The 3 Stages of Business Development

When I started Ask Josh Patrick I thought that it was important to have three distinct stages of business I talked about.  It’s how I think about the natural progression of a successful business.

I believe that   They keep themselves ready for sale whether they’re interested or not.  When your business is “sale ready” you have more options.  Sale ready businesses tend to be more successful than those that aren’t.  If you own a sale ready business you work on your business much more than you work in the businesses.

Let’s start with Stage 1

Stage 1 is all about tactical excellence.  It’s where you move your company from a good idea to one that creates regular cash flow.  You understand what creating enough profit for growth is and you make plans for your business to deliver on that need.

You learn about putting systems in place and understand that your employees depend on these systems to know what they’re supposed to be doing.  Your employees don’t want to have to figure out how to deal with your customers every time a new problem appears.  You’ve helped your people think through these issues and have developed systems to support them in providing an excellent and consistent experience for your customers.

If you’re a successful stage one business owner you think strategically but just don’t have much time to spend time putting strategic plans together.  Your company might be doing well by outside standards.  At the same time, you wish you had more time to work on your business.  You believe you spend entirely too much time doing day-to-day activities instead of helping your business develop capabilities to move to the next level.

Moving to Stage 2

Your systems have developed to the point that you have time to not only think strategically, but you also have time to start acting and working on strategic initiatives.  This is where enterprise value is built.  The key here is you’ve worked on yourself and learned how to delegate which allows you to become operationally irrelevant in your business.

Some strategic activities might be installing a lean manufacturing system, working on a well-defined niche, developing a repeatable sales process or putting together a strategic marketing system.  Your strategic activities will always include an innovation process that is repeatable and can be taught to those you work with.

While working on your strategic activities you will make sure your company not only covers its cost of capital but also creates enough additional cash flow where others will be interested in owning what you’ve built.  This doesn’t mean you’re going to sell your business today.  It means that your business will be sale ready at all times.

A sale ready company is one where you have all options on the table.  You can keep the business, sell the business or transfer the business to your children or managers.

Stage 3, you’ve built it now what?

Stage 3 is what I call the transitional stage.  You might decide to make yourself into a passive owner.  You might decide to start moving management to a new generation of owners.  Or, you might decide there are other things you would rather do and its time to move on and sell your company to an outsider.

A successful stage 2 business allows you to move into stage 3 with many options.  The more successful you are in developing a sustainable business the more options you have.  Once you enter Stage 3, there is no rush in leaving.  You can take your team finding what works best for you.

It’s important to not let others tell you what you should be doing.  This is about you.  Like all major decisions, Stage 3 is the time to ask the question why and make sure you get a defining core answer.  If you do this, you’ll likely make a decision that fits in well with your life and business needs.

I’ve seen businesses go through all 3 stages and do it well.  I’ve seen businesses get stuck in both Stage 1 and Stage 2.  Sadly, I’ve seen too many businesses never make it through Stage 1 and fail because the owner never learned the basic rules of running a business.  Which fate awaits you is in your control.  I hope you decide to be one of those who looks back at their business career with pride.


About the author:

Josh PatrickJosh Patrick is a certified Book Yourself Solid® coach and serial entrepreneur who lives in Vermont with his wife Suzanne, their two dogs and a cat. You can read his blog posts, listen to his podcasts and view his videos at


Back to Basics – Networking In The Digital Age

In this digital age of marketing, I believe we’ve lost sight of one of the basic building blocks necessary to growing any business…building relationships and face-to-face networking.

We’ve lost sight of building relationships with people. Instead we’re focused on the size of email lists, social media, sales pages, making six-figures or more, and treating each person as a revenue source rather than a potential client to build a relationship with. It’s time to go back to basics and focus on the transformation we can help our clients achieve, not just the transaction.

Explaining who you are and what you do in a way that will generate interest and get prospects asking questions is one of the most effective methods of relationship marketing. However, it is often the most overlooked aspects of marketing your business.

Clearly articulating what you do so that the prospect gets it immediately is challenging and takes time to prepare. In “Book Yourself Solid®,” author Michael Port is on a mission to kill the traditional “elevator speech.” He suggests replacing the “elevator speech” with the “Who and Do What Statement.” This is the cornerstone of connecting with your prospects.

In addition to your “Who and Do What Statement,” also make sure you remember to incorporate the following top 10 tips before attending your next networking event:

  1. Incorporate the prospect’s name in one-on-one introductions. You want to show your prospect that you paid attention to their name and that it matters to you. Remember, the sweetest sound to anyone is the sound of his or her own name.
  2. Establish alert eyes and enthusiasm. All of your focus and attention is on the prospect no matter how many people are in the room or standing by.
  3. Establish credibility. Within the introduction your prospect should hear something that clearly indicates what you offer could be a benefit to her. Engage your prospect by “giving”.
  4. Create a reason for someone to share the news about you and what you offer. You want others to view you as a priority contact, not only for themselves but also for others.
  5. Be flexible! One size does not fit all! Adapt your language to the individual you are speaking to or circumstance you are in.
  6. Look for opportunities to open doors for others.Successful people make things happen for others. They provide access to people and resources.
  7. Have clarity and focus. Make sure that others are able to track with your conversation. Your words, body language, and tone of voice must be clear, concise and in sync.
  8. Go for the gut and aim for emotion. Most purchasing decisions are emotionally based. Create a vivid mental picture for your prospect and how their pain is relieved by your solution.
  9. Remember giving first. You’ve heard about the law of attraction and the notion that “givers get.” What you give comes back to you ten-fold. Remember to give first and do what you can to help and connect the other person to your resources and network.
  10. Practice, practice, practice. It’s ok to write your introduction down and practice on different audiences. You should have several introductions prepared to use in any situation.



Cindy Earl, M.Ed. is the founder of and Red Carpet Women Network (RCWN). For over 15 years, Cindy has been a well-respected consultant, trainer, author, and small business growth expert for women in small business. She has coached and consulted with many small business owners and entrepreneurs on marketing strategy, public relations, lead generation and online business tools.

Cindy is a Book Yourself Solid® Certified Coach and the author of “Claim Your Spotlight: Become an Instant Expert in Your Niche & Walk the Red Carpet to Business Success.” Her products and services have helped simplify marketing for hundreds of small business owners, authors, experts, speakers, coaches and consultants worldwide.

Tools of Titans: A Lesson In Organizing Book Content

I’m a huge fan of re-purposing. The question I always ask, lazy git that I am? How can I turn something I’ve spent eons creating into ten other things with next to no additional work?

If you’re a podcaster or someone who otherwise interviews folks on a regular basis, you’ll want to pay attention to Tim Ferriss’ latest book, Tools of Titans. Because Ferriss has done an excellent job of re-purposing content.

Ferriss is best know for his 2007 bestseller The Four-Hour Work Week, a title misconstrued to mean that by working for yourself, by creating your own business, you’ll enjoy an ungodly amount of free time on some sandy beach. This of course flies in the face of my favorite joke: What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur? You get to choose which twenty hours of the day you work. (The Four-Hour Work Week is actually a great book on scaling an already established business.)

The Tim Ferriss Show, generally the most popular business podcast on iTunes, is the material source for Tools of Titans. After interviewing nearly 200 world class performers—movie stars, four-star generals, pro athletes, hedge fund managers—Ferriss set out to distill the lessons he learned from his guests into a sort of cheat sheet for himself. This required him to sift through thousands of pages of transcripts and hand-scribbled interview notes to unearth the gems.

It didn’t take him long to see how this cheat sheet would make for a great book.

Can you imagine if Ferriss had simply slapped together these transcripts, added an intro and a conclusion, and called it a day? Well, that would be the natural inclination of the average person. And what an unwieldy, incomprehensible mess that would yield.

Let me explain how Ferriss put this 673-page book together instead.

  1. He divided his content into three main sections, or, as I like to call them, drawers. These include Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise (Thank you, Benjamin Franklin.)
  2. Each interview subject was described in a concise bio.
  3. Added to this bio was an image of a spirit animal, which was remarkably compelling because you’ll want to read through the segment to see why the subject would have chosen that animal. (Mine would be a squirrel.) The most profound quotes, if there were any, were inserted above said bio.
  4. He places the questions that elicited the most interesting answers in bold, creates a sort of sub-heading, then gives us their statements below. Not the whole answer, I’m sure, just enough to make their point.
  5. Also placed beneath sub-headings are bits of wisdom and mindset stuff, performance-enhancing details, tips and tools. Watch how he uses sub-headings to make potentially disjointed bits of material flow.
  6. Most subjects offer their favorite books, particularly the ones they recommend all the time or gift. This almost always serves as the end of the segment.

Before we even get into the meat of the book, Ferriss tells us how to approach the thing, which is necessary, what with the bloody size of the thing. Think Manhattan Yellow Pages. He explains precisely how he’s organized the book, and why. Don’t expect this to read like one long narrative, he instructs, it’s a buffet, meant to be eaten one nibbly-bit at a time, to be skipped through as time and interest allow.

The best way to decide where to begin, beyond the general header of healthy, wealthy, or wise–I LIVED in the wise section; it was so good, I dog-eared half of it–is to examine the table of contents, spot the name of the interview subject you recognize, and dive right in there.

At the end of the book are some of the best appendices ever. (Worth the price of admission.) They include:

  1. The Top 25 episodes of The Tim Ferriss Show.
  2. His interview questions. (If you’re a podcaster or an interviewer of any sort, you’ll want to study these.)
  3. The most gifted and recommended books of all guests. (This will keep me busy for years. I’ve already downloaded on Kindle Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman.) (Oh, and mine are The Emotion Thesaurus, Tiny Beautiful Things, and Profit First.)
  4. Favorite films and TV Shows. (Mine are probably, if push came to shove, The English Patient (mov), House of Cards (TV), and Scandal (TV).)

To make a book this big consumable, you need a lot of white space. You can’t be eager to cram it all on so you can save on page count. Ferriss spreads right out. Man spreads. You also need a lot of sub-headings that cut straight to the point.

To make the content cohesive, you’ll want to do what Ferriss did: draw attention to the patterns, to the commonalities of each of the subjects—habits, beliefs, recommendations. A whole new set of themes emerge—delay gratification, get comfortable with the uncomfortable, pursue happiness over financial success. Trust me, to draw such parallels requires a lot of synthesis and work. A lot of thinking. (I know! I so hate that.) This is the part of the process most writers sidestep.

I could probably devote another ten pages to the content itself, what I learned, what I want to apply to my own life. Because I’m not just enthusiastic about the way Ferriss put together this book, but also with the material itself.

Here is just a short list of people I want to explore more after reading their segments:

  1. Maria Popova of
  2. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert
  3. Jocko Willink, former SEAL team commander, who has his own podcast, apparently.
  4. Tim Kreider, essayist and cartoonist. (Tim included an excerpt of Kreider’s book We Learn Nothing, that makes me want to change my evil accomplishment-whore ways.)
  5. Carl Fussman, writer and all around badass.
  6. Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild. She’s got some great writing prompts in her segment. Check them out.
  7. Naval Ravikant, CEO of AngelList. I just like him.

Buy the book. If you’re writing your own book, buy it to study the structure I’ve just outlined. If you’re not writing a book, buy it because you’ll want to gulp this monstrosity down in one go.

So much for the whole buffet thing.


About the author:

annsheybani-300x299Ann Sheybani is the author of How to Eat the Elephant: Build Your Book in Bite-Sized Steps. She received her Masters in Creative Writing from Harvard University. One of our certified Book Yourself Solid® coaches, she’s also a book coach with a sales and marketing bent. She helps speakers and coaches create powerful, client-attracting books.






Piling On The Millennial Generation (Part 2)

How does one create an environment in which Millennial newbies coming up in the organization can hone the skills they’ll need to fill your shoes?

Here are a handful of ideas:

Don’t get angry when a Millennial asks “why.”

According to the stereotype, Millennials obsessively need to know the reason behind everything they’re asked to do. (As a leader, you should strive to avoid the word “why” when questioning a subordinate in order to facilitate useful, two-way communication, but that’s another blog.)

What if “why” comes at you from below, perhaps in the form of the question, “Hey boss, why are we doing this?”

Many bosses don’t react well when asked “why” from a subordinate. However, instead of becoming defensive or angry that an uppity employee asked you a question, you should sincerely process what he asked.

Why DOES the organization do what it does? Is it because that’s the way it’s always been done? Are there processes that used to be valuable, but now function mostly as time-wasting busywork?

If you can’t provide an immediate and valid answer to the question “why do we do this?” then you as the boss are the one with the problem, not your inquisitive Millennial employee.

In fact, you should be actively canvassing your employees to ask them what they think so that they don’t have to throw a “why” at you. Nobody in your organization has a better notion of what processes are worthwhile and which aren’t than the people who are down in the trenches actually performing them. The more you know about the tactical operations of your business, the better strategic decisions you’ll be able to make.

Don’t buy into the argument that “they all got trophies and now they all want to be the CEO without putting in the time or work”

This is nonsense on stilts. Rational people don’t equate receiving a keepsake for having played on the U10 soccer team with being owed a corner office as an adult.   First of all, don’t think that the kids don’t know who really won the game. They know. They might be kids, but they’re not stupid. Secondly, there have always been, and will always be people who feel like they’re owed more than what the rest of the world thinks they’re owed. The Millennial generation didn’t invent this phenomenon.

The answer from a leadership perspective is to publish, in writing, the organization’s rules, procedures and expectations as clearly as possible, effectively “putting your brain on paper.” Once everyone knows what the boundaries are and what success looks like, it suddenly becomes much easier to talk to them about how their behavior at work equates to their station in life.   “You did X. Sally did Y. The procedures value Y. Therefore, Sally received a promotion and you did not.”

The other option is to keep that information in your head, or worse, to make it up on the fly. Doing this puts your employees in a position in which they’re trying to read your mind to figure out what they need to do, maybe even from day to day. The delusional ones, regardless of their generational label, will think that they’re doing great and deserve the corner office. The solid ones will often think they’re not doing enough.

Don’t equate a desire for work-life balance with weakness

Millennials are thought to value work-life balance over traditional markers of success, such as compensation and lofty titles. Because of that, Millennials won’t spend 40+ years at the same company working their way up from the mailroom to the boardroom. Instead, they hop from job to job leaving as soon as a perceived better deal pops up, or simply dump the job entirely in favor of a last-minute flight to Ibiza.

Once again, Millennials didn’t invent this phenomenon. For instance, in my decades of experience in the Air Force, I’ve watched fighter pilots make the choice to leave the service for an airline cockpit for a perceived better quality of life. People have always and will always make personal life decisions based on their subjective view of the benefits of their alternatives.

The Internet, social media in particular, has made the world so small that each of us has a bead on nearly every opportunity out there the nanosecond it pops up, thus making it easier, more appealing, to jump from one to the next. Millennials have only known this instant-access world, but the technology affects everyone. Plenty of Gen-Xers are out there online looking for the bigger, better deals too.

The answer for you as the boss lies in the two previous recommendations. Don’t be afraid to make changes that affect quality of life, and always make the rules visible to everyone.

For instance, when an employee asks “Why don’t we create a flex-schedule so I can work from noon to 8pm?” don’t take it as insubordination. Really think about it. If it doesn’t negatively affect the organization, put it in writing so everyone knows the rules and give it a try.

Doing out-of-the-box things that makes people happy (and thus, more productive) doesn’t make you seem weak. On the flip side, holding on to the old ways for no other reason than to simply manifest your dominance makes you look like a tyrant.

I’m not arguing that there isn’t a grain of truth to the Millennial stereotype. However, I think that the stereotype is an observation of human nature more than an accident of birthdate. Human nature doesn’t change, but the environment does. Gen-Xers grew up as latchkey kids watching MTV, and their behavior reflected their reaction to that environment. Millennials have grown up with the Internet and social media, and their behavior reflects that as well.

To be the most effective boss you can be, you need to adapt your style to get the most from the individuals who walk through the door, regardless of the stereotype they bring with them.


About the author:

Lt Col Jeff Orr serves as a veteran F-16 instructor pilot for the US Air Force. An expert on high-stress training environments, elite performance, mindset management, and the development of unstoppable organizational cultures, Orr shares his many insights on panels, stages, and in workshops. You can reach him at

Piling On The Millennial Generation (Part 1)

Millennials. They’re easy to make fun of–precious snowflakes who’ve always been given a medal just for showing up. They’re brittle and self-absorbed narcissists who wile away their days sending selfies to one another on social media rather than doing productive things like building railroads and tilling fields or something.

Here’s the thing; all of the above “common knowledge” is actually utter nonsense. Take this from a guy who was told in the late 80s-early 90s that as a member of Generation X, he was a slacker completely uncommitted to anything. If you believed the predominant narrative back then, I, along with tens of millions of my fellow Gen-X’ers, grew up as latchkey kids, our minds poisoned by drivel pumped out by MTV. The world was going to hell in a handbasket because I and my generational cohorts were destined to let society collapse while we were glued to the couch mesmerized by this week’s episode of Real World.

Never mind the fact that as an 18-year-old, I entered the Air Force Academy fully committed to become a warrior dedicated to protecting the world from the evils of Communism. On the day I set foot on the Terrazzo, Ronald Reagan was still president and the Berlin Wall still stood and would for another year and a half.

I dressed like a typical Gen-X’er, watched MTV and used the buzz phrases popular at the time, but not surprisingly, I didn’t think in lockstep with tens of millions of strangers. I was no slacker and neither were the vast majority of the people my age that I knew personally.

I was an 18-year-old though. I derived my entire worldview up to that point from information that had been filtered through other peoples’ experiences—parents, teachers, friends, and media personalities. I possessed some highly developed notions about how the world worked. The fact that those thoughts were entirely theoretical wouldn’t stop me from providing a highly emotional argument in their defense should they be challenged from some old codger from the Baby Boomer generation. What do those guys know anyway?

When I hear people complaining about Millennials, I usually find that their anger is misplaced. The generational stereotype provides an easy bogeyman, but it’s ridiculous to think that tens of millions of people share an identical thought process simply because they were born between two arbitrary dates.

What they’re really complaining about, these codgers, is youth, offering the same these-kids-don’t-know-how-good-they-have-it argument that has persisted since time immemorial. (I’m sure at one point a group of elder cavemen sat around bemoaning the fact that their offspring were soft because, unlike when they were young, their kids had access to fire—“Back in our day, we ate our saber tooth tiger COLD, the way it was MEANT to be eaten!”)

The answer to the “problem” of youth doesn’t lie in lumping all of the young people into a catchall category and then griping that 80 million people are irredeemably flawed. The answer lies in providing effective mentoring and leadership.

It’s not them. It’s you.

It’s you who needs create an environment in which the newbies coming up in the organization hone the skills they’ll need to in order to fill your shoes later just like every generation has done before you.

Up next: three tips for being that mentor.


About the author:

Lt Col Jeff Orr serves as a veteran F-16 instructor pilot for the US Air Force. An expert on high-stress training environments, elite performance, mindset management, and the development of unstoppable organizational cultures, Orr shares his many insights on panels, stages, and in workshops. You can reach him at













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