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Letter of gratitude from Lets Grow Up! leaders conference

Just a quick note of sincere gratitude for everyone who participated in our Let's Grow Up! Leaders conference. Leaders, as well as spouses were in attendance to share the IPA Family message.  I want to share a letter I received from a spouse: Dear Dave; Thank you (and IPA) so much for the fabulous getaway that was recently provided to Jacqueline and myself, not to mention the truly amazing and generous Home Depot gift card.  Not only was it wonderful to be invited to participate in the event (including the meetings), but as a spouse it was even more rewarding to witness first hand the first class, supportive and family oriented nature of IPA.  It has been said that a company takes on the demeanor and attributes of those who run it.  That is certainly true of IPA as the honesty, integrity, compassion, drive and thoughtfulness of yourself, the rest of the IPA executive team and your spouses certainly shines through.  I truly feel blessed to be a part of the IPA team and truly appreciate your generosity and thoughtfulness. With Warmest Regards, Jake Schroeder P.S.  my honey-do list is getting shorter, thanks to you!   Thank you Jake for those kind words of appreciation. It was both great and clear, what a true committed focus is to serving a sales force customer and what it truly takes to make sure you are serving them and their families through a great public company organization such as IPA and IHC!        

Strive for Excellence

In most everyone's professional lives, we have come across this phrase or slogan at least once if not a thousand times. It's common place in many companies Mission Statement, it's common with motivational speaking, it's basically, nearly everywhere. The point to this blog is to explore what this actually means and how it applies to small business and small business leadership. 1. Excellence is a state of mind. Excellence is not something you can just decide to ask for. It's not something that just appears with little or no effort. Excellence has to be a part of your culture, your nature. How is this possible? You have to asses your thinking and determine if excellence is your priority or if it's not. If it is not, you have to modify your approach and challenge yourself. Make excellence your mindset. 2. Excellence isn't something you preach. Everyone has heard the term, practice what you preach. Everyone has heard, talk the talk or walk the walk.  When it comes to the strive for excellence, this has never been more true. You can't possibly expect more than your are willing to give. Even with the most eloquent of words, it means absolutley nothing if you do not hold yourself to the same standard or expectation of excellence. 3. Excellence is 24/7. Truly striving to achieve excellence is a constant and neverending ideal. There is no such thing as, normally that's not ok but, we will let that go this once. This creates a window, a leak that will disrupt and sometimes cannibalize your goal. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. ALL THE TIME!!!! Those small moments that we think don't matter or can't possibly hurt us are the most imperative in your strive for excellence. Those moments are the real moments that matter. If you waiver in those moments, you're mindset isn't set on excellence at all. You have to take a moment and count on your instincts, make sure that your decision is reflective of your goal. Striving to maintain a standard of excellence has never been described as easy by anyone that truly is working towards it. It takes constant dedication and a will to be something many in the business world can't be. Frankly, a will to be something that many in the current business world, wouldn't even attempt to be.

Life Lessons From Small Business

Over the years, everyone matures and learns from their mistakes and triumphs. In all of these cases, the lessons learned are put into use in all aspects of our lives. So that started me thinking, what is it that we can take from our business experience that applies to our personal lives? I came up with a few lessons that would translate directly from business to personal life, even if a couple may take some imagination. So with that being said, let's get to the meat of the matter. 1. A great weakness can become a great asset with hard work. Let's be honest, most of us will shy away from something if we know it's not exactly our forte. Actually, most of us will run for the hills. That's OK to be honest but, if we wish to grow and mature we must attack these things. Put in the work needed to improve and re-develop our skills. Even though we may never actually get a whole lot better in our weakest areas, it's the attitude and mentality we develop that becomes the asset. The training ourselves not to shrink away but, move forward regardless, is what we take away. If that's not a great asset in business and life then I truly don't know what is. 2. We define our own success. Comparison must be hard-wired into us as human beings. After all, we do it from very young ages. Distinguishing ourselves from other around us, helps us define our own identities. There is one problem with this, as we grow the comparison factor can eat us alive. As we mature, most of us will tend to reject it and strive to "do our own thing". This is the point entirely, whether it's business or personal life, we set our own goals, we make our own choices, we accept our own accountability. It's very simple, it truly doesn't matter what everyone else is doing if we are comfortable in our own circumstance. My definition of success, enjoying the life I am living. That's the point right? 3. All about substance. In our lives there are times when frustration can mount. Watching the new start up company hit a homerun seemingly overnight as we work hard for everything. Sometimes it's about luck, sometimes it's about amazing talent. Don't waste energy analyzing the why. Learn from the good things they do and don't worry about anything else. It's only possible to become an expert in your field if you put in the necessary work. Develop and treat your field like an art form. That's where the substance comes from. Understanding and knowledge come through experience, and that takes.......time. 4. If you don't evolve you go backwards. The goal is to grow. The goal is to keep moving forward. Whether it's business or personal, the ability to evolve and adapt is a key factor. Nothing in the natural world stands still. It's born, it grows, it withers, it dies. It's a cycle that we all are apart of. We are not serving anyone or ourselves by not attempting to move forward, by staying stuck. Don't fear what you don't know, treat them as the opportunity to learn something new. After all, nothing stands still. 5. Choice is a business and personal asset. We all know the power of positive thinking. We have all heard someone use "Power of Choice". This goes beyond a corny slogan or tagline. It's simple. Believe in your ability, believe in your power to affect the outcome. Nothing is ever completely out of your hands, remember you have the ability to choose. You can choose to participate or not. In business and life, if it doesn't feel right then choose. If it appears to be risky, then choose. Nothing is more powerful than your ability to choose. Nothing. Please let us now if you have any lessons you have learned that translate between your business and personal lives. We would enjoy hearing from you.

The Most Valued Leadership Quality

If you could build the perfect business leader, what would be the quality you put the most emphasis on? Would it be motivation skills? Or maybe, ability to communicate with others? Well, truth be told, the most sought after quality in a leader should almost always come down to strategy execution. Being able to develop and execute business strategy should be the most important. If a leader is proficient in this area, they are most certainly going to be strong across the board in nearly all of the qualities needed. Companies value leaders who can achieve results through others. The ability to place the team in the best position to meet and achieve goals is key. This requires an understanding of strength and appropriate placement techniques. In tough economic times, such as these, employees desire more communication and clarity centered around achievement of goals. They want to see their leaders and know they are being lead by example and not just directed and left to fend for themselves. It is key, for a companies workforce to know that their leadership is just a dedicated and willing to sacrifice, as they are asked to be. It is up to leaders within the workforce to provide the clarity but, not just through their words. Action is everything.   Quality leaders make it a focus to encourage internal development. This is huge factor in the execution of strategy. Recognizing the talents and utilizing your workforce to make the execution of strategy easier and more seamless will increase morale. Boost the accountability within your team, through more involvement in the initial phases. After all, every quality leader knows, the fastest way to increase productivity is to listen to those in your team that are the "producers". A leader that excels in strategy execution understands and believes in this process and will go back to this well, time and time again. Bottom line is everyone wants someone who can get the job done. It's those that can take a plan and accomplish the goal in the most efficient manner, in good and bad times, that will be regarded as true leaders in small business.

Rely On Your Ability……..

Rely on your ability......... Seems pretty straight forward and yet, there are many of us, that will wonder exactly how it translates to our daily business lives. It's very simple. Understand your where you excel and utilize your strength. For instance, if you are an overachiever with numbers, make this a part of other tasks you have to perform. If you have to give a sales presentation, focus a portion of the presentation on "numbers". Your comfort will show through from start to finish and the client will also be more comfortable. Approach every aspect of your business possible with your strengths in mind. If your confidence is high, your results will usually reflect this. Being out of your comfort zone from time to time is unavoidable but, if you change the way you work toward your solutions your ease of operation can increase greatly. Now of course, this doesn't mean that we should only participate in the tasking we deem to be strengths. It just means, if you recognize that your abilities are stronger in one area than another, learn how to incorporate the two. This is possible, and for increased successes it has to be. Tailor your approach to showcase where you are the strongest. If your comfort level is at it's highest possible levels, all areas of your performance are affected. Your attitude toward a task is at it's best when you feel good about how you will accomplish your goal. Your problem solving skills are optimized when anxiety and nervousness are decreased. Every aspect of your business life will benefit, every aspect of your personal life will benefit. Rely on your ability, rely on what got you to this point. Just because you may seem to be out of your element doesn't mean you can't rein things in and take your performance to a new level. Remember how you got here and utilize it to increase your success.

Consumer Perception Strategies for Small Business

Let's face it, consumer perception is a major force in business. Whether it's a global company or a fledgling start up, you can have the greatest product or service in the world but, when it comes to getting others to buy and use it, what matters is how your customers view it. Everyone knows that perception is not always based on quality and performance alone. One of the biggest factors in consumer perception is "branding" or getting your company to the forefront. Gaining that market recognition is the ambition of most companies and very few actually have it. In reality, the companies that have succeeded do so because they have learned the right strategies to use. Here are a few strategies that will help you in the right direction when it comes to tackling your consumer perception. 1. Connect on an emotional level. People make decisions about products in the same ways they make decisions about other people. First emotionally, then logically. In many cases, the initial reaction is purely an emotional one. It is only later, that their decision is based on rationalizations. So how can you and your company capitalize on this instinct? Simple. Market your product as something familiar, something consumers already use and have a comfort level with. Comfort is an emotion, a strong emotion. In fact, when was the last time you made a purchase of any kind without having a comfort level with the product or service. 2. Maintain visibility in the market. The most proven way to make something stick in the mind of someone is to make sure they see it as often as possible. No matter what industry you are in, if you are impossible to find, you are impossible to do business with. Time must be well spent with this as a consideration. With the small business owner in mind, this doesn't mean a hugely expensive advertising campaign. It does however mean, putting in the time to market research and explore more budget friendly ways to get your company and it's products out there. Invest your time and as the clients do find you, make sure to make their experience is more than they could have expected. This is a must.  Remember, word of mouth advertising is the least expensive and the most effective way to get noticed. 3. Distinguish yourself All businesses aspire to be at the top of the list. Be a trend-setter. Businesses that can maintain a trend-setting mindset and innovative image will always have a leg up on the competition. Work at  being unique in comparison to your competition. There is never a scarcity of consumers that wish to be in business with the most innovative and trendiest product. 4. Make people feel comfortable with your business and it's products. Consumers are creatures of habit. If you are able to portray a feeling of comfort, make the client feel as though your product is what they are already using for their current need, just better. You are well on your way. Perception starts with comfort and capitalizing on that is a must. 5. Do not neglect your core. All of the techniques used to draw a consumer to your business will be for not if you do not have the quality of product you say you do. Millions have been spent by massive companies, only to watch it all do nothing because the eye wasn't on the right ball. Be absolute in your core criteria, be certain that what you are presenting is exactly what you claim it be and more. All the tactics in consumer perception are useless if they do not have foundation. Fact. Remember, a good first impression is outstanding but, it's a good lasting impression that will keep your small business around. Please feel free to comment and tell us your consumer perception strategies.

C.A.R.E for Small Business Sales

What are the most taxing or stressful sides to the operation of a small business? If we could gather 10 small business owners in a room and ask that question, I would be willing to bet, 8 of the 10 would end up implicating the sales and marketing areas as the most taxing or stressful parts of operating  a small business. There are many reasons each one would say this, and chances are, most would probably not have the same reasons. One of the factors that everyone would have in common is the process of generating the sales and turning the prospect into, The Client. There are many ways you can succeed in the sales generation world. Often times, simplifying your approach can give you a step toward accomplishing a higher percentage of prospect to client progression. Below is a breakdown of an approach titled, C.A.R.E, which is designed to take some of the pressures away and easing your approach in this area. C------Confidence All you have to remember is, when meeting with a client, they are there for a reason. Having the confidence to recognize and capitalize on this is a sure way to increase your client base. Be confident in your knowledge of your product or service. A client will feel they are in good hands if they see you know what you are doing. Be confident in your company and your  ability to be the solution. Make sure you communicate your solutions to the clients "reason for being there." Be confident that your meeting is the last  one this client will even need. Arrogance can backfire but, a strong and confident sales approach will send a resounding message to the client and, more than likely, give them to comfort needed to allow you to be their solution. A------Accountability Lay out in clear terms for your client where the accountabilities lie for every possible part of your future business relationship. Don't leave anything to chance, and your dedication to the details will pay off big. A client wants to know how things will operate and what you will be able to accomplish for them after the point of sale. Few and far between are the moments of making the sale and that's a done deal. Most cases, the point of sale is just the starting gate. If the client understands your intention and your drive to hold yourself and your business accountable, things shift from expectation to information. This instills confidence and allows for an informed decision on their part. R-------Respect Respect can be shown in multiple ways. This doesn't refer to just being polite and using the proper vernacular when conversating with your client. It goes much further than that. Respect refers to dedicating the time needed to understanding exactly what it is your client is asking of you. It refers to your ability to provide a detailed and specific solution to your client's needs. Giving your client your best, is the respect they are asking for. Even the smallest of details, will not seem so small, if you don't take the time to ensure they have been accounted for and integrated in the solution you provide. Remember, it's much easier to lose a client than it is gain one. Respect is a huge part of that. E-------Efficient The time which holds the most value, is the time your client is taking to meet with you. Be organized, be timely, and be mindful. If you do not take their time into consideration, you will seem disorganized and inefficient. Being efficient isn't always about an exact timeline but, the effective management of it. Always factor in efficiency, and communicate your efforts in this area, when providing your solution to your client. Confidence, Accountability, Respect, and Efficiency. Four very simple, yet very important parts to simplifying your sales process. Sales generation can be daunting for small business owners. Why not make it as simple as possible? We hope C.A.R.E can assist you in reaching your sales potentials and alleviate some of the anxiety that can be linked to the sales  

Evaluate Yourself as a Leader…….

As an entrepreneur, the ability to provide effective and quality leadership within your small business is a big part of success. How do we know that we are providing quality leadership? How do we know if we are effective as a leader at all? Evaluation of our leadership skills can provide valuable insight, and allow for positive change in this area. In this entry, we will discuss a few areas to focus on when thinking about the leadership factors and allow ourselves to set the bar for the future. 1. Communication is a multi lane highway. This area should always be the first place we start when thinking along the leadership lines. It's one thing to be able to communicate directions and get the desired response. It's quite another to understand that listening, is possibly even more important. Give people your time in the manner you expect them to allow time for you. Ideas come from all areas and at no set time. Be ready at all times to take advantage of a good idea and make sure you are open enough in communication, to hear any new ideas that come your way. 2. Motivate There is a simple truth to motivation that many of us miss. The only person that we can truly motivate, is ourselves. Each individual is actually responsible for motivating themselves. Truly effective leadership recognizes this, and provides the tools needed to allow each individual the drive needed  to become motivated. Keying in on strengths and areas of weakness, understanding what they mean and how to utilize them makes this much easier. 3. Openly value relationships. More often than not, most of us could stand to communicate value much more. With that being said, communication of value isn't enough. How do you show someone you value them? It's much easier than we might think. Accept each person as an individual; ask them for their input; listen carefully, so you understand the input and do your absolute best to utilize the input you receive. Lastly, be sure to make it a point to recognize a job well done. 4. Take responsibility for your own actions first. In a leadership role it can be easier to place blame if something doesn't go the way we planned or wanted. This is a trap we must avoid. Recognize your own accountability first and foremost and when you need to touch on someone else's, the task become much easier. 5. Ego gets checked at the door. Understand that every person holds the same value as everyone else. A small business can change from one day to the next and with that, the perception of value can also. Remember that from project to project, focus may change and each person involved will have their chance to be a main contributor. Thinking big picture, will help this along. Also, allow each person to serve their function and provide direction when needed. This principle applies when dealing with just yourself or many associates. Priority is always completion of tasks the right way. Communicate, provide the tools to self-motivate, value openly, accountability and humility. With a little bit of hard work and dedication, becoming a better leader is a few steps away. Please feel free to leave your comments. We would love to hear your thoughts on leaderships and how to improve.

How to Mesmerize Your Customer

Small business owners are forever looking to maintain the advantage over their larger competitors when it comes to customer relations. Why wouldn't you? It's the only true advantage that you have from the onset. Personal service in a way the larger corporations just can't keep pace with. With this being said, entrepreneurs are also looking for ways to innovate the customer service process and that may not be completely necessary. If you stay focused on the fundamentals and do them well, that could be all the innovation you ever need. Here are a few tips for mesmerizing your client and maintaining the edge for your small business. 1. Create a comfortable environment. The most basic of our tips. Be likable, be competent and be passionate about your product or service. Staying positive while you interact with a client is key. Greet them with a smile and thank them with a smile. This goes a long way. Understand what you are doing, work hard to make sure the client is informed and give them all the information you would want, if you were in their shoes. Lastly, be passionate. Tell the client how you feel about the product, if you have personal experience or have received customer feedback, let them know your thoughts on it. Likeability, competence and passion. Very simple and very important. 2. Make it easy to start and finish the purchase. Make it as easy as you can for your customer to get the ball rolling with your business. Avoid asking people to fill out long drawn out sheets with tons of personal information to begin their transaction. Most consumers are ready to move, once they have made the decision to purchase your product or service, so streamline the transaction process in any way you can. Think in these terms, if you wouldn't want to go through certain steps to make a purchase, do not ask your client's to do it. 3. Show them that you trust them. Easy rule for you to remember. If you don't trust them, they will not trust you. Make the hassle free concept extend beyond the sale itself. If a client brings a concern to you about the product, give them a solution. Make it timely and do it without needing a ton of information. They have shown you their faith in your product by spending their hard earned money on it. So show them you have faith in them and the issue they have presented and make it right as soon as possible. 4. Communicate in direct and simple terms. When working on providing your client with the information they need, speak clearly and break down your product or service so it's easy to understand. This is not to imply any ignorance on your customers end. One example, if you are on the market for a mp3 device, although you know how many gigs it is, you will have questions. How much music can I put on the device? Will it do video? These are simple questions that most consumers will ask of you when deciding to make a purchase. Have your information ready and when asked, give them the answers they need. 5. Consider the influence for the purchase. In most cases the person that pays for a product or service is the person that decided to make the purchase in the first place. Key influencers can be a spouse, child, co-worker and so on. Ask the appropriate questions and get the appropriate answers. This shows the customer you are taking everything into consideration and take providing a solution for them very seriously. 6. Bad news isn't always bad, if your timing is good. Sometimes products have problems. Most businesses try to minimize the effect of bad news on the client. If you have to deliver bad news, make sure to deliver your plans for a solution in the next breath. Avoid leaving the customer asking the who, what, when and where's. 9 times out of 10, your being forthcoming and explaining what you are gonna do about the issue will keep the customers loyal and happy. Avoid taking the phone call from them that tells you what is going on. If you see the potential for a problem, communicate what you are going to do for them in a timely manner. In closing, remember the single most effective way to mesmerize your client is to be positive. A positive attitude covers every aspect of thier interraction with you and your business. The customer is right and reasonable until proven otherwise. It's better to keep the customer happy and maintain your relationship with them. A happy customer is the one that is likely to sell themselves and others on your product or service. Please feel free to leave a comment. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Carving Your Niche in a Crowded Market

When looking into starting a small business, many potential entrepreneurs will evaluate saturation levels within a given market. This can be a huge factor in the decision to start the venture or find a different area of focus. It may appear that particular industries are packed with competition, making it not worth the time or effort to jump in. Don't let a crowded market fool you. There are ways to stand out and get your small business noticed even when it seems like around every corner is the competition.  1. Personalize your customer's experience. When you are striving to become a mainstay in a given market, you have to get creative and focus on what it is that will seperate your business from the pack. Customer service and customer relations are excellent areas to focus on. Being a small business, your level of service can put you at a distinct advantage over some of your larger competitors. Key in on this,and be certain to capitalize on this advantage. Make the customer the primary focus of business. Every client knows that you are in business to turn a profit but, going the extra mile to ensure that they will choose your business next time is highly appreciated. At every possible opportunity, use the client's name. Mr. or Mrs. Smith will enjoy the touch. Focus on maintaining a positive demeanor and make sure to greet and thank every client for their business. Ask as may questions as you can think of that may help you serve the client better. Be honest at all costs, explain exactly what your capabilities are and why your product or service is the client's best option as a solution. Overall, take the time to ensure the client is content with their purchase and feels as though they were treated like family. 2. Set the trends and lead from the front. When selling a product or service that is very common, consider going outside the normal expectations of the industry. Don't allow the fear to limit what you can or cannot do. For example, if you opened a hamburger joint, trying to compete with some of the giants would do you no good at all. Take the template and flip it upside down if you have to, just make it different. In any given market, there are what would be referred to as industry standards. Push the limits of these standards and still maintain or exceed the quality aspects. Make your product different in any way you can, as long as it's not a sacrifice in the quality of your product or service. There are many ways to accomplish this, for example, in the hamburger world very few establishments work toward carving a niche. Most just try and make as many burgers as possible at the lowest price point possible. This works but, will hardly get you noticed. The same is true in any industry. Being a small business, this isn't a luxury that can be afforded. Take the quality standards and exceed them, take the time to insure your client base will return to you when the need arises in the future. 3. Focus on smaller parts of the pie. If you're a newcomer in a saturated market, look for the slice of the market that is not getting the attention and start there. Find the best possible way to fill that need and run with it. Your product or service may be similar in many aspects to the competition's but, knowing what will ensure your client's needs are thoroughly met,  can pay big dividends. Evaluate all the market facts and work forward. Excel in a given area and give your client's something to talk about. Once again, just because a given market has a high level of saturation does not insure you will not be able to prosper within it. Do not accept being bound by the market's standards. Strive to be as original as possible. Make this your goal and carve your own niche. Keep in mind, saturation levels in a given market can be an indicator of it's overall strength. Please feel free to leave your comments. We would love to hear them.