2015 Executive Choice Awards
The winners of our Executive Consumer Choice Awards have many things in common, including proven service systems.
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ActionCOACH's Susan Thomson (left) advises Laura Schorrak, owner of Dog Den Daycare and Training.
Perhaps ActionCOACH is an ECA category winner because it comes to the rescue of businesses and business owners, including those with personal habits that undermine their chances for success.
For Susan Thomson, a partner in ActionCOACH of Madison and a licensed business and executive coach, customers actually fall into several categories: Entrepreneurs who are growing fast or too fast and therefore are in danger of poor execution, making bad hires, or not having enough cash flow; business owners who are five to seven years from retiring, need a succession plan, and must improve the value of their business in order to sell it, and must show employees a career path so they don’t jump ship; and entrepreneurs who face market changes and need to either redefine or better define why consumers should buy from them. This involves defining new markets where their capabilities can transfer.
In the large-company segment, the customer might include those who have career-limiting behaviors and need to rebuild executive-level skills, leaders who need to build bench strength by developing more leaders at all levels in the organization, and others who want to learn to become leaders themselves.
Entrepreneurs follow a multistep system with the following elements:
- Mastery of long-term strategy, destination clarity, mission culture, financial model, delivery mechanisms, and time management
- Niche (predictability of cash flow and marketing)
- Leverage (the development of systems for repeatability and efficiency)
- Team (developing the team to take business forward without the owner in it)
- Synergy (moving from self-employment to ownership to entrepreneurship)
The basic customer service approach is always the same. “We identify clearly and honestly where they are today — either where the business is or what the desired result or endgame is — and the gaps in the middle,” Thomson says. “Equally as important, we make sure they are willing to do the work, whether they need themselves to grow personally and professionally because they are going to have to think differently and behave differently in order to get different results.”
“They can get you to the next level.” — voter comment
At that point, ActionCOACH drafts a coaching plan with agreed upon outcomes and then begins a weekly regimen of learning, implementing strategy, testing and measuring, and building the necessary attitudes, behaviors, and skills. Homework is also involved, and there is weekly accountability to review strategy and make sure the “curriculum” is mastered.
ActionCOACH evaluates success by measuring net profit growth, the increase in the number of full-time employees, and other progress against desired outcomes.
Having been a CEO on more than one occasion, Thomson can relate to entrepreneurial struggles. Hers were part attitudinal. “I came out of an environment where there was a real scarcity mentality, and for me to get ahead and progress along my career, somebody else had to lose,” she recalled. “I want people to know that you don’t need to be a jerk to be successful. You can be a nice guy (or gal) and be a lot more successful that way.”
An area that requires a deft touch is handling customer complaints. ActionCOACH’s work is guaranteed, which could include coaching dissatisfied customers for free until they recoup their investment. “We are people and we are going to screw up once in a while,” Thomson notes. “If we do, we talk to the client and try to make things right. We do guarantee our work, but in eight years I’ve not had to exercise that guarantee once.”
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