Tag Archive | "Inc."

The Secret Trait All Successful Salespeople Share, According to Science


In 1960, toymaker Harold von Braunhut created a product he felt certain would be his biggest hit to date–a dehydrated strain of brine shrimp that could be reanimated simply by adding water, reports Inc. He named his product Instant Life and waited for the dollars to roll in.

The product flopped spectacularly.

But Harold von Braunhut was a persistent man. He decided that the problem with his sales had little to do with what he was offering and far more to do with how he was offering it. So von Braunhut completely revamped his marketing approach.

He renamed his tiny life forms Sea-Monkeys and rolled out an advertisement depicting them as a smiling family of finned beings who would “swim, play, scoot, race, and do comical tricks and stunts” in front of their underwater castle home. He ran these ads in the back pages of comic books, amidst fantastic tales of superheroes and otherworldly adventures.

Anyone who bought these Sea-Monkeys should have realized almost immediately that the primitive organisms floating in their bowl bore little resemblance to the magical creatures von Braunhut had cooked up for the ad. Yet Sea-Monkeys made Harold von Braunhut a multimillionaire many times over, and continue to sell three million units a year even today.

Why?

A Psychological Tactic All Great Salespeople Use

The phenomenon behind von Braunhut’s success is what neurologists and psychologists refer to as “cognitive priming.” In other words, human beings are wired to see what we want to see. The best salespeople and marketers are those who embrace this.

In the case of von Braunhut, everything about his approach–from the whimsical drawings to the enclosed magnifying lenses–made buyers really, really want to believe in the vision he helped them build up in their heads. He intentionally selected messaging to filter for a target audience that had proven themselves willing to enter directly into a world of imagination. Then, all he had to do was provide the fuel for their fantasies.

The reality is that when people are making a decision about whether to buy something, they follow their feelings, perceptions, and desires above all else. What the heart wants to believe, the mind will accept. Those who accept and master this central truth will never want for customers.

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Bridging the Generation Gap


From the earliest stages of the nomination and selection process, we realized that a significant portion of our list would be comprised of relatives of established executives and business owners. Once this became clear, we decided to sit down with their elders to discuss the challenges and opportunities that arise when members of the next generation elect to follow them into the family business.

We quickly learned that, no matter the nature of the business or the role assumed by their progeny, several universal truths apply: There are no shortcuts to success, family members may have to work harder than their fellow employees to prove they belong and, most importantly, their very presence is a good sign the organization is moving in the right direction.

The Ultimate Compliment

When Jim Maxim Sr., founder of Profit By Design — the F&I development company formerly known as Maxim Automotive — received a call from his son, Jim Maxim Jr., asking to join the family business, he was as surprised as he was elated.

“It was one of my most humbling moments,” he says. “Your children know you best, and he wanted to come work with me.”

Compounding the compliment was the fact that, at the time, the younger Maxim was a rising star among the executive ranks of the technology sector, having enjoyed successful tenures at General Electric and Lucent Technologies. Despite the fact that his company’s bottom line had “a few less zeroes,” in Jim Sr.’s words, Jim Jr. was undeterred. “It’s not about the zeroes. It’s what we can make of it,” his father recalls him saying, and their course was set. Jim Jr. was put in charge of a new company, MaximTrak Technologies, which would grow into a leading provider of menu and reporting services.

“The wealth of experience he drew from gave him the ability to think and design globally,” Jim Sr. says. “I’m thankful to God to have a tight-knit family. It’s a dream come true for a father.”

That dream came true twice for Randy Crisorio, president and CEO of United Development Systems Inc. (UDS), when sons Jeff and Brian became full-time employees in 1998 and 2002, respectively. For Randy, the prospect of bringing his sons on board forced him to think long-term.

“We always wanted to grow and get ahead, but I really became aware that I wanted to leave the business in great shape based on what we had built and my family’s involvement in the company,” he says. “I did have the same feelings with employees, but it was heightened by a large margin when family got involved.”

Today, Jeff and Brian both serve as vice presidents with distinct areas of focus. Both worked in the box for dealer clients before joining the executive track, and both have sold and developed new dealer clients, which remains Jeff’s focus. Brian, a marketing expert, primarily works on corporate communications as well as internal strategies and planning.

“I’m already a very lucky guy to have two sons in the business,” Randy says. “But to have two confident, successful sons in the business, for me, is just spectacular.”

For Bill Nisson, owner and president of PermaPlate, the opportunity to work with his son, John, came when John’s former employer, Callaway Golf Co., announced plans to move part of its operations to Mexico.

“I encouraged John to come work for the family business. Callaway’s not a bad job — we’re kind of a golfing family,” Bill jokes. “But he decided that [PermaPlate] wouldn’t be a bad move. He joined the company about six years ago and he has done very well.” The keys to John’s success, his father says, are his work ethic and humility, coupled with a productive partnership with the company’s CFO, Brett Hutchinson. “They just seem to be a great duo. They’re bringing in business and crunching the numbers. I never thought I’d be doing this well, and then the kid came in wanting to do just as well. It’s been great to see him succeed.”

Working Overtime

Bill Nisson notes that it wasn’t he who nominated his son for inclusion in this issue. “I had nothing to do with it. It was his team that put him up because of how well he’s liked.”

John Peterson, the former principal of The Oak Group, says hard work, among other qualities, helped his nephew, Eric Peterson, put aside any fears or perceptions of an unfair advantage.

“Eric rose to the challenge,” John says. “I could lay many accolades on him — hard work, devotion, his empathy, his honesty and everything else. He’s a great, great guy, and Oak was very fortunate that he came to work for them.” If Eric did have an advantage in his rise to the rank of executive vice president of sales, his uncle says, it was the fact that his father served as general manager of several dealerships when he was growing up. “He loves the car business. His passion for the car business gives him a good head start over other people.”

When the possibility of Mark Thorpe’s son, Garrett, joining him at The Impact Group was raised, he was determined to involve his staff in the decision early enough to head off any charges of nepotism.

“Everyone was in favor, but also not exactly sure how it would work out,” Mark says. “In our case, it was easy, because Garrett was determined to learn and grow and the staff saw his dedication and hard work.”

“As a family member, you have to work twice as hard and not just follow the other family member’s success,” says Tony Wanderon, president and CEO of National Auto Care (NAC). “Be proud of where you came from, but set your own path to success.”

Wanderon’s son, Spencer, graduated college around the same time Tony and his sister, Courtney, were launching Family First Dealer Services (FFDS), which merged with NAC in 2013. Tony worked for his own father, he adds, and his wife, Christine, has been deeply involved in the venture as well. He believes that, when welcoming the next generation into your business, it’s important to look at the situation from both sides.

“Remember that it’s hard to work for a family member,” he advises. “Remember that you were most likely very similar, if it’s a son or daughter, and you may see things that they do that remind you of both the positives and negatives of a younger you. … Lastly, just because you are a family member does not mean that you will take it over. That’s something that has to be earned.”

Today, Spencer serves as NAC’s Northeast regional sales manager, and Tony says the “mutual respect and patience” shared between father and son has helped make the marriage of work and family a happy one. “That said, I am a proud dad first, today, of Spencer’s nomination for this recognition.”

Mark Macek’s nephew, Kevin Macek, joined United States Warranty Corp. as a product specialist three years ago after a successful first career as a finance company executive. Mark, the company’s president, is certain Kevin’s future is bright, and it has nothing to do with his last name.

“We put him in charge of ancillary products, and he has done a great job,” Mark Macek says. “He’s been working with vendors and he’s brought a lot of new products to the table.” Considering the company was started by his own father-in-law, Mark says he is fully aware of the added pressure his nephew faces.

“Expectations are higher. The spotlight’s on you a little more. My father-in-law expected a lot more out of me than anyone else, and I expect the same out of Kevin. … We do put higher expectations on family members. I think anyone would.”

“I’ve seen dealers and other people have kids in a responsible position, and they can take it all for granted and really ruin your business,” Bill Nisson says. “They need to bring it. They have dues to pay. They may have to work a little bit longer until they can really prove themselves.”

Enthusiasm vs. Experience

With youth comes enthusiasm, a rare and precious resource that the executives we interviewed agreed should be mined for all it’s worth.

“I don’t know that you should ever mute enthusiasm or passion in anyone,” Wanderon says. “To me, you can teach many things, but you cannot teach enthusiasm. In many cases, letting it go allows everyone to learn how much is needed.”

The passion for technology and relevant experience Jim Maxim Jr. brought to the table were intrinsic to the development of the original MaximTrak menu, and the timing was perfect, according to Jim Sr., who says he had experimented with other menu providers who he believed had failed to fully capitalize on what was still a relatively new concept.

“When I first heard of menu selling, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” he says. “The idea that we could present all the products to all the customers and have proof we did it was a very unique idea to every vendor. … Jim was able to bring the training and processes that we needed as a small company.”

“I don’t micromanage. If they have some good ideas, I let them run with it. If they fail, that’s fine,” Macek says. “Believe me, I’ve brought stuff to the table that hasn’t panned out. But that’s the way to do it, in my personal opinion.”

John Peterson would agree.

“I say let them make decisions — and discuss the intended possible positive and negative outcomes — but let them make decisions,” he says. “Decision-making is an important part of management training.”

“Everybody has their own ideas,” Crisorio adds. “They’re individuals as well. I think Jeff and Brian respect the experience I have and I now respect the experience they have. I can tell you that, when they were 14 and 15, they were etching cars on lots with stencils. They’ve been around the industry for a long time.”

“Anyone who has grown up in a family where the dinner conversation is about the business knows exactly what the reality of that business is,” Mark Thorpe says. “In our case, I think there is a great continuity of understanding between us. If anything, Garrett has to be the one to hold me back!”

Changing Hands

Welcoming family members into a business often forces the issue of how and when to transfer ownership — without sacrificing the security of one’s own retirement.

“It’s a dicey situation, to tell you the truth,” says Bill Nisson, who is working with his CFO, attorneys and financial planners to create a plan to pass the business on. “We want to build an enterprise that keeps on going. You do that by transferring stock at different times.”

Mark Macek says he and his wife are among several stockholders in U.S. Warranty and describes the transfer as a “gradual process.”

“Down the road, Kevin probably will have that opportunity,” he says. “We reward our key employees with stock options. … It’s not just family members that are going to take this business further. It’s all those who have dedicated themselves to the growth of the business.”

“You have to start with a well-run company,” Mark Thorpe says, noting that, although he doesn’t have a retirement date in mind, he is already confident The Impact Group could run without him. “I’m very lucky that I sincerely love what I do and whom I do it with. But I’m also a realist and know that there will come a time when I’ll feather it back a bit. As that time approaches, we’ll execute our plan for stock transfers, and I’m confident that Garrett and the rest of his staff will be ready.”

The long-term financial stability of the company should be the paramount goal, Thorpe adds, and that requires input from all sides. “Have a clear, agreed-upon plan for where you’re heading. Innovate, innovate, innovate. Finally, learn to let go.”

Randy Crisorio recommends “a good structure by a competent attorney” and, like Thorpe, has no concrete plans for retirement. “I don’t see a drop-off point where I’m going golfing. I like what we do,” he says. “So I will continue to work for the foreseeable future, and I expect the boys to continue to pay me. The company has been quite successful and continues to be. I have every confidence in my sons to carry on.”

Fatherly Advice

Asked what advice he would give to a colleague whose son, daughter, niece or nephew wanted to join their business, Crisorio says he would offer his wholehearted encouragement.

“I would say, ‘That’s awesome. Get them some retail experience so they understand that side of the business. Spend time talking about what you want to do and look forward to their own accomplishments. Give them room to grow in the business. From your side, it will be great as time passes on, because you’ll know the business is taken care of.’”

“For the man that has a son who has the drive, the desire, the intellect, the capacity and the aptitude, why wouldn’t you support it 100% and let him take the reins?” Maxim asks. “Jim has more capacity than any man I’ve ever met in my life. He was able to take all of that and make MaximTrak a global entity.”

Nisson says he would caution other business owners to gauge their offspring’s performance by the same standards they apply to other employees. “I look at the financial statement. I also look at how the other employees interact with them. … You can tell by the personality of the kid and the types of decisions they make. And if they turn people off, you have to do something about it.”

“You have to be sure that the individual is a good fit, has the ability and temperament for the work, and is willing to earn their credibility through growth and hard work, not birthright,” Thorpe says.

“Make them earn it. Set them to a higher standard,” Macek adds. “Don’t show any favoritism. It won’t help you or your company if everyone else has to work harder to advance. Nepotism is human nature. You have to fight it.”

Peterson agrees, noting that applying a “universal” standard of success will secure the future of the company and every employee.

“Allow them to earn their own way,” he says. “Allow them to make it on their own, work hard and achieve something. I think that’s very important. It allows them to be proud of their accomplishments.”

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5 Skills of Really Amazing Listeners


Most people like to think what they have to say is important. If you or I make the effort to share thoughts, feelings, or knowledge, then we want to believe the intended recipient is listening, reports Inc. But honestly, many people are too distracted to really take it all in when someone else is doing the talking. What’s worse is that so many just watch mouths move, waiting for the chance to chime in.

Great leaders understand the value of active listening and get the most benefit from what others have to share. They understand that if you want to be heard and understood, the first step is learning how to listen yourself. The following are actions shared by those who truly know how to listen. Integrate them into your conversational behavior and you might be surprised what you learn.

1. Be present. Being “in the moment” is not just for yoga or Grateful Dead concerts. If you are going to take in what someone is saying, you have to truly focus your mental awareness on the person. Push distractions aside. Give a person the gift of your attention. Put down the smartphone, turn off your computer screen, put down the book or magazine, and look at him or her with a neutral or pleasant expression. Most people are so accustomed to having half of someone else’s focus at any given moment that this gesture alone will make them feel important and it will allow you to actually hear what they are saying.

2. Turn down the inner voice. Internal analysis of any conversation is unavoidable and necessary, but often it’s at the expense of objectivity. That voice can actually take over in your brain to the point at which you are no longer listening to the person talking and instead simply listening to the diatribe in your head. There is plenty of time after a conversation to assess the value of what you heard, but first you have to hear it. One technique for quieting the inner voice is simple note taking. Writing down even key words or short phrases will force you to absorb the information coming in. Then you can process it on your own outside the presence of the speaker. As an added benefit, you’ll have a more accurate representation of what was actually said for later discussion.

3. Hold up a mirror. This is a technique many psychologists and counselors recommend to help alleviate conflict. When the opportunity arises, speak up and describe for the person what you have just heard him or her say. It is OK to rephrase in your own words. Be sure to end with a request for confirmation: “So what you’re most concerned about is that the new hires lack training. Is that accurate?” The speaker then knows you are paying attention and fully engaged.

4. Ask for clarification. During a conversation, hunt for areas of interest where you might further inquire. Without derailing his or her train of thought, ask the speaker to expand and clarify: “What do you mean by ‘interesting?'” or “Why do you think that is so important?” The speaker will appreciate the interaction, and you will gain better understanding of the person’s perspective as well as your own perception of the information.

5. Establish follow-up. At the end of any conversation, discuss and determine if there are action steps required. This check-in will alert speakers to your actual concern for what they said, and help them assess their own relevancy to your needs. Express appreciation for their sharing, and let them know what you found to be valuable from the conversation. Making them feel heard increases the odds they’ll truly listen to you when you have something to say you believe is important.

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15 Surprising Characteristics of Top Leaders


I have had the privilege to work with some amazing leaders and help them and their companies on the way to success. I am always impressed with what they accomplish, and have noticed that most of them have many, if not all, of the following characteristics. What’s surprising about these traits is that they tend to run counter to the ones pop culture depicts entrepreneurs and leaders having, reports Inc. 

1. Rarely brag

A true leader is the last to talk about his or her accomplishments. When someone is constantly bragging and trying to one-up people, it’s a sign of insecurity and gets in the way of true success.

2. Show up on time

The best leaders are the first to a scheduled meeting. They know if it isn’t important to them, it won’t be important to everyone else attending. They understand that what they do speaks volumes over what they say.

3. Efficiently use time

While a true leader is the first to a meeting, he or she will be the first to end it when all of the topics are covered. Top leaders use every available second to stay on top of their game. They respond to emails and catch up on reading and writing in the spare moments in their schedules.

4. Respect others’ space

A leader knows that others need their space to get their work done. He or she gives the team time to get through their deliverables, and understands that hovering or micromanaging won’t move a project along any faster.

5. Are Friendly But Not Your Friend

An important characteristic of top leaders is the ability to walk the fine line of caring about those that work for them while maintaining a healthy level of distance. This approach is necessary for keeping relationships in perspective and allows a leader to make the right decisions for the company.

6. Don’t gossip

Workplaces are breeding grounds for gossip. Effective leaders stay above the fray. They know that gossip doesn’t move the company forward, results in poor company morale, and impacts overall culture.

7. Never complain

Even when times get tough, top leaders do not complain. They know they are responsible for setting the tone, and that negativity creates a domino effect across the organization. Instead of complaining, they will seek a way to change the situation to make it positive.

8. Delegate

Top leaders know they can’t do everything–and don’t want to. They surround themselves with smart people and give those individuals the tools and authority to get tasks accomplished. They see their success in the accomplishments of others (see No. 1).

9. Solution-oriented

Nothing is accomplished by focusing on what isn’t working. To be successful, a top leader and his or her organization must find ways to solve any problems. Top leaders insist their team members bring them possible solutions for whatever needs to be fixed in the organization or a process.

10. Responsive

When an employee, vendor, or contractor is waiting for a response, the delay is costing the company time or money. Effective leaders stay on top of the inquiries they receive. They understand that lack of responsiveness impacts the overall organization.

11. Actively participate and encourage others to do so

When in a meeting or a work session, leaders actively participate. Their involvement leads the team on to greater levels of effectiveness. They encourage others to contribute ideas, and they consider them as seriously as their own.

12. Confidently flexible

To lead a company, a leader must be confident in his or her instincts but willing to revise a plan when shown that another approach, direction, or result is more appropriate. The team is looking to the leader for assured, consistent direction, but also an ability to change course when presented with a good case.

13. Quiet

There are many examples of boisterous, outspoken entrepreneurs and business leaders. You see them on television shows and discussed in the media–from Richard Branson to Donald Trump to Mark Cuban. Unlike these pop culture icons of leadership, most top leaders, in my experience, are quiet, unassuming, and serve as the bedrock of their companies.

14. Consistent

Leaders of companies must do what they say they will do and be consistent in their approach and message. Our society is used to a certain level of inconsistency and will rally behind a consistent leader.

15. Persistent

Leaders have failed many times. They have persisted through these setbacks to reach their current status. The best success stories have equally interesting backstories of failures and frustrations.

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Closed Deal Announcement – Peakstone Advises The Oak Group on Strategic Alliance with Total Warranty Services, Inc.


The Oak Group has entered into a strategic alliance partnership with Total Warranty Services, Inc. (“TWS”) of West Palm Beach Florida.

Founded in 1975, The Oak Group (including its related affiliates) is a leading master general agency and third-party administrator of vehicle service contracts (“VSCs”) and related ancillary products sold through automotive dealerships nationwide. Oak’s managing principals, Steve Pearl and John Peterson, are two of the most respected industry leaders in the Automotive F&I industry and pioneers in product innovation in the F&I marketplace. They have built a highly successful agency that is also a leader in reinsurance, providing customized programs for automotive dealerships.

“Peakstone’s dedicated Auto F&I practice team, led by Brad Curtis, delivered us a terrific outcome and found us a great strategic partner to extend upon our longstanding reputation as a leader and innovator in Auto F&I products and administration,” said Steve Pearl. “Peakstone developed and executed on a highly targeted strategy and led every aspect of the process in a highly efficient and discrete manner and brought us a partner in TWS that will greatly benefit Oak’s customers by bringing additional strategic resources to the Oak platform,” Pearl said. John Peterson, added, “Peakstone delivered us numerous strategic options that enabled us to select the best partner for Oak employees and stakeholders for accelerated growth. We are extremely pleased with the result and we could not have found a better partner in TWS to build upon the Oak franchise.”

Peakstone has a dedicated practice covering the Automotive Finance & Insurance industry and has completed numerous transactions in the sector.

The Peakstone Group served as exclusive financial advisor to The Oak Group in connection with this transaction. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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15 Inspiring Quotes on Passion (Get Back to What You Love)


Via Inc.

I am passionate about social media. I’m passionate about helping small businesses. I’m passionate about playing with my wife and kids. I’m passionate about watching baseball and playing tennis. I’m passionate about writing and reading. Heck, I’m passionate about passion.

Passion is the energy that keeps us going, that keeps us filled with meaning, and happiness, and excitement, and anticipation. Passion is a powerful force in accomplishing anything you set your mind to, and in experiencing work and life the fullest extent possible.

Ultimately, passion is the driving force behind success and happiness that allows us all to live better lives.

I’m also passionate about quotes, and the power of quotes to inspire people. So, I thought I’d share my favorite quotes about passion with you. I share quotes like these with my team all the time. May these quotes inspire you to live a better life, and may they inspire those you share them with as well.

  1. “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
    -Harriet Tubman
  2. “There is no passion to be found playing small -in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
    -Nelson Mandela
  3. “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.”
    -Anthony J. D’Angelo
  4. “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”
    -Oprah Winfrey
  5. If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.”
    -Benjamin Franklin
  6. “We must act out passion before we can feel it.”
    -Jean-Paul Sartre
  7. “It is obvious that we can no more explain a passion to a person who has never experienced it than we can explain light to the blind.”
    -T. S. Eliot
  8. “Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate.”
    -Jon Bon Jovi
  9. “You can’t fake passion.”
    -Barbara Corcoran
  10. “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”
    ― Steve Jobs
  11. “Yes, in all my research, the greatest leaders looked inward and were able to tell a good story with authenticity and passion.”
    -Deepak Chopra
  12. “If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it.”
    -Wanda Skyes
  13. “If you don’t love what you do, you won’t do it with much conviction or passion.”
    -Mia Hamm
  14. It is the soul’s duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master passion.
    -Rebecca West
  15. My personal favorite quote on passion is from a man who clearly had way more talent than he claims in the quote:

  16. “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
    -Albert Einstein

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