Category Archives: business development

5 Practical Steps For Drowning Your Problems

There’s an old saying that contains a great deal of wisdom:

When problem solving, don’t just put out the fire – find the guy with the match!

Another saying admonishes us to make sure that we solve problems completely. It simply says:

Hold every problem under water until it drowns!

Learning Effective Problem Solving

Both of these statements are aimed at communicating one thing to those of us who are in the problem solving business – and that is that far too often, problems are never solved because people are addressing the symptoms instead of identifying and killing the real root cause.

My forty plus years of experience as both a technical and business problem solver have taught me some powerful lessons. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned when it comes to effective problem solving.

  1. Most of the time, the root of the problem is deeper than you think. Just like a pesky dandelion in your yard, the flower (symptom) waves in the wind, but the root of the plant (the real cause) is hiding deep in the ground. You can chop the top off all you want, but until you extract or kill the root, the plant (problem) is going to keep coming back.
  2. Be patient. Taking the time to think things through, and being careful not to overreact, is important in the problem solving process. Cool, logical, analytical heads always prevail.
  3. Listen to the process. Every business process has a story to tell if you listen closely. Observations, data collection and analysis, and a healthy dose of common sense can be integrated to create a picture of what is going on. Just as a doctor uses the skill of observation, combined with information in the form of test results, to diagnose what is wrong with a patient, so must you combine all of the information you can gather to understand the problem with which you are dealing.
  4. Test your theories. The ultimate test in solving a problem is not “did it go away.” Where the rubber meets the road is in answering the question, “Can you turn it on and off?” Being able to turn a problem on and off means that you have identified the causative factors that, under the right conditions, allow the problem to manifest itself.
  5. Verify effectiveness of your solutions. When you finally put corrective actions in place, always monitor the process for a period if time to make sure that the problem never rears its ugly head again.

Need help with problem solving? Give us a call at 203.599.1467, or email us at We’re here to help!


©2014 by Gary L. Smith and Optimum Performance Technologies, LLC ( All rights reserved.

A Different Perspective On Your Business Competition

“Know your enemy” is a famous phrase from Sun Tzu‘s sixth-century book, The Art of War. The exact quotation is: “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”

When one is engaged in real warfare, the words above may be very valid.  However, I think we all need to take stock and ask ourselves how it applies to our business lives.

Evaluating Your Business Competition

A number of years ago, I was running a manufacturing operation for a Connecticut based company. One of our primary competitors was based in Florida, and I knew the company well. The president of our company approached me one day and asked me for my thoughts on a proposal he was considering. He had visited the area where our Florida competitor was located and was considering purchasing a facility nearby.

Our business competition was having some financial difficulty, and the president’s logic was that if he purchased a facility in the area and hired some of the competitor’s key employees, we might be able to literally “kill the competition” by putting them out of business.  We could then purchase the competitor’s facility and assets for pennies on the dollar and assimilate their customer base into ours. It would be a tremendous win for us.

Healthy Business Competition Means Growth

When he asked me what I thought of his idea, I told him that I thought it was the wrong way to go.  My attitude has always been that I want to beat the competition – but I want to do it fair and square.  If I can win by producing a better product, more cost effectively, and in less time, I am all for that.  But it never made sense to me to kick the competition when they are down – and I told the president that was what he was about to do.

When he asked what I would do with this “opportunity,” I told him that I would schedule a meeting with the competitor and put my cards on the table.  I would explain to them that I was aware of the challenges they were facing, but that I had no vested interest in seeing them go out of business.  I would then begin to explore synergies between our businesses that might lead to a sharing of technology and resources – and that might create a win-win for everyone involved.

Business Competition Is A Good Thing

Many organizations look at business competition as being an inherently bad thing.  I think it is tremendously positive for the following reasons:

  • Being in a market that has competition is usually an indicator that there are plenty of opportunities and customers.
  • Getting involved in an established market with competition is almost always better and more cost effective than trying to create a new market.
  • Business Competition keeps you on your toes.  It’s the juice that powers innovation, ongoing improvement, cost reduction, and improved speed to market.

Take the time to re-evaluate your business competition – and to be thankful for the markets in which you have the opportunity to effectively compete and win business.


©2014 by Gary L. Smith and Optimum Performance Technologies, LLC (  All rights reserved.

3 Steps To Greater Customer Loyalty

The Latin phrase Semper Fi – short for Semper Fidelis – is well known to United States Marines and their families.  Semper Fi means “always faithful” or “always loyal”.  It has served as the Marine Corps motto since 1883.  On the Marine Corps emblem, an eagle holds a ribbon in its mouth inscribed with the words Semper Fidelis.  The words “always faithful” suggest that there is never a time when a Marine will not be faithful to his duty to country.

How Is Your Customer Loyalty?

When it comes to your customers, are you “always faithful”?  Do you, and your organization, strive to treat them as the important part of your business that they really are?  If you believe that you are, then pause for a moment and ask yourself, “What does the practical expression of that look like in the daily operations of my business?”  If not, here are three simple suggestions that you can begin using, right now, to create customer loyalty by taking customer service to the next level.

  1. If you want loyal customers, be a loyal supplier. Customer loyalty requires producing quality products and services, at reasonable prices, and delivering them on time, are the foundation that establishes you as someone who can be relied upon and who will never leave your patrons “high and dry”.
  2. Under-promise and over-deliver.  Always meet your promises and, even if it’s a small thing, give more than the customer asks for.  In practice, this doesn’t need to be complicated.  As an example, if you run a copy business and have a large order of materials that you are delivering, how about putting a small thank you note in with the delivery, one that expresses your gratitude for that company’s business?
  3. Become a source of referrals to your customers.  If the customers you serve are top notch – really good at what they do – tell others about them – and let your customer know that you talk about them wherever your go.  Doing so builds customer loyalty and, as their businesses grow, so will yours.

Why You Need Customer Loyalty

When thinking about customer loyalty, remember what Sam Walton said: The customer can fire everyone in your business, from the CEO on down, by simply not buying from you.  Always give your customers lots of reasons to continue doing business with you. Customer loyalty comes down to you, the business owner. Try these three tips today!

©2014 by Gary L. Smith and Optimum Performance Technologies, LLC (  All rights reserved.

Building A Godly Business – Part 9

In Part 9 of our series we will discuss The Facilities Wall and the importance of having business facility that breeds a healthy work environment. We all need a place to work. But where will that place be?

  • Will you work from home?
  • Will you share facilities with someone else?
  • Will you rent commercial property?
  • Will you buy or build your own brick and mortar location?

Other Things To Consider When Answering These Facilities Questions:

  • How far a commute are you comfortable with?
  • Based on your type of business, in which geographic locations will you be able to attract the kind of help you need?
  • How much space will you really need, considering projected growth and cost of the facilities?
  • What about length of leases, mortgage costs, and interest rates?

The key in selecting the right place for your work is to make sure that you are clear-headed and not impulsive or emotional in your decisions.

  1. What is the most cost effective way for you to accomplish your business goals?
  2. Before procuring a property, have you and your team laid out a business plan for where you want to be in the next 3-5 years and what it is “realistically” going to take to get there?
  3. Do you have the cash flow to support the facility? Don’t just consider the rent or mortgage payments. You also need to consider things like utility costs, building maintenance, landscaping and snow removal, etc.
  4. What if your business plan doesn’t come to fruition, or if there is a downturn in the economy? How much revenue can you lose and still be able to occupy the space.
  5. Are you getting ahead of yourself? Would the money you are contemplating investing in a facility be better spent in other ways, such as new product development, process improvement, or employee training?

The bottom line is to make your facility choices carefully. You may be stuck with them for a long time.


©2014 by Gary L. Smith and Optimum Performance Technologies, LLC ( All rights reserved.

Building A Godly Business – Part 8

From a practical perspective, is it possible for any business to adhere to 100% of local, county, state, federal, and international laws 100% of the time? No, it’s not. However, each one of us must examine our core values and convictions when it comes to legal matters and administrative matters.

Take a few minutes and think about the following questions concerning your business’ legal matters:

  1. Is your business legal? Do you meet all of the filing and recording requirements based on your business structure?
  2. If you have a brick and mortar establishment, are you adhering to building codes, fire codes, OSHA regulations, etc.?
  3. Do you have the professional credentials, licenses, and permits to properly and legally conduct your business?
  4. Do you report 100% of your business income, or do you take payments under the table?
  5. Are you honest when it comes to filing the required taxes and payments?
  6. Are all of your employees legal? If they come from other countries, do they have the necessary papers to work in the United States?
  7. Are you aware of your legal rights in all situations?
  8. Even if your competitors choose to play by different rules, are you above reproach?

Why Your Legal Matters Hold Weight

Think long and hard about these questions – especially the last one. Being a Christian businessperson requires that you do all that you can to operate your organization with both honesty and integrity in all legal matters. Years of experience have taught me that those who honor God with their businesses will, in turn, be blessed by God.


©2014 by Gary L. Smith and Optimum Performance Technologies, LLC (  All rights reserved.