chairman of BP Capital Management

“If I had to single out one piece of advice that’s guided me through life, most likely it would be from my grandmother, Nellie Molonson. She always made a point of making sure I understood that on the road to success, there’s no point in blaming others when you fail.”

Martha Stewart
Founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

“The best advice I’ve ever received was from my father when I was 12 years old and willing to listen. He told me that with my personal characteristics, I could, if I set my mind to it, do anything I chose.”

Jim Kim
President at the World Bank

“I received some great advice from Marshall Goldsmith, one of the preeminent authorities in the field of leadership. He told me this: ‘If you want to be an effective leader, listen to and accept with humility the feedback that comes from your team’.”

Spencer Rascoff
CEO of Zillow

“The best advice I have ever gotten was to always hire people who are even better than you. You have to try to be comfortable enough with your own position that you hire people beneath you who are extraordinary.”

Brad Smith
President and CEO at Intuit

“I was finishing college and facing a ‘make or break’ decision. I was agonising between two job offers I had received, and was fearful that I would make the wrong choice, propelling me down a doomed career path forever more. My dad sat me down to give me a few pointers about choosing the best course.

“He advised me that choosing the right job was not a sudden lightning bolt of realisation, nor was it for most of us something we knew we wanted to do since we were kids (oh, how I envied those kids). Rather, it was a process of trial and error – a voyage of discovery.”

Read more:

Empire Launches New Website and Expands Social Network

Empire, Inc. works with a diverse portfolio of Fortune 500 Clients. As a promotional marketing consulting firm, Empire is hired to work with client account holders to acquire and retain business.

Lombard, IL, March 15, 2013 –(– Empire, a Chicago-based sales and marketing firm, has launched a new website. The company is growing and with the upcoming expansions, Empire needed to give their audience insight to news and events as the company evolves. In addition to the new website, Empire is now providing the public with up to date information about the company through blogs and social media.

Empire, Inc. works with a diverse portfolio of Fortune 500 Clients. As a promotional marketing consulting firm, Empire is hired to work with client account holders to acquire and retain business. Through marketing, sales management and campaign support, Empire currently helps clients increase their Chicago area market share, with plans to expand nationally in the upcoming months.

Empire’s main client is a retail division of the leading wholesale energy marketer and energy service provider. They focus on the physical natural gas, electricity, coal and crude markets operating across North America. The client provides competitive electricity and gas supply to retail residential, commercial, and industrial customers. The client offers several plans to fit each customer’s needs. At Empire, representatives work closely with client account holders to the best solution to their business and consumer needs.

The new ten page website includes information for customers, new and potential clients as well as current and future employees. On the home page, users can view Empire’s Mission Statement, access links to what the company is about as well as view direct feed to the Empire’s up to date Facebook stream.

Under About the Company, viewers get access to Careers, Clients and Services as well as live access to Empire’s blog. On the Careers page, one can find information about open positions, employee benefits, as well as employee culture.

On the Team page, the website displays the management staff at Empire complete with pictures and bios. The Our Culture section of the website gives a photo gallery of the staff at various company functions.

Empire also prides itself on giving back to the community. As explained by Mark Chern, President of Empire, “I wanted to make sure we were providing an environment where people would be satisfied with their career and know they were making a difference in the community as well. I am proud of how our team has stepped up in that area and I am excited to continue the philanthropic efforts as we grow.” The charities Empire has worked, found on the Community Involvement page, include Operation Smile, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Feed The Hungry Foundation, and St. Baldricks Foundation.

At the top of each page, one can find access to several social media sites to keep up with the latest about Empire. Empire uses these sites to give employee recognitions, to inform of company events as well as provide its employees with educational articles about business and leadership.

Empire expects to expand to multiple locations this year, according to Chern. Through the website and social media, Empire will be keeping the public informed as they grow.

The 7 Characteristics of Highly Successful Government Leaders

  • IBM Center for the Business of Government
  • One former senior level political appointee, Linda Springer, recently observed that a common set of successful characteristics of private sector leaders – being decisive, directive, and a risk taker – could actually undermine success in the public sector. So what works best in the public sector?

    Here are seven characteristics the most successful government leaders share:

    Characteristic 1: Self-awareness.

    Taking the Myers-Briggs personality test is only a start! The Emotional Intelligence Quotient, popularized by Daniel Goldman, and Marcus Buckingham’s command to draw on your inner strengths, are also important ways to begin understanding yourself. One of the best pieces of advice I received was to never blame someone else, or the circumstances, for your failures, but rather to analyze what I did or didn’t do to allow the failure to happen.

    Characteristic 2: Authenticity.

    Look at any leader you admire. One of the traits you’ll likely see is their ability to empathize and connect with colleagues. Many of the most successful leaders share their personal vulnerabilities and lead with their heart as well as their head. Being passionate about your work and agency’s mission can be part of this and is closely tied to the next three characteristics…

    Characteristic 3: Reputation.

    Would you follow someone you knew had little to no knowledge of your agency’s mission or policy domain? This can often be the case when political appointees take charge of an agency. Having the right professional skills and credibility in the eyes of your peers, employees, and stakeholders is an important element for effective leadership. Yet, there are ways the uninitiated can succeed – just look at Charles Rossetti’s leadership of the IRS in the 1990s. He was the first non-tax lawyer to head the agency and led a successful turnaround. But it’s rare. Just look at the “heck of a job” done by past leaders of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and how their reputations colored their leadership…

    Characteristic 4: Ethical behavior.

    It’s a question you wouldn’t think you have to ask—but you do: Can your employees, and those for whom you work, trust you to do the right thing? The best leaders solicit feedback from those above and below them in the chain of command, always seeking to establish trust and, as a result, the ethical standards for individuals and the organization.

    Characteristic 5: Willingness to listen.

    Listening is a skill (a skill not easily mastered). It is more than just hearing someone else talk, it is a casting aside of the ego to allow oneself to sincerely care about what another has to say. Virtually all of the most senior leaders I’ve met are master listeners (and, by extension, learners). Fortunately for all you talkers, there are plenty of training resources on this topic.

    Characteristic 6: Ability to communicate.

    Creating effective ways to communicate your vision — directly, through incentives or through symbolic acts – can be one of the most powerful elements of getting action on key priorities. The Reinventing Government effort in the 1990s, led by Vice President Al Gore, relied not only on his speeches at events but also a set of principles. He got people to adopt these principles by sponsoring an award for teams of feds who lived up to these ideals. He called it the Hammer Award, named so to symbolize the breaking down of bureaucracy. It became a powerful symbol that communicated his vision to the front lines of government.

    Characteristic 7: Optimism.

    A “can do” positive outlook – even in the face of immense challenge – is often a defining characteristic of a good leader. I used to work at the Government Accountability Office, so I didn’t come by this characteristic naturally. But with constant urging from a wonderful leader at the National Performance Review, Bob Stone, I learned the value and power of optimism. He was perennially optimistic about everything and seemed to be generally right. In fact, he called himself “energizer in chief,” adopting the Energizer Bunny as his spirit animal. With this philosophy, things I thought were not possible actually happened, oftentimes because we started from the premise that they could!

    I’m sure there are more key characteristics but this is a start. Feel free to offer your suggestions in the comments below!

    Good leadership is vital to business success – From

    In research released by the National Business Awards, UK employees and bosses were found to view strong leadership as the most important influence on business success.
    90 percent of individuals surveyed said that the most important influence on the success of an organisation was good leadership.

    Over 80% of employees agree that having a good leader will have an impact on their own career progression, and they also believe that having a good boss inspires greater loyalty and motivation in them.

    The research also revealed that bosses views of their leadership qualities varied from that of employees, with 86 percent of bosses thinking they display good leadership, compared to only a third of workers viewing their leader as being good.

    National Business Awards Chair of Judges, Dame Helen Alexander, said: “Leadership is important for every business. Good leadership can inspire a team and therefore the whole organisation.”

    “The research shows the importance of strong leadership to employees, with leaders themselves also appreciating how vital it is to success. It’s interesting to see that individual employees are motivated by their own success, but bosses see that success as a way of gaining for the whole business.”

    The full white paper can be found at

    Check Out The Team At Empire

    Outstanding Performance!

    Empire wants to recognize our outstanding team members:

    Great job Elizabeth for being nationally ranked as the #1 rep in the country for outstanding performance with our client.  
    Another congratulations to Margaret for receiving recognition as the week’s most outstanding performer in the country. 
    Keep up the great work!
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