About Us.News.Contact Us
CEO Success Blog. The blogosphere for Successful Business Owners.



Some Difficult, but Vital, Strategic Planning Questions Every Business Owner Should Ask Themselves Each Year

November 12th, 2019

During the last quarter each year, most business owners focus their attention on reeling in the year’s numbers, while also finalizing a plan to build a better, stronger company for the coming year and beyond.

It is no secret that failing to plan is planning to fail.  We also know that many private businesses that do construct a plan often fall short when it comes execution.  Despite these facts, and some relatively long odds against building a consistent, scalable, high-performance company, most private business owners plan poorly (or worse, not at all).  A large percentage of owners consistently choose to devote their attention to urgencies, busy-ness, and much less impactful activities, than to using a simple, time-tested formula for success.  They don’t fall short for lack of effort, they simply focus their attention upon low-value activities and projects, creating the need to work much harder than necessary.

Sometimes planning fails due to a lack of honesty and transparency, and/or a surplus of hope and optimism.  Optimism is great, but the planning process is a time to get very real. 

Finally, private companies tend to take on the behaviors, mindset, strengths, and weaknesses of their owner.  It is therefore not surprising at all to discover that most organizations will reproduce the same successes (and failures) year after year. In other words, change always starts at the top, and most people love to live inside their comfort zone. So, if you don’t choose to change and adopt new, more productive habits, please don’t hold your breath waiting for your employees to change. 

Planning and execution take work, focus, and a bit of time. If we’re going to invest all this energy in creating an effective, executable plan, it seems to make a hell of a lot of sense to do it right, doesn’t it?  There are a number of good planning process protocols available to help your organization develop clear goals, strategies, action plans, KPIs, and more.  Independent of which process you select, you could gain huge additional benefit by asking yourself just a few brutally honest, highly impactful questions.  These questions form the foundation of the difference between planning as an exercise and Planning for Success. Answer them before you begin the planning process, then again near the end of it (if you do, you’ll likely find that your answers will change).

Honestly completing these steps will double the effectiveness of your planning process, significantly increase your ability to execute your plans, and help turn your goals into reality…: 


  • What am I committed to do in 2020 to stop being busy and start being productive? 
  • What percentage of my time do I currently spend working below my pay scale (aka:  Which tasks and responsibilities will I personally commit to delegate, starting today?) 
  • What projects and activities will I stop doing in 2020 to make room for the new initiatives I intend to start doing? 
  • How is groupthink effecting our objectivity, judgment, and planning, and what proactive actions or processes will we implement to eliminate it?
  • What is the most difficult part of achieving our 2020 strategic plan?  Do we really have the people and processes in place to address it, or are we just living in hope? 
  • Should we focus upon becoming a bigger fish, or identifying a smaller pond? 
  • How effective is my Sales Manager at executing my strategies to build a world-class sales machine? 
  • Are we really different and better, or do we just keep telling ourselves that we are? 
  • Am I personally walking my talk? 
  • What processes and people are in place to inject accountability and alignment into my team?  Are they effective, or do they need to be improved? 
  • What commitments will I make to ensure that I remain personally accountable? 
  • Can I benefit from additional coaching? 
  • Can I benefit from more peer learning? 
  • What can make our beautiful plan blow up, and does it make sense to discuss contingencies for this possibility right now? 
  • What commitments will I make today to become a better leader? 
  • Are there any questions I’ve been avoiding asking myself, for fear that I don’t want to face the answer?
  • What is the one thing I can commit to completing this quarter, that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?

Note: After you complete this personal assessment, you may wish to get together with your team and substitute “we” for “I” in most of these questions, but please understand that all of the people in your company are currently behaving the way they do because that is how they choose to behave, and that they are paying close attention to the example you set. Remember, if you expect your employees to change and grow, the change must begin in your office.

The questions listed above have been extracted and compiled by observing the planning processes of hundreds of highly successful business owners.  If you have additional hard-hitting questions you’ve found to make traditional planning processes more effective, I would appreciate if you would share them. 

Thanks and Best Wishes for an Amazing 2020!



Copyright © Joe Zente 2019.  All Rights Reserved.

Close Your Execution Gap

October 11th, 2019

A recent survey at MIT Sloan of more than 400 CEOs revealed that the ability to execute strategy was their number one challenge, ahead of innovation, geopolitical instability, and top-line growth.   These results closely mirror my own empirical experience working with hundreds of private business owners.   Overwhelming data from many studies prove that the vast majority of organizations are decent at developing strategies, but suck at execution.


A solid business plan is certainly important, but I have often witnessed companies with first-rate strategies, deep pockets, or a better mouse trap get stomped by competitors with a lesser strategy and better execution.    Simply stated, companies that execute win.


How would you rate your own organization’s ability to consistently execute?


Do you have a specific plan to close your execution gap?


How is it working for you?


Like all issues facing your company today, the problem (and solution) resides in the CEO’s office.   When it comes to execution, the entrepreneurial bell-curve consists of three main categories of owners:

 1.  Winners:   Those owners that execute consistently and thrive.

 2.  The Majority:  Those that constantly struggle to survive.

 3.  Wheel-Spinners:   Those that fail consistently.


Wheel-Spinners spend the vast majority of their time and resources putting out fires, working inside their business, addressing tactical urgencies, and allowing distractions or shiny objects to govern their behaviors and activities.  The Majority also exhibits similar behaviors, except they do so to a slightly lesser extent.


Winners choose to think, act, and behave differently.  Skillfully.  Here are just a few of the distinct characteristics of Winners…:

  • Winners think, and therefore speak, differently than most owners to themselves and others.

  • Winners understand that there is no more powerful force than focused energy.   They choose to use their limited time, money, energy, and resources wisely.  (This sounds trite, but most owners make other choices!)

  • Winners understand that they can do anything, but that they cannot do everything.   They consequently make sure to commit sufficient, personal time each and every month to work on, versus in, their business.  And they make sure they keep this commitment.  No matter what.  Winners unconditionally commit. 

  • Winners understand the difference between hard work and smart work.  They choose to focus upon smart work.  They do not care about keeping busy.  They know (and tons of research shows) that most busy work is wasted energy (aka:   wheel-spinning).   Winners only care about keeping productive.  They care about results.

  • Winners understand that there is nothing they can do in their business that will have a greater impact on achieving their personal and business vision and goals.

  • You will rarely (if ever) hear a Winner say they “don’t have time”, or “they don’t have money” or they are “really busy”.  Winners know that everyone has 24 hours in a day, and that everyone spends their limited time and money on something.  

  • Winners understand that success and excellence require personal humility, self-awareness, and discipline.  They also understand that consistent execution requires the ability to learn faster than their competitors, and they know they cannot succeed alone.  

  • Consequently, Winners embrace assessments, criticism, and feedback and make sure to proactively seek out the assistance of other owners, coaches, accountability partners, and peer support groups.


If you believe you have an Execution Gap, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.   In fact, why would you even try, when you already have the formula?


You can close your gap by simply modeling the behavior of Winners.


I hope you will start today and will share your experience and significant results.


Copyright © Joe Zente  2019.  All Rights Reserved.



The Core Foundation of All Sales Success

September 11th, 2019

If you’ve been seeking ways to increase the selling effectiveness of yourself or your sales team, you have probably noticed that buying behavior has changed over the last decade, and that it might be a good idea to adapt your selling approach to accommodate these changes.

You may have also learned about some new sales processes, strategies, models, skills, and techniques designed to improve win rates in today’s digital, information-rich environment.

I agree that each of these attributes contribute greatly to effective selling.  In fact, we have helped hundreds of organizations to embed powerful sales strategies and processes, and have trained thousands of salespeople to develop the skills to deploy them.  However, even the best processes and training programs will have diminished impact in the absence of the most important selling attribute, an empowering belief system.

We all possess beliefs.  When it comes to selling, some of these beliefs empower effective selling, while others detract.  Some popular beliefs actually torpedo any prospect of generating a sale. 

A person’s beliefs drive every aspect of their selling behavior.   Let me say this again.  A salesperson’s beliefs drive every aspect of their behavior.

Quite simply, beliefs determine selling success.

Some beliefs support effective selling, other beliefs limit selling effectiveness.   Interestingly, extensive research shows that most salespeople think they have an empowering set of beliefs.  In reality, the opposite is true.

A seller’s beliefs have a dramatic effect on the words they choose.  Beliefs also control a salesperson’s tonality, their body language, their questions, how they listen, what they hear, what they miss, how much they talk, their intent, how much time they spend selling (versus wheel-spinning), how often they leave their comfort zone, and much, much more. 

Most importantly, these behaviors have a huge impact on how a salesperson is perceived by a buyer.  And in the vast majority of cases, buyer perception will determine who gets the sale.  Period.

The belief system of a salesperson lies squarely at the core of selling success.  Your beliefs do not only have significant correlation to your results, they have the greatest correlation.  Even if a person has learned a great sales process and even if they have developed some selling skills, they will never break out of mediocrity unless they develop an empowering set of beliefs. 

So, if you want to sell more (a lot more), start by changing your beliefs:

1.  Understand the difference between beliefs that empower effective selling, and those that limit effectiveness.

2.  Commit to replacing all your limiting beliefs with empowering ones.

3.  Share empowering beliefs with others on your sales team to accelerate the speed of your learning and support each other through reinforcement.

You’ve developed your current set of beliefs over the course of your entire lifetime, so developing a new set will not occur overnight.  Doing so will require a commitment, a practice and a bit of time.  However, you will begin to see positive effects quickly and I can promise the rewards will be well worth the investment.

And your new, empowering belief system will be the gift that keeps on giving.

Enjoy the journey.  If you’d like to share your results, or if you need any help, I’d love to hear from you…



Copyright © Joe Zente  2019.  All Rights Reserved.

The Dysfunctional Relationship Between Owners and Salespeople, and How it Will Cost You a Fortune

August 7th, 2019

All business owners want their salespeople to perform consistently.   Unfortunately, the vast majority of salespeople don’t even come close.


While mediocre sales performance often results from multiple components, one problem is nearly universal.   This pervasive success-killer exists in almost every private business, as well as in most large public companies.   Fortunately, the problem can be reduced or completely eliminated fairly easily, leading to significant improvements in your overall sales growth and profit picture. 


If you are like most private company owners, you have a highly dysfunctional, relationship with your salespeople.   This co-dependent dysfunction is mostly hidden from view, so it typically goes unnoticed until it is too late. Let’s call it the I-Can-Do-It Syndrome (ICDI).


Like most co-dependent dysfunctions, ICDI creates a feeling of near-term gratification for those involved.  Owners and salespeople may even feel like they are doing the “right thing”.   Unfortunately, the syndrome quickly creates habits that are highly destructive, ultimately preventing everyone from achieving what they really want, to exceed their sales goals and make more money.


ICDI Syndrome creeps in like a virus, then quickly becomes a transparent part of your system, allowing it to destroy from within.  Here’s how it happens:


You want to grow your sales, so you decide to hire someone to sell.    You recruit and hire a candidate you believe to be the best salesperson.    Following what I hope is a great training and on-boarding program, your new salesperson is ready to hit the ground running and set new sales records for you.  Then reality sets in.




As an SMB owner, it is highly likely that:


1.          Your company has more things to do than hours each week to get them done.  (Unplanned stuff happens all the time…)

2.          Most (or all) employees in your company wear more than one hat.

3.          Some issues and urgencies pop up that reside outside of any particular employee’s job description.  No one “owns” these issues, but you have good, loyal employees that are willing to chip in to try to resolve them.

4.          You may not have a competent, full-time sales manager (in fact, many private companies do not have anyone that ever consistently manages sales to keep salespeople focused and productive).

5.          If you want your salespeople to achieve their sales goals, you should clear the deck to make sure they spend all of their time selling.




1.          In sales, Time = Money.   If a salesperson does not invest the time necessary to sell, they will fall short of their goals.   If they don’t sell, they won’t sell.

2.          Believe it or not, most “salespeople” in the market today entered sales by default.   Consequently, most really do not like to sell.

3.          Of the ones that do like to sell, the majority don’t really know how to sell effectively.

4.          All salespeople (and managers and owners) behave as they do, because that is how they choose to behave.

5.          Given the choice, most salespeople will choose to stay inside their Comfort Zone by doing the easiest (and least effective) parts of “selling”.   Some easy sales activities include:


·                 Sending emails

·                 Preparing proposals

·                 Entertaining (golf, lunches, etc.)

·                 Calling hot, pre-qualified leads

·                 Giving presentations

·                 Demos


6.          Conversely, most salespeople also choose to avoid doing the more challenging (but most effective) parts of selling, the ones required to perform consistently.  Some examples are:


·                 Consistent prospecting

·                 Asking “tough”, assertive questions

·                 Gaining Commitments from buyers.

·                 Executing their critical daily sales activities with discipline

·                 Calling decision makers, key targets and influencers, including cold or warm leads

·                 Active, empathetic listening

·                 Maintaining an Unconditional Commitment to Continuous Improvement

·                 Uncovering true buying motives and budgets

·                 Proactively seeking accountability

·                 Leaving one’s Comfort Zone


7.          Given the choice between executing the effective sales activities which require leaving one’s Comfort Zone, or doing just about anything else, many salespeople would be happy to simply be a good team player and:


·                 Handle customer service issues

·                 Fix a broken pipe

·                 Put out a fire

·                 Take unqualified incoming calls (including social ones)

·                 Do some internet research (or other related surfing activities)

·                 Pick up lunch, deliver a package, run errands, etc.


Here’s the bottom line.   Just about every activity your sales team performs in sections #5 and #7 above carry a huge opportunity cost, because they are done in place of the critical activities outlined in section #6 that are required to grow sales.


In order to generate sales on a consistent basis, your salesperson must start by SELLING on a consistent basis.    It’s simple math.  Even if a salesperson is weak, they will still sell more if they spend more time selling.


So, if you are a business owner or leader truly committed to growing your sales, I would urge you look closely at how much time your salespeople actually spend selling, and to evaluate if ICDI Syndrome may have crept into your company with some or all of your salespeople.  Then take action.


Remember, if they don’t sell, they won’t sell.


The choice is now yours.  The transformation of any sales organization begins by changing the beliefs, choices, declarations and behaviors of the owner.


It is for you to decide, and clearly articulate, how your salespeople are expected to invest their time and to decide what steps you will take today in order to clear the decks to ensure they will invest it properly.


Best wishes for your continued success…



Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2019.   All Rights Reserved.






Two Words that Differentiate Great Sales Organizations from Mediocre Ones

July 9th, 2019

Over the last two decades, Z3 Performance Development has helped many hundreds of business owners and CEOs build world-class sales organizations.  During this time, I’ve also personally observed several thousand companies struggle mightily to achieve better sales results (most of them never break out).


From my vantage point (and tons of additional research), the difference between those companies that create consistent, predictive, profitable, scalable, effective sales teams and those that continuously wallow in mediocrity has become abundantly clear. The difference can be summarized in just two words.


I’d love to tell you that the difference between superior and inferior sales teams lies in some unique recipe, magical formula, newly discovered revelation, or space-aged technology; in some type of quick fix. But that simply is not true. Before I share the two words that make the difference, let me start by sharing some popular misconceptions–tactics that many CEOs think may be the difference, but are not.


The difference between a great and a mediocre sales team never lies in…:


1. A sophisticated reporting system.


2. A phenomenal sales compensation or incentive plan.


3. A complex CRM or sales automation system.


4. Paying big bucks to sales recruiters.


5. Sales Manager ride-alongs


6. Motivational speakers  


7. Group Sales Meetings


8. The latest and greatest new sales webinar, LMS, training program, or YouTube video.


Although some of the above strategies, and several other sales improvement tactics or philosophies, may add some incremental improvement to some sales organizations under certain conditions, none of these items (or even the combination of all of them) will create a superior, consistent sales organization.  The difference is much more fundamental.


Predictable, visible, profitable growth is simply borne out of PROCESS and DISCIPLINE.


Process & Discipline. So, if you are struggling, these two words are the difference between where you are today, and a reliable, effective, world-class sales organization.


Here’s just a few reasons why a solution based upon Process & Discipline (P&D) is such great news:


·         The P&D Solution is time-tested and battle-tested, removing all mystery. P&D doesn’t operate on a “let’s try this to see what happens…”. You need not worry if it is “going to work”. It does.


·         P&D works EVERY time, for every type of sales organization, market, product, or service.


·         P&D works for sales teams of all sizes.  It doesn’t matter if you have 1 or 1,000 salespeople.


·         P&D becomes a behavioral rhythm in your organization, creating a world-class sales culture.


·         P&D is the least expensive potential solution. It is a highly profitable approach. Once you’ve implemented effective sales, sales management, sales recruiting, sales assessment, and on-boarding processes, you have NO additional incremental costs. You and your team simply need to maintain the discipline (habits) to execute your processes (in the same way your payroll department pays employees with discipline).


·         P&D is highly visible. This approach produces all sorts of leading indicators that will provide objective insight into your true sales pipeline, future business, trends, and accurate forecasting.


·         P&D is incredibly time effective. Your salespeople and manager(s) will be spending their precious time generating new, profitable sales growth instead of wasting it on distractions, CYA, and other useless activities that cut deeply into missed opportunities and margins. 


Whether you’re just beginning to develop a new sales team, or whether you’ve been seeking ways to improve an existing one, I strongly encourage you to seriously evaluate where your sales organization resides with regard to Process and Discipline. If there are deficits in either, I can promise you that these deficits are costing you dearly.


If you need more information or have any questions, please let me know.


If not, please share your success stories that result from implementing a P&D solution.  I’d love to hear from you.


Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2019.   All Rights Reserved.