The Five Traits of Leaders

Key Trait #1: You must have a vision. We've all heard the saying "You must stand for something, or you'll fall for everything." But what does that really mean? Standing firm when it comes to your company's policies and procedures is all well and good, but it doesn't speak to having a vision. As a leader, you have to learn to communicate your vision or the vision of your company to the people you want to follow you. But how can you do that?

• Learn to paint a picture with words. Speak it, write it, draw it, touch it. Whatever methods you can use to create a picture, do it. As they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

• Ask each of the other managers in your company to tell you, in their own words, about the vision of the company. How close is it to what you thought they understood? Is your team on the same page as you?

• As you work, your company's vision should be in your mind every day, and you should reevaluate it occasionally so that it stays current with the changing times in which we live. And remember, your staff needs to be just as involved as you in keeping it up to date if you truly want them to buy in on the vision. Be sure to keep your key players involved.

Key Trait #2: You must have passion. Your employees want passion; in fact, they'll go to the ends of earth because of it, live and die for it. Think of the sailors who traveled with Christopher Columbus or Leif Ericsson to explore uncharted territory. Their leaders' passion inspired them to take on new and very dangerous challenges.

To build an extraordinary management team, you've got to light the "fire in their bellies," to get them to feel passion about the company and connect to the leader's vision. Passion is such a key part of being a great leader that if you don't have it, you simply can't be a great leader. Think of all the great leaders throughout the ages and try to name one that did not have passion.

And passion is infectious: When you talk about your vision for the company, let your passion for your vision shine through. Others will feel it and want to get on board with you. If you don't have passion for your vision, you need to recreate your vision or reframe your description of your vision so it's connected to your passion.

Key Trait #3: You must learn to be a great decision maker. How are major decisions made in your company? What is your process for making them? For instance, do you talk to your management team and create a list of pros and cons to help you make the best decision? Maybe you conduct a cost analysis. Or do you create a timeline for the implementation strategy, process and timing?

Some leaders have a set process, and others fly by the seat of their pants. But you don't want to be one of those leaders who consults no one before making a decision, announces the change the next day and then gets frustrated when no one follows it. If you're one of those, I urge you to implement a set process.

In fact, here's a system you can use to become a better decision maker. It's called the Q-CAT:

• Q = Quick. Be quick but not hasty.
• C = Committed. Be committed to your decision but not rigid.
• A = Analytical. Be analytical, but don't over-analyze (Too much analysis can cause paralysis.)
• T = Thoughtful. Be thoughtful about all concerned, but don't be obsessive.
When you use the Q-CAT, it'll help you to decide when to bring others into the process and what steps need to be taken to help you make better decisions.

Key Trait #4: You must be a team builder. To become a great leader, you must develop a great team or, one might say, a well-oiled machine. But how do you do that? You can start by handing off responsibility to your team and letting your team to run with it. Don't breathe down their necks and don't micromanage, but make yourself available if questions or problems come up. Teach your team to use the Q-CAT decision-making system and give them the freedom to work through their own decisions.

When projects aren't on track or your team is falling behind on deadline, it serves no one if you start pointing fingers. This is when you need to rise to the occasion and inspire confidence in your employees, to let them know you support them and ready to help. Be ready to alter plans and make new ones. Don't forget to use humor to keep your team's spirits up during a crisis. When an emergency hits, your team will look to you to be a tower of strength and endurance.

Key Trait #5: You must have character. Without character, all the other "keys" are for naught. That's because your innate character strengths and limitations play a critical role in your leadership style. The real question is, are you aware of just what role they play? All great leaders have taken steps to learn about their individual personality and what part it plays in their leadership style.

So what's your leadership style? If you don't know, there are many leadership style assessments available on the market. Two popular ones that have been around for many years are the Myers-Briggs assessmentand the "360-Degree Feedback" model. There are dozens of other to choose from--the important part is that you "Just do it," as the Nike ad would say, and see how you rate. It's a good way to do a "character check" on yourself and your leadership skills.

Then, once you've done the assessment, the question to ask yourself is, do you feel your character matches what the assessments are pointing out to you?
If you feel the traits don't match who you think you are, then look a little deeper and be honest with yourself. Sometimes our first response is defensive. You might want to assess yourself with a different type of profile and then compare the results. Within the 360 Degree Feedback model, there's an opportunity to see how your employees and peers view you, too. In learning to be a great leader, the first step is to be open to feedback about yourself as a leader and separate it from you the person.

So are you a great leader? Or do you have the desire to become one? Remember, a great leader is someone who has a clear vision and can turn that vision into a vivid picture that others can see. When you speak about your vision, it should be with a passion you feel in your heart, a passion that creates so much enthusiasm that your team will want to jump on board. When major decisions need to be made, you should encourage everyone to use the Q-CAT system and be responsible for his or her own actions. And you should be continually assessing your own character and never stop growing, personally or professionally.

If you can apply the five keys to great leadership, you'll be well on your way to becoming a great leader surrounded by great employees!
15 Critical Leadership Traits Needed In Today's Economy!

In today's tough business climate, managers and executives are becoming obsolete and are being replaced by leaders. The new manager/executive must be an expeditor and leader rather than an order giver and manager of people.

In this article, I have documented what I have found to be the skills and abilities that are valued in leaders today. If you are looking to build a high performance team or company, these are the leadership traits that you and your managers should be focused on to improve personal and business performance.

1. Vision
Leaders have the ability to see things as they should become. Defining the organization’s direction, the leader defines the organization’s future.

2. Communication
Leaders are able to get others to share in their vision. They communicate in a clear and powerful way. Whether in large meetings or personal discussions, they never miss an opportunity to pass along their message.

3. Flexibility
Leaders are willing to learn. Leaders will be committed to furthering their own knowledge as well as making sure others keep up with the demand for a better educated workforce.

4. Action Oriented
Leaders know that it is not enough just to gather up the good ideas of others. When new ways of doing things can be implemented, putting them into action will fall on the shoulders of the entire team.

5. Bottom Line Thinker
Leaders know the financial conditions and limitations of the organization. Once they have the same information as senior executives, it is expected that they will reach the same decisions.

6. Builds Rapport
Leaders let the person or group know they understand their viewpoint, whether they agree or not.

7. Listening

Leaders have a mutual interest in the matter under discussion. Letting the other party speak first shows they are thought of as equals.

8. Respect
Leaders do not talk at people, they communicate with them. They treat them with respect. Do not patronize them. Leaders help them remember that they have an equal stake in finding an acceptable solution.

9. Focus
Leaders focus on the emotional issues that connect them with their followers. Leaders always stress values shared by their employees, enlisting their employees in a mission that gives their work purpose and direction.

10. Innovative
A leader can think on his or her feet. In critical situations, they have to come up with the answers, not look in textbooks.

11. High Expectations
Leaders have found, higher expectations from their workers, the better results achieved.

12. Passion
Leaders hate bureaucracy and all the nonsense that comes with it.

13. Change
Leaders stimulate and relish change. Do not become frightened or paralyzed with fear. They see change as an opportunity, not a threat.

14. Energy
Leaders have an enormous amount of energy and the ability to energize and invigorate others. They understand speed as a competitive advantage and see the total organizational benefits that can be derived from a focus on speed.

15. Support
Leaders surround themselves with competent, responsible, and supportive people.

Contributed By Dennis Sommer

Tips for Business Success! (Any Biz!)

1. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

2. Use a stopwatch/timer to focus your time in 60 minute blocks.

3. You must spend 90% of your time on MMA (money making activities).

4. Multi-tasking is not efficient, and lowers your IQ.

5. Avoid distractions at all costs, never answer the phone.

6. Create routines for everything you do. Everything must become a habit.

7. Take 10 minute breaks every hour-use the 50/10 rule.

8. Time management is a misnomer-You must manage yourself in time.

9. Exercise is vital-if you don’t do it you have no energy and get sick. Do it daily for maximum productivity. When you feel good, you do good. All top producers are in top shape.

10. Drink water and get fresh air every hour on the hour (it’s the elixir of energy) use your timer.

11. Eliminate energy robbers-Don’t eat junk food-it slows your brain down!

12. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day-This is the #1 rule of success.

13. Email Rule #1-Emails don’t make you money (NMA) Do them last and once a day only. Checking emails all the time is the biggest killer of productivity for any entrepreneur.

14. Email Rule #2-You should never spend more than 30 minutes on emails. Top producers who make 50K a month never spend more than 30 minutes daily on emails.

15. Plan your learning (training) and productivity as 2 separate activities.

16. Call Rule # 1- Make the call 2 minutes maximum, and get back on task.

17. Call Rule # 2-Block out 30-60 minutes for callbacks, prospecting, call-me-leads etc. Do it the same time every day.

18. Always schedule time for your family, your kids, and yourself. Having a balanced life is vital to prevent burnout.

19. Take your partner on a date every week to thank them for the sacrifice of building the business.

20. Get your entire family to buy into your vision.

Thanks Faye Correll!

Innovation or Expiration - Challenges of Suriving in the Current Economy

Insights from Dean Akers, CEO of Ideal Image:

The entrepreneurial movement is what fuels our country

I have one goal to achieve by speaking to you: stimulate you to changes your perspective on your current situation. Look at all the current opportunities.I have been through five recessions and in each one, I have become more successful. People make stupid decisions in a bad economy. During a good economy, business owners will jump up to take credit. But during a bad economy, fingers are pointing everywhere else.There is one rule in Ideal Image: do what's right. When you're measuring your own successes against what your associates suggest, how successful will you be?

U.S. unemployment rates was at 8.9 % at the end of April. At the end of April in 2005, the unemployment rate was 5.2%. You as an individual cannot change the economy. You can only control or change yourself and what you are responsible for. You control your own destiny.
Entrpreneurs are the backbone of our economy. GM is like your grandmother who's had cancer for 40 years. Do you think there will be any great stories about GM leadership?

How much capital there is now? There is so much money out there through private equity and venture groups. The chief topic now is that the limited partners right now who are paying 2% aren't having their money's not being invested in anything. They're pulling their money out.
Private equity firms are starved for deals. If you need capital, you just need to put your shoes on and get in front of them. There is plenty of money out there for you as individuals. Control your destiny. if you are, all these external things that you think can or can't get done, will happen.

Take ownership of your own business. This economic climate fuels entrepreneurship. As you grow your business, "Create Intrapreneurs." Entrepreneurs do what they think is right. take the same philosophy and funnel it to your company. "Intrapreneurship."

The good news: Ideal Image is a totally empowering company. The bad news ... Ideal Image is a totally empowering company. Can you change the eocnomy? No. Can you change your competition? No. WHat can you change? Yourself.

Go back to your businesses and take a hard look in the mirror and say what can I do to be a better leader and empower my people and make a greater success of my company.


How Success Breeds Success: Entrepreneurs Weigh In

Strategies that Worked from a Panel of Successful Entrepreneurs:

Tony DiBenedetto, Chairman & CEO, Tribridge

Marc Fratello, CEO & President, SOE Software Corporation

Chase Stockon, CEO & President, Panther International

John West, CEO, Lion Asset Management Company

Q: How do you come up with a concept for a company? Develop it? Strategy and plan? Tony - Folks take strategy for granted as an exercise. Strategy should drive the business. Include company management and customers; get feedback from them to come up with strategy. Could take several months to develop. Shapes business on quarterly basis. Strategy is a constant work in progress. Every person in the company should REALLY understand the strategy to reach true success.

Q: How did you zero in on your business and say this is where I can make a difference and be successful? Marc - Learn from other peoples' mistakes. Mistake I made - tried to be all things to all people... but found that it was a big marketplace and we realized we had to focus and be more specialized. Wanted to have a niche market that we realized we wanted to get in and not be taken on by bigger players. We play in election software - not too many players in this market. Able to get in with a big enough market share and now we are the dominate, 800 lb. gorilla. You definitely want to look for those niches where you can play to win... try to do something very, very well in a market where you won't get your head kicked in by other players.

Q: Chase, How did you make the decision to get into your business? Chase - Sometimes, it chooses you. In trying to be strategic about it and finding that niche, we also wanted to solidify a client upfront. Is there a market beyond that but is it still in the niche? We manage grants for the government - Florida Department of Transportation - we manage every transportation dollar in Florida. Tony - We entered the market in a really crappy space with around 400 competitors, but noticed there was little quality. We integrated across Microsoft and changed the way everything was done. If you are going to be in a crowded space, you have to differentiate yourself and be bold, innovative and make quick changes to come out on top. Be extremely different.

Q: How important is it to surround yourself with quality folks? What impact did they have? John - Single most important thing you will do. All about the quality of people who surround you and you bring on your team. Every person I knows who is successful has figured this out. The best of the best are secure enough and smart enough to surround themselves with people who are better than they are.

Q: Tony, what do you attribute all of your growth and success? Tony - We have experienced 50 percent increase in revenue growth over 11 years. We are fortunate to have a board of directors who have a lot of growth and entrepreneur experience. Some advice: Think big, and then think bigger, and settle for 50 percent growth. Make a huge investment in sales and marketing. Deliver what you say. Be prepared to be different and challenge the status quo. Don't be afraid to fail; if it doesn't work, pull the plug immediately and move on. Measure results.

Q: Marc, how does a small company that has a unique solution attract and retain quality folks/good talent? Marc - Spread around equity or options - ghost stock. It is easy to attract people with a new and exciting idea, but the real key is retention and keeping them over the long haul. Best way to get the best people is to share the wealth and equity. Not always the easiest thing to do. Probably end up getting one quality person who buys into the vision you can keep for the long run.

Q: Chase, how do you stay focused on your strategy with good folks? Incentives for employees? Chase -We do offer profit sharing... no ownership change, but there are a bunch of profit incentives. In grant management, we have no clients in Tampa. At most, we have 1-2 clients in a town. Micromanagement can't happen, so everyone has to be in tune for the business to run. Tony - Starts with leadership and empowering people. It's not the company they are in love with; it is the people. We have had 15 people leave and start their own companies, and instead of getting mad about it, we helped them.

Q: John, how do you protect your company but also share some of the equity? John - Has to be with purpose. Made mistakes in the past by spreading the wealth too broadly. What are they going to do to earn that equity? It isn't right for every business. If you have to deal with outside investors, they are going to ask why you are giving this away. Needs to be tied to performance or longevity - what is this person going to accomplish for you and your company? Why am I doing this? How do I align my strategy with where I want this company to go? How do I align my team to accomplish my goals, objectives and where I want to go? So important to ask these questions!

Q: What are you seeing in this economy? Challenges and opportunities? Marc - Downturn for you is also a downturn for your competitors... takes some bold moves to take advantage of it, but you can. We doubled our sales staff over the last 9 months... bold move... benefits haven't been reached yet but we will reach them. There are opportunities to take advantage of in the economy we have today. Consider a marketing approach others aren't considering. John - Now is a good time to be selling if you have some innovation that can cut costs. People are hungry for innovation. A lot of industries out there are right for that change. Tony - Now is the time to go after talent. Buyers of talent... a lot of good people out there who are really hungry to work for good companies. This is the time to differentiate. Chase - Be flexible. It only took a bad economy and stimulus money for us to reach success. We are an overnight success story that only took 15 years to get here. Marc - Hire slowly; fire quickly.

Thanks STAR TEC for the Panel Disscussion

Funding Strategies in the Current Economy

Panel Session with: Robin Kovaleski, executive director, Florida Venture Forum Lee Bell, CPA, Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund Tom Cardy, managing director, Hyde Park Capital Partners, LLC David Doney, shareholder, Fowler White Boggs Matt Rice, vice president, Ballast Pointe Ventures

Tom: There's not a lot of money right now in Tampa Bay real estate. Companies aren't putting as much money out there as they have in the past.later stage transactions with angel groups. True angel deals are really squeezed right now.
Matt: Some of the sectors that are getting money right now are ones that people seem to think are less subject to the recession, such as the healthcare industries of biotech.
David: Green business are finding it has hard as anyone else to find capital and financing.

Tom: I've made more money coming out of down cycles. As cycles exit, there is strong cash flow. Human capital tends to be more strained in good times. Fundamental business, good people, and stable capital, then as markets turn, it's just survivng that turn in between.
David: There's not a lot of deals going on right now. It's a great time to get in front of someone for exposure so that when it is time to invest, you and they will be ready. What kind of sophistication level do you see out there?
Tom: Even in this environment, we're still seeing a lot of great ieas. It's about the people and the quality of the ideas.

Matt: On average, we see at least 500 business proposals per year. We only make probably 3 to 5 investments a year. It's more important to find out who the investors know than to spend a lot of money or time on an elaborate business plan. It's important to have the elevator pitch, a presentation and an efficient business plan all mapped out since you dn't know how long you will have to present your plan. We like getting qualified introductions from people in our network who we deal with on a regular basis. There isn't one place to find young entrepreneurs. We are on average initially introduced to a company about two years before we invest in them.
Tom: It's about networking. The people you meet may not be in a position to provide services, but that relationship you have with them may play out to help you out along the road. I never want to send someone away empty but help them connect with someone else who may be able to help them. You're one person away from the person you want to reach, as long as you network yourself and know who is in your network.
Lee: Develop a clean, concise way of communicating what is you are doing. If it doesn't land on the proper ears, it's just going to go to waste. When you're networking, you never know who will be able to help you. likely from someone you didn't expect. Who are gatekeepers for the entrepreneurs?

Lee: We're very interested in hearing about what is going on. Whether you're ever going to be a client or not, our culture is to listen and spend time getting to know you and we never know where it's going to lead and want to be a part of the success it can make. We will make introductions as often and best we can.
David: We like to spend some time with the prospective client, understand who they are nd what their business is. That qualified introduction is helpful to them in the vetting process. As many business plans as they see, it's helpful for a comany looking to make money to be introduced by a professional advisor. That doesn't guarantee you'll get financed but it ensures that someone pays close attention to your business. What else can you bring to the table besides cash?
Matt: It's the network we can provide. Our network consists of 75 entreprneurs who have been in your shoes before and understand. Our involvement really flexes on the need of the entrepreneur.

Tom: Know what market to buy into. Certain things are favored and certain things aren't. You won't be able to change that. Do your homework and know what they do. As you look at the market, try to match personalities. Use your advisors - they'll be able to tell you if it's a fit. Think about what you're selling versus what the market is buying. Early stage development is really difficult to do right now compared to a few years ago, it used to be really easy for early stage development. Don't try to sell an early stage idea to a later-stage company. Try to match as best as possible. There's always some money source.
David: Industry focus and appetite, also. Some investors ultimatley like to invest in things, deals, people, and companies that they understand. You're less likely to get funded if they can't understand your business plan. Advisors can help identify who best to target.How important is my management team?
Tom: It depends on the investor. An entrepreneur is smart enough to know that a small piece of something great is better than nothing of something else.

David: Very rarely do you see an early stage company that has a management team in place.
How important is evaluation?
David: If you've got a great idea but nothing sitting behind it, it's not worth much. What is the business plan? Sales channels, marketing plan?
Lee: Your financial projections will take a pounding. A lot of entrepreneurs have spent a lot of time building elaborate models, it can be surprising how a potential investor will look at it and find a big hole that they're very interested in- the risky portion of what is actually going to drive the revenues. Having spent your time on building realistic projections, whatever you do, be real about it with the absolute worst case scenario.What is one piece of advice to give entrepreneurs?
Lee: Be very realistic about your expectations. Delivery should be optimistic, but projections should be somewhat pessimistic.
Tom: A very strong relationship and network is important for differentiation.
David: Be sure to build your network rigorously. Your integrity is of the utmost importance.

Matt: Don't be too evaluation-focused early on. Evaluation only matters on the exit. Be focused on getting a good partner that you think you can build the company over time.

I spaced out the panel comments by three(3)... no relation to how the conversation was.


Basics of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship has been around a long time... perhaps even longer than Capitalism! In early Egypt, Pharaohs would compete with one another to see who could build the better monument(aka mouse trap). Ultimately, the Pyramids and the Great Sphinx won out. Who remembers the Luxor Temple anyway? Unless, you've been to Egypt no one. Most people think of the Luxor Hotel & Casino instead.

Being successful in entrepreneurship or business means you have to make a lasting impression. People(consumers) have to remember who you are, what you are, and definitely why they need you or your product/service. Can anyone say they still have a walkman or discman? Probably not, but everyone is familiar with the Ipod and if I'm not mistaken they are building Ipod ports and jacks into furniture now. I bet that the Ipod will be around for a long time and who knows maybe the Pyramids will get retrofitted one day with an Ipod dock so they can play 'Walk like an Egyptian' for the tourists.

What will be your lasting impression in the world of Entrepreneurship?

New Economy's Dynamism