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It’s Always About the People

I was fortunate last night to sit on a panel discussing Business Transformation for the Richmond Chapter of the AITP (Association of Information Technology Professionals).

I had a delightful time.

My fellow panelists included Rubi Gemmell of eTelic, Inc.; John  Francesconi, PMP Program Manager for SAP / worldwide operations at Mead-West-Vaco; Pat O’Reilly: Project Manager, MWV Xerox Services, LLC. and Dave Buisson, Xerox, Senior Executive Account Manager.

The chapter’s President, Derek Brooks of ChildFund, summed up the evening by saying he’d expected to spend the evening discussing key process indicators and such.  Instead, every conversation came back around to relationship management.

I had mentioned at the beginning of the evening that my career path had been different from my fellow panelists.  Sudheer Guduru with the City of Richmond asked, “How I thought that impacted my work?”

I responded, from my point of view, every business has one thing in common: people.  It’s always about the people; building trust, treating people with respect, listening to people.

I’ll end this with an anecdote Rubi shared.

She said she listens to people until they sigh.  That’s how she knows they feel they’ve said all they want to say.

After all the nicest thing you can do for anyone is to listen to them.


><(("> Gayle Turner

Gayle is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a consulting firm headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Miscellaneous.

Exit Strategy-Is Your Business Holding You Captive?

Covey’s 2nd habit of highly effective people is “Begin with the end in mind.”  The ultimate “end” for business owners is their exit strategy.  Economists project we’re at the beginning of the greatest transfer of wealth in history.  Business leaders are supposed to be handing over the reins to their successors.  Parents are expected to pass on their wealth to their descendants.

What is your exit strategy

Parents Will Do What They’ve Always Done

Death catches up with everyone sooner or later.  So, in the case of children inheriting from their parents that will follow the path of previous generations; some parents will have their affairs in order, others will not.  Some parents will have worked with financial planners and wealth managers to transfer as much of their estate as they legally can and others will leave a mess for their progeny to clean up.

Business Owners Appear Unprepared to Let Go

Business owners who in the past at ages 55-70 would have been working to exit; today, don’t seem ready to pass the torch.  The last few years have seen many businesses’ top and bottom lines decline.  So, their businesses are not worth as much as they may have once been.

Prior to the downturn these owners were anticipating getting out.  They were entertaining day dreams of how much they would get for their business.  But they hadn’t started getting their house in order, because it wasn’t time, yet

Now, the recession/depression/downturn has left many of these businesses just hanging on.  They’re focused on maintaining cash flow, meeting payroll, keeping the lights on.

Uncertainty Blamed for Inaction

The current political climate is making the situation more difficult.  Uncertainty over whether or not new taxes, legislation and regulations will actually be put into effect has created a “wait and see” mindset that continues to impede recovery.

Many leaders find it impossible to make projections they feel secure basing decisions upon due to the political smoke obscuring the next few years.  Investors argue that even when demand is discernible; it’s hard to commit to investing money when you don’t feel you can project the return on the investment.  When I have probed for clarification; they have explained that using the worst case scenarios as they relate to taxes and healthcare costs project a lesser ROI than they desire.  So, they continue to wait, hoping something will change.

Energized or Enervated?

Some owners have been energized by the challenges of the last few years.  They’ve thrown themselves back into their businesses and have enjoyed fighting the good fight.  Many others however have been exhausted by having to draw on physical, emotional and financial reserves at a time when they had intended coasting into retirement.

Who’s Buying Businesses Anyway?

Many business owners have not gotten their business ready to sell because they don’t think anyone will want to buy it.  Where will they find someone who will see unexploited opportunity?  Where are they going to find someone who believes they can generate a greater return from your assets than they could starting from scratch?

Why Wouldn’t They Start From Scratch?

Well, you may have existing customer relationships that represent future sales.  Your brand may be respected.  The workforce you have in place may represent unrealized intellectual property.  Plus, basic physics, it’s easier to keep an object in motion than to overcome inertia and start a balling rolling in the first place.  In most cases, the new owner will either invest more capital or more energy into the operation than you are currently, further fueling growth.

Some Owners Have Unrealistic Expectations

The flip side of the above scenario is the classic small business owner; who when asked how much he wants for his business responds, “A million dollars.”  When asked how he came to this figure he states, “That’s how much I need to retire.”

In both cases, business owners benefit from sitting down with objective professionals and exploring their options.  Gathering the facts and evaluating their choices in a disciplined manner will enable them to be ready when the opportunity to sell arises..

Selling a Business Seldom Happens Overnight

Just like selling a house, it takes a lot of work to prepare a business for sale.  Houses are staged to sell: excess furniture is removed, fresh coats of paint applied, the lawn is mowed, etc;  including having a pie baking in the oven when prospects visit.

Businesses undergo a similar process.  Buyers want to see what they’re buying and the neater and cleaner the business looks; the more desirable it is.

Packaging Your Business for Sale

The following suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg.  But they’re a good place to start doing something.

1) Financially speaking, talk to your accountant (CPA).  The average buyer will want to see your books at a minimum for the last five years.  Be prepared to answer questions like:

·       Where do you make your money?

·       What’s your margin on your different products and services?

·       Upon what are your projections of future sales based

·       What’s your EBIDTA?

2) Operationally, clean house:

·       Go through your physical plants and tidying up the place.

·       Take inventory, sell off or dispose of “junk”.

·       Codify your processes:


o  Who does what?

o  Who’s accountable to whom and for what?

o  How does your business do what it does?

3) Get your marketing straight.

·       Do you have a database of your current and past customers, with up to date contact info?

·       Do you have a database of your prospects, with up to date contact info?

·       Clarify your brand.  It’s your greatest asset and is the strongest indicator of future sales.

4) Now that you’ve done your homework, do a little planning.  Take a look around so you can identify opportunities for growth.  The disciplines of scenario planning and strategic planning can help you craft a picture of the future that will enhance the desirability of your business.

5) You’re going to have to spend money to sell your business above and beyond the commission you pay your business broker.  Finding the right professionals to help you sell your business will enable you to get as much as the market will bear and position you to keep as much of it as is legally possible.

Talk to your current advisers.  I mentioned your CPA earlier, get with your lawyer(s) as well.  Talk with your Certified Financial Planner (CFP), as well.  Have them talk to one another.

Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail

There have been a lot of reasons lately for taking your eyes off the goal of having an exit strategy.  None of them are sufficient to continue avoiding the responsibility of putting your affairs in order.  Should you walk out the door and get run over by a bus (as happened to a friend of mine) what will happen to your business?  Make the time to protect your life’s work.  Seek professional help, so you can maximize the return on all your hard work.  Yes, those professionals cost money but it’s money well spent.

I’ll leave you with one last thought.  Consider sitting down with a strategic consultant, who specializes in helping people taking a disciplined look at their situation, cutting through the clutter, so they make decisions that they feel comfortable committing to and being accountable.

It’s time to free yourself from your business, reap your reward and allow the next generation to pick up the yoke.  So, follow Covey’s 1st Habit of Highly Effective People and “Be Proactive”.  Do something; after all that’s how you built your business in the first place.

This blog first appeared at

><(("> Gayle Turner

Gayle is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a consulting firm headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Business, Change, Generations, Leadership, Strategic Planning.

The Burden of Communication Rests With the Person Who Wishes to Communicate

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of conducting a workshop down in Farmville for Longwood University MBA students on creativity and innovation as it impacts change in business.  These students are only on campus together a few times during the school year.  The rest of the time their classes are conducted online.

At the end of the class I asked if there were any questions.  One student, a public school teacher, raised his hand and said, “You’re saying there should be a reason for change.  We shouldn’t just change for change sake.”  I replied, “Yes.”

He continued, “In my school system, there doesn’t appear to be a rationale for the changes we’re being directed to execute.”  He then went on to ask, “How do we deal with that?”

You’d be surprised how often this situation comes to light.

My standard response to this kind of question is to ask for clarity.

But that implies a trusting environment where people feel safe being vulnerable.

I suggested he tell his immediate supervisor, “I want to be able to faithfully execute the proposed changes.  Can you help me understand the reasoning behind them?  Because, with the information I have; they just don’t make sense.”

There’s a risk here, because the supervisor may not understand either and in the world of academia where you’re supposed to know the answers, not knowing can make people feel foolish.  And no one likes feeling foolish.

It takes courage to admit you don’t understand.

Most people just lay low, waiting for more information.

Some go through the motions; others wait, hoping for clarity, doing nothing in the interim for fear of doing the wrong thing.

This lack of understanding and the commitment/buy-in that results from clarity may be one of the reasons most change initiatives fail.

This brings me to the image of the Chinese character for clarity at the top of the page.

To someone who reads Chinese that image communicates effectively and they may be

frustrated by other people’s inability to “get it.”

However, if the people you want to understand your message speak English, for example, and not Chinese; then you may need something like this to get your message across.

Either way, if you’re the leader, the one who wants to communicate; then I encourage you to ask your people to “play back to you” what they’ve heard.  So you can judge how effective you’ve been communicating what you want done and why.

You may be thinking, “Why do I need to communicate ‘why’ I want something done?”

I think that degree of transparency allows your people to use their judgement more effectively.

If you accept the premise that ‘the burden of communication rests with the person who wishes to communicate’, then don’t make your people have to ask.  Create a give and take where you communicate and you provide them the opportunity to tell you what they think they’ve heard and how it impacts them.

That way you not only know how effectively you’ve communicated, but sometimes you gather additional information that may alter your directive.

Is that clear?

How does this impact the way you communicate?

><(("> Gayle Turner

Gayle is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a consulting firm headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Business, Change, Creativity, Creativity/Innovation, Innovation, Leadership, Organizational Culture, Strategic Planning.

We Don’t Ask Leaders to Walk on Hot Coals

According to motivational speaker, Tony Robbins’ website, walking across hot coals on lanes measuring 10 feet long and heated to between 1,200 to 2,000 degrees provides attendees an opportunity to “understand that there is absolutely nothing you can’t overcome.”

Maybe so, but I’d be interested in hearing from the 21 people who were burned at a recent event what their take is. I’m even more interested in learning why people do these things to begin with?

When people ask if we are “motivational” speakers, I have always said no.

It’s not that people who work with us, or hear our consultants give keynote presentations, aren’t inspired – they are. Thousands of people have said thanks, shared their personal experiences, picked up a new idea or tool to share with their teams or committed to doing something a little differently following one our speeches, workshops, consulting engagements, etc.

And, it’s not that we don’t have a lot of fun and sometime “play” games or ask people to take risks – we do have a tackle box of exercises designed for hands on learning.

And, it’s not that we aren’t asking people to set/reach aspirational goals – we are.  Heck, to us, overcoming obstacles and achieving your full potential is synonomous with “catching your limit”.

We have just never wanted our firm, or our consultants, to be associated with the kind of staged event that leaves people feeling on top of the world only to fall back down come Monday morning.  As a P.K., my partner, Tom, ranks this type of event right up their with tent revivals and serpent handlings.

I am not trying to put a spotlight on Tony Robbins, as he has replicated this event many times without people being burned and his intent is for this to be a safe way to get someone outside of their comfort zone.

However, I am saying beware.

Beware of consultants and speakers who make things seem overly simplistic.

Beware of people who make promises that they can’t keep or have no control over.

Beware of messages that promise extreme results with little effort.

Have confidence within yourself to think for yourself and ask yourself, “Do I need to walk over 2,000 degree hot coals to understand that there’s nothing that I can’t overcome?”

“Will hiring a motivational speaker change the fact that my senior management team doesn’t trust one another?”

“Will doing some whacky, one-time, event create the momentum for sustained energy and engagement within my team and myself?”

In our work with leadership, teaming and change, we’ve learned that the types of changes that leaders and teams want take hard work, time, courage, persistance, honesty, vulnerability and more.  There are no shortcuts, but with our guidance, we can share our experiences, approaches that have worked for similar groups and guide teams in a direction for success and help them avoid unnecessary floundering or setbacks.

We work to create safe environments in which people can talk openly and honestly, share ideas and work towards solutions as a team.  We introduce new skills that allow people to learn new approaches to overcoming obstacles that have been getting in their way for years.  We facilitate sessions and teach methodologies for engaged, productive meetings, idea generation and problem solving.  We help build measures of accountability and evaluation procedures into initiatives so that success or failure can be fairly assessed and we can all learn from what worked and what didn’t.

We work directly with leaders to ensure that they are not asking more of their people than they are willing to give of themselves.  And, we spread the message that if you are a leader who wants an engaged team culture, your work is never done, it is on-going, never ending and a lifelong endeavor.

Along our journey, we have learned of the skepticism people have of consultants/speakers in general and we have tried to do our part to do our work with integrity and commitment to our clients.  We have tried (and at times failed) to practice what we preach.  And, we have focused our efforts to provide inspiration vs. motivation.  We love this quote:

“Instead of motivation look for inspiration. Inspiration comes from the same word as spirit. When you are inspired, the spirit moves you.”
-Deepak Chopra

Our clients do not ask us for short cuts or quick fixes or tent revivals.  And, we don’t ask them to walk on hot coals.

><(("> Melissa Laughon

Melissa is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a management consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Leadership.

Celebrating a 17 Year Journey to Victory

At Catch Your Limit we’re big on taking time to celebrate our victories.  Particularly when you’re working on long term projects you need to be able to replenish your commitment well.  That’s my term for your reserve.  The place within you where you draw the energy and will to persevere.

Just before last Thanksgiving I stepped on the scale and was shocked and discouraged to see that I weighed more than I ever had in my life, 222 pounds.  To make matters worse I had a closet full of bespoke suits that no longer fit.  My shirt collars were tight.

Anyone who knows me, knows I subscribe to Cary Grant’s dictum that, “You remember the well-dressed gentleman was well dressed.  You do not remember what he was wearing.”

Looking at myself in the mirror, the only thing I could think of was that I looked like a six pound sausage in a five pound wrap.

So, with the holidays approaching I knew it was unrealistic to think I would lose weight before the new year.

I decided to concentrate on not gaining anymore weight before New Years and to reach my 1995 weight of 198# by July 4th.

As with all change initiatives, it’s important to have a clear goal and to monitor your progress.  It’s also imperative to have a plan for how you’re going to get from A to B.

Because I hate exercising for the sake of exercising, my first strategy was to limit my intake.

For a man my size and age, 1,800 calories a day was supposed to keep me at the same weight.

I decided to aim for 1,600 calories a day.

One other piece of information I haven’t shared is I crave cookies.  In particular Girl Scout mint cookies, Keebler Rich and Chips with the peanut butter chips and ginger snaps.  I’ve a framed “Plugger” cartoon that says, “When a Plugger is left alone the serving size on a bag of cookies is One.”

The simplest strategy I adopted was DO NOT walk down the cookie aisle at the grocery store.  If you don’t bring the cookies in the house, you won’t eat them.  Cause you can’t eat what isn’t there.

This was working pretty well until I hit the 208-210 mark.  My daughters have laughed over the years as I have celebrated 208.  Only to regain the lost weight and have to start again.  This time when I plateaued I decided to add a little, dare I say it, exercise.

So, I started walking the 3/4 mile to the Hardee’s for breakfast.  That gave me an average of 4+ miles a week coupled with walking the pipeline along the James River to lunch.  Pretty soon I was dropping weight again.

Now there were some set backs along the way.  I was in Martin’s and there in the middle of the aisle in front of the cash registers was a siren display.  Ginger Snaps!  On sale! Two bags for a dollar.   Marie wasn’t feeling well and ginger snaps settle her stomach.  So good husband that I am; I bought 4 bags.

I had eaten them all in 4 days.

Back to walking AND staying away from the cookie aisle.

Yesterday, I got on the scale and it settled on 198.  In the days leading up to that weigh in I thought I wasn’t going to make the goal, but I was not discouraged.  I was closer to achieving my goal than I would have been had I not had a goal on which to focus my attention, energy and will.

Unintended consequences, the Virginia Blood Service put out an emergency call for donations and Marie and I went to contribute.  In preparation for giving they took my blood pressure and it was the lowest it’s been in a while: 130/80.

So, I’m celebrating.  I’m not watching what I eat this weekend, because I know come Monday I’m going to set a new goal of tightening my stomach muscles, losing a few more pounds and a couple of inches around my waist.

I expect my back and knees will feel better and my clothes will fit , feel and look better, but most importantly, I’m looking forward to what unintended consequence may come of this next stage.

I leave you with these thoughts.  It’s better to have a goal and fall short than not to have a goal.  I’ve been trying to get back to 198# since 1995.  I didn’t quit although I fell down many, many times.

Pick a goal, make a plan and monitor your progress.  I believe you’ll get there, sooner or later.  But without the goal, how will you find the will to dip into your commitment well and keep plugging away?


><(("> Gayle Turner

Gayle is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a consulting firm headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Change, Inspiration, Strategic Planning.