Posts Tagged ‘Compendium’
Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
by Dan Richards, ClientInsights.ca
In a recent conversation, an advisor asked me what one quality, more than any other, he should work to get clients to associate with him. There are clearly lots of candidates – disciplined, professional and client-oriented, to name just three. But my answer was none of those – if I had to pick one attribute, it would be “my advisor truly makes me feel special.”
That’s because that sentiment captures lots of other positives - not only do you do a good job, but you truly listen, have a deep understanding of client needs, make communication a priority and value their business. In an increasingly impersonal world, being made to feel special and truly valued by the companies to whom we give business happens less and less often – which creates an opportunity to stand out.
There’s clear upside to making clients feel like we’re giving them special attention – but also big downside if they feel unacknowledged. Today’s article describes one example of that downside: Practice Management’s Blackhole: Process Overload by Matt Oechsli
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Tags: 5 Million, Attribute, Blackhole, Business World, Communication, Compendium, Downside, Good Job, Impersonal World, Invitation, Lost, Matt Oechsli, Nbsp, Opportunity, Practice Management, Priority, Sentiment, Target
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Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
by Dan Richards, ClientInsights.ca
Research shows that only 25% of clients are truly “engaged” as opposed to merely satisfied – and those engaged clients are not only the most loyal and satisfied but also provide almost all referrals.
Today’s article by Julie Littlechild of Advisor Impact lays out an Engagement Roadmap, outlining the specific steps to turn client satisfaction into engagement. It focuses on four specific steps that are highly correlated with engaged clients:
1. Seek structured feedback
2. Ensure you have the right client fit
3. Create deeper connections
4. Take the lead in helping clients manage their financial lives
Click to read the full article:
Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
In May, U.S. insurer Met Life issued a 28 page report, quantifying where Americans stand in terms of their preparation for retirement.
This readiness index measures fifteen tasks — attached to the report is a questionnaire that advisors can take clients through to benchmark where clients stand on each task and identify areas to work on.
The fifteen tasks for retirement readiness
The fifteen tasks fall into five areas:
Activities related to income and benefits.
This includes assessing when full time retirement will be financially feasible, evaluating the impact of changes in the economy on pensions, investments and retirement benefits and determining what has to be done to receive the company and Government benefits that clients are entitled to.
Work related tasks
This makes up five of the fifteen things to do.
These include deciding whether to fully retire or work part-time, identifying the options for full time or part time work in retirement, figuring out if skills can be easily transferred to part-time work and exploring alternate career or part time opportunities in retirement.
Leisure related activities
Leisure related tasks include things like determining the balance between work and leisure in retirement and identifying personal goals in retirement.
Relationship tasks to prepare for retirement capture thinking through the impact of retirement on relationships with a spouse, family and friends and also considering the effect on relationships with co-workers.
Planning for retirement
This includes determining what it will take to have a satisfying retirement, identifying alternate plans should there be an unexpected setback related to health or financial issues and also evaluating whether retirement plans meet the demands of potential changes.
Conclusions on retirement readiness
This report reached a number of general conclusions.
First, getting ready to retire is more complicated than just having enough money — there are many dimensions to a satisfying retirement.
In fact, the report points out that existing retirees have provided a road map to what has to happen to maximize the odds of a satisfying and fulfilling retirement.
And second, completing these tasks doesn’t mean that someone should retire — but it does mean they can retire, they’re ready to retire.
The current thinking on the timing of retirement
Americans are about evenly split on when they plan to retire — about half plan to retire at the age they’d been planning to a couple of years ago, the other half say they plan to work past the date they’d planned to.
About 64% of existing retirees say they retired earlier than they’d expected, 33% retired when they’d expected to and only 3% said they’d retired later than expected.
The survey didn’t ask if that early retirement was voluntary — in all likelihood there were some cases in which companies made the decision for these early retirees.
People feeling that they can retire on target
People who say they can retire when they’d planned to were more likely to have established personal goals. Establishing those goals and then following through on them appears to focus people on the important activities that will keep them on track.
Tags: Alternate Plans, Benchmark, Co Workers, Compendium, Family And Friends, Government Benefits, Insurer, Opportunities In Retirement, Part Time Work, Pensions Investments, Personal Goals, Planning For Retirement, Planning Retirement, Questionnaire, Retirement Benefits, Retirement Plans, Retirement Readiness, Setback, Target, Time Opportunities
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Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
Recently, a successful advisor asked me for my comments on a brochure designed to capitalize on growing interest in charitable giving. This marketing piece’s good and bad points offer some useful insights about how to communicate with clients effectively in general.
There were a number of things to like about the brochure which was 8 ½ by 11 inches in dimension, printed in full colour and ran 8 pages.
1. The overall look and feel of the brochure was very high end and reinforced this advisor’s high quality positioning.
2. There was consistent visual imagery across the brochure and it was very well designed.
3. The brochure was exceptionally well written — it provided clear information on the options for charitable giving.
4. As a talking piece when meeting with clients or prospects, I could see it being very helpful in introducing the topic of charitable giving.
On the flip side of the coin:
1. The title on the front cover didn’t directly address charitable giving. In a world where we have only seconds in which to gain or lose a client’s or prospect’s attention, we need to deliver our core message quickly.
2. While well-written, the brochure had too much copy and the typeface, while elegant, was much too small, making it especially difficult to read for older clients. In my view, this brochure was designed to be looked at rather than read.
3. There was limited use of graphics and photos, without even a photo of the advisor — all the research on this topic is consistent that clients relate to pictures more than words.
4. While informative, I felt the brochure was a bit abstract and lacked emotional punch — this is something that might have been addressed with case studies and real life examples.
The bottom line when developing marketing material — and when communicating with clients and prospects generally, whether in writing or in face to face and telephone conversations:
- Ensure you make your point upfront quickly and clearly.
- Don’t overload the number of words — I’ve used the expression “Less is more” before; it really does apply to any form of communication.
- When sending anything in writing, ensure that the type is large enough for easy reading and build in lots of visuals to reinforce your message.
- Whenever communicating with existing or prospective clients, don’t forget that you need to appeal to both the heart and the mind.
Keep these four principles in mind and you too will communicate more effectively and connect with your clients.
And one final tip. Before sending out a letter, newsletter, email or any other written material, ask someone who is not knowledgeable about markets to go through it with a yellow highlighter — if you feel really brave, give it to one of your parents or an elderly relative. Ask them to highlight anything which is even a bit unclear — that can be the cue for you to revisit the words and examples you use to ensure you’re communicating at the right level.
For more information, please visit http://www.getkeepclients.com.
Tags: Bottom Line, Brochure, Case Studies, Compendium, Core Message, Developing Marketing, Effective Communication, Effective Written Communication, Emotional Punch, Face To Face, Flip Side, Four Steps, High Quality, Insights, Marketing, Marketing Material, More Than Words, Photo, Photos, Prospects, Target, Telephone Conversations, Typeface, Visual Imagery
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Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
Every couple of weeks for the past year and a half, I’ve taken an evening or a weekend morning to talk to investors — discussing their mood and chatting about what they’re thinking and doing.
A couple of weeks ago I talked to an investor who had recently switched advisors — and who provided an example of the stress that investors experience when they’re not sure whether their advisor is really on top of their financial affairs.
“I’d been working with this advisor for a few years” he said “and I liked him well enough. He’s actually a really nice guy.
But late last year I realized that I was losing sleep because I wasn’t sure whether he was really on top of my situation.“
This investor went on to say that as a result, when he was approached by a different advisor who a buddy of his suggested contact this investor earlier this year. After a couple of meetings, he ultimately decided to move his account.
I asked this investor what had led to the decision to change advisors.
“Two things really” he answered.
“First, my advisor had put together a financial plan about three years ago.
In light of everything that’s happened, about a year ago I asked him whether the plan needed to be updated. His answer was that the plan had a long term focus and that what we’d been through was just a blip and that I didn’t need to worry.
Given that I kept reading about how the financial system was melting down, I didn’t entirely buy that — and got more and more concerned that my advisor wasn’t really taking my account seriously.”
Then he went on.
“The other thing that concerned me was that aside from getting a call from his assistant to book a meeting once a year, I had to take all the initiative to stay in touch.
Whenever I called him, he always got back to me right away — he was really good on that.
But I only heard from him when I called. I was just concerned that I wasn’t important enough for my advisor to really care about — and that my half a million dollars was secondary to his other bigger clients.”
Like many people who switch, this investor didn’t relish the prospect of breaking the news — and the new advisor told him he’d get in touch with his previous advisor’s office and take care of all the paperwork entailed to switch his account over.
Inevitably, the investor got an immediate call from his old advisor.
“I was really surprised to get a request to transfer your account” was how the conversation began.
“I know that the markets have been tough but I thought that we had talked about how your account has really bounced back and in fact done well under the circumstances. Based on our last conversation, I thought you were actually reasonably happy. ”
This investor explained that it was nothing personal and that his move was not primarily because of the performance of his portfolio.
He went on to mention that one of the reasons for his move was the concern that his plan hadn’t been brought up to date.
“That was actually on my list to talk to you about the next time we met” was the response from the old advisor.
“I didn’t realize that this was that big a concern — if you’d told me I would have been happy to do this for you.”
There are a couple of important lessons from this experience — costly for the advisor who lost the half a million dollar account, but available free of charge to everyone else.
The first lesson is to listen for hidden meaning when talking to clients and to never dismiss any concern or apprehension, no matter how small it might seem. Chances are that if the advisor had acted when his client first questioned whether his plan continued to reflect the market reality at the time, he would still have that account.
The second lesson relates to the stress that many clients experience when they feel they have to initiate all the contact with their advisor.
I’ve written in the past about the difference between a conversation that a client initiates on a topic such as TFSAs or RESPs for grandchildren and that same conversation if the advisor picks up the phone to make the call first.
It can be exactly the same conversation, but if it happens at the client’s initiative, the advisor gets dramatically less credit — people wonder whether that conversation would have happened if they hadn’t picked up the phone and called.
I recently talked to an advisor who last spring began setting aside half an hour a day to pick up the phone and check in with clients who he hadn’t spoken to for a while. He told me he was astonished at the positive response — and the relief many clients seemed to feel just knowing that he was on top of their situation.
In fact, this advisor commented that the most productive 30 minutes was when he didn’t actually reach any clients and simply left messages, saying something like: “It’s Joe Smith. I’m just calling to check to be sure everything’s okay and in case you have any questions you’d like to talk about. If there’s anything you want to discuss, give me a call at the office — otherwise, I look forward to sitting down when we meet in a couple of months for our regular review.”
Along similar lines, a couple of years back, I interviewed an extremely successful business owner who talked about what he looked for from his professional advisors.
“I assume that most people are basically competent and know what they’re doing” he said.
“What I look for are people who are proactive and are always thinking about my situation so that I don’t have to” he said. “That’s what I look for in my accountant, that’s what I look for in my lawyer — and that’s what I look for in my financial advisor.”
Not every client articulates this as clearly as this business owner. But those words capture the essence of what many clients look for — the confidence that their advisor is on top of their situation so they don’t have to be.
Tags: Advertisement, Blip, Compendium, Financial Affairs, Hard Lessons, Initiative, Investor, Investors, Losing Sleep, Lost, Nice Guy, Sleep, Stress, Target, Term Focus
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Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
Make sure you watch this. Dan Ariely discusses the virtue of irrationality, particularly the manner in which our irrationality serves us when it comes to the trust gap.
Dan Ariely and Dan Richards carry on a fascinating discussion about human nature that is material to understanding the complexity of all decision making.
Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
Every January, the Harvard Business Review publishes ten breakthrough ideas for the year ahead.
Number one on this year’s list was new research on what really drives motivation. That factor: A clear sense that progress is being made.
In a multi-year study, researchers at the Harvard Business School first asked 600 managers from dozens of different companies to rank the impact of five factors that are normally associated with motivation — recognition, incentives, support from managers and colleagues, clear goals and a sense of making progress.
In this first phase of the study, recognition for good work was ranked by managers as the most important factor in motivation.
In the next stage, hundreds of knowledge workers in a variety of settings emailed 12,000 end of day diaries, rating their motivation level and talking about the kind of day they’d had. The researchers then dug deep to look at what these workers reported as having happened each day, especially on those days that respondents said were their “best days” and their “worst days.”
And the answer is.…..
The study showed that a sense of progress was the factor most strongly correlated with a strong feeling of motivation. Particularly interesting — out of the five options rated by managers before the study began as keeping people motivated , a sense of making progress was rated last
Here’s an excerpt from the Harvard Business Review article:
“On days when workers have the sense they’re making headway in their jobs or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak. On days when they feel they are spinning their wheels or encountering roadblocks to meaningful accomplishment, their moods and motivation are lowest.“
Here are the five factors that appear to drive motivation the most, the events workers said they experienced on their very best days:
Making progress 76%
Organizational support 43%
Interpersonal support 25%
Doing important work 19%
The researchers reported that negative events generally have a greater effect on peoples’ emotions, perceptions and motivations than positive ones. And the most prominent event on workers’ worst days was experiencing a setback.
And here’s what the HBR article had to say about recognition:
“As for recognition, diaries revealed that it does indeed motivate workers and lift their moods. So managers should celebrate progress, even the incremental sort. But there will be nothing to recognize if people aren’t genuinely moving forward — and as a practical matter, recognition can’t happen every day. You can, however, see that progress happens every day.”
This research has some important implications on how we and the people we work with can maintain motivation levels, even in the face of the inevitable frustrations we face each day.
When it comes to the people who work with us, the study’s authors advise managers to set clear goals and to be consistent in those goals, to give staff the resources they need and to be decisive in our decision making.
There is another implication as well — and that’s to set aside the time each day to acknowledge the progress you’ve made, large or small.
This can be done by maintaining a “progress journal” on your computer — taking three minutes at the conclusion of each day to write down the top five things you’ve achieved that day.
Another advisor prepares a list of things to do and clients to call at the beginning of each day — and draws a line through each with a yellow magic marker as they’re done. “I know it sounds silly” she says “but just seeing those yellow lines on that list of people to call gives me a bit of a boost.”
Along similar lines, one successful advisor starts each day with a short meeting of his four person team. At the conclusion of that meeting, everyone identifies the three most important things they need to get done that day — even something as simple as calling an important client can be on the list, especially if that call is overdue or is likely to be difficult.
The team members take turns making notes on those items — and five minutes after the meeting ends, everyone gets an email highlighting the goals they set. Next morning’s meeting starts with a review of how everyone did against those goals — and ends with people identifying their top three goals for the day ahead.
This advisor commented that two things have happened since they began doing this.
First, they’ve all become more focused on getting those top three things done — no one wants to be embarrassed the next morning.
And second, everyone walks away from that meeting more positive and enthused — because even after a tough day in the markets or difficult client meetings, they can still feel good about the tangible accomplishments they can point to inthe last day.
The implications of this research are very clear. As you think about how you and your team maintain motivation, by all means include recognition and rewards in the mix .… but in the process, don’t neglect the most important motivator of all, a sense that clear progress is being made each and every day.
Tags: Accomplishment, Breakthrough Ideas, Breakthrough Research, Compendium, Different Companies, Excerpt From, Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business School, Harvard Review, Headway, Knowledge Workers, Moods, Motivation Level, Obstacles, Respondents, Roadblocks, Spinning Their Wheels, Strong Feeling, Study Researchers, Target
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Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
Recently, my weekly column in the Globe and Mail talked about the desire by many clients to be more involved in the decisions on their accounts and to act more like partners with their advisors.
In response I got an email from a C.A. in a mid-sized community in southern Ontario – we subsequently spoke on the phone.
His approach to referrals
This C.A. has spent twenty years working on his own supported by a small team of associates, focusing on business owners.
As well as audits and tax advice, he also is a certified financial planner and does financial planning. He has historically supplied clients without an investment advisor with a list of three to five advisors who they could talk to about implementing their plan – generally based on advisors that existing clients were working with.
He does this as a service to clients with no expectation of being rewarded by either clients or advisors– he mentioned that he takes pride in going above and beyond to help clients. He doesn’t initiate referrals to advisors – if clients are happy where they are, he’s fine with that. The only time he makes referrals is when clients are unhappy, ask for suggestions or don’t have an advisor in place to implement a financial plan he’s developed for him.
In some cases, he has participated in meetings with clients and advisors two or three times a year, provided that clients were prepared to pay for his time to do this – but generally he has not been involved in the process after making referrals, other than preparing taxes.
The historical experience
Historically, his clients were generally happy with the advisors he referred them to, although there were a couple of consistent irritants.
One related to the quality of reporting. He commented that investment industry reporting is not uniform and difficult to decipher – it can take him an hour to calculate how clients have actually done.
He went on to say that some firms look like they’re deliberately making it hard for clients to figure out what their annual return looks like and to determine what clients have paid in fees. He did say that this has become better recently as some advisors have moved to charging fees separately, so that they are deductible on client taxes.
He’s also had some clients comment on the fact that after having paid him to develop a financial plan, there was no reduction in fees charged by their investment advisor – in effect they felt they’re paid twice, once for the C.A. to develop the plan and a second time for the investment advisor’s embedded cost of doing this plan.
He’s never had an advisor try to find a way to have the time they saved by not having to do a plan reflected in reduced fees to clients or ask about trying to find a way to help offset the cost for this C.A. to continue to be involved in client meetings.
And when I asked about whether advisors had offered to sit down with him to walk through their investment approach or process to manage client risk, he said he’s never had someone offer to do that.
Rethinking the approach to referrals
A couple of things are causing him to rethink his approach to referrals.
One was an article in the March issue of C.A. magazine, talking about the opportunity for C.As to become more involved in helping clients reevaluate their investment strategy and philosophy and monitor their investment plan.
He said it’s also become apparent to him that some clients have seen the names he suggested they talk to as an endorsement. This was particularly a problem where clients were not actively involved in the investment process, but delegated and deferred to the advisor.
As a result, in future he will be more careful both about the clients he refers and the advisors he refers them to. He also plans to make his role more explicit, both verbally and in the engagement letter he has clients sign and encourage clients to talk to more than one advisor before picking someone. He said that most advisors seem fine with this, although some years ago one advisor called him and said that he was not interested in participating in a beauty contest and that if this C.A. was going to give his clients multiple advisors to talk to, then to take him off the list.
Taking versus giving
At the end of our conversation, I asked about the kind of acknowledgement he’d received from advisors he’d referred clients to.
His comment was that in his experience most financial advisors are much better at taking than giving.
Historically he’s made two to three referrals a year, so about fifty referrals over the past twenty years. In that time, he’s never received a referral in return or had an advisor ask about the nature of his business, should he or she run into a business owner who might benefit from this C.A.’s services.
And while he normally receives a thank you call after referring clients, typically that’s as far as it goes.
He did comment that there are a couple of advisors in his community who’ve picked up half a dozen clients in the past three or four years as a result of his referrals.
One of those advisors makes a point of inviting him and one of his clients out to lunch two or three times a year. He went on to say that even though he considers these two advisors equally competent, he can’t help being more disposed to making additional referrals to the advisor who takes him and his client out to lunch periodically.
“I’m human like everyone else” this C.A. said. “Even though I know this shouldn’t affect my decisions, it’s still nice to feel that someone who’s making money from referrals I’ve made doesn’t take me for granted.”
I took a few things away from this conversation.
The first is that the changes as a result of events of the past couple of years aren’t limited to clients but also extend to the professionals who sometimes refer those clients.
As a result, advisors need to do a better job of communicating the process they have to monitor and manage risk.
They and their firms need to do a better job on reporting and on transparency of compensation.
And finally, many advisors need to think harder about how they acknowledge the sources of referrals.
None of these were necessarily critical in the past – but will play an increasingly important role for advisors who want to maximize referral opportunities in future.
Tags: Audits, Business Owners, Candid Feedback, Certified Financial Planner, Compendium, Email, Expectation, Financial Planning, Globe And Mail, Investment Advisor, Investment Industry, Preparing Taxes, Referral Source, Referrals, Southern Ontario, Target, Tax Advice, Three Times, Twenty Years, Weekly Column
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Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Steve Jobs stands alone as today’s most admired CEO.
Recently, an article appeared in the US website Horsesmouth pointing out four lessons advisors can learn from Jobs, written by Steve Sanduski, a consultant with the PEAK organization in Omaha.
Lesson One: Say no.
Sanduski starts by pointing out that Jobs makes it his business to obsessively hit on a small number of things that are important to him.
Apple limits itself to three product lines — the Macintosh computer, the iPod, and the iPhone, with the recently announced IPad making it four.
With just three main product lines, Apple has a market capitalization of more than $150 billion. Jobs has resisted the call to offer lower-end products and milk the company’s great brand. His philosophy is that “it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
Sanduski argues that there is no shortage of opportunities in this business. What there is a shortage of is conviction.
He says that the easy thing to do is to go to a meeting, hear a few good ideas, and then go out and try them. When that does not work, you go to another meeting or hear another speaker and make a half-committed effort with new ideas, getting similar unacceptable results.
Ultimately, you find yourself trying things but never really finishing them. Most advisors have to-do lists. What fewer have but would benefit from are not-to-do lists. With not to do lists, advisors only take on initiatives that will have a dramatic impact on their business, small scale projects that only make a difference at the margin will drain energy and focus and ultimately leave you bogged down without really advancing your business.
Lesson Two: Practice the rule of 100%
Jobs built Pixar Studios into a company that he sold to Walt Disney for $7.4 billion. At Pixar, there is no 80/20 rule. It’s simply the Rule of 100%-every effort gets 100% support.
Jobs is a notorious stickler for minutiae l and one of the most obsessive detail oriented people you’re likely ever to run into.
Accordingly, Pixar delivered an average of only one movie every 18 months, many fewer than most major movie studio s. However, the result was outstanding. Pixar generated more than $3.5 billion in worldwide box-office receipts since 1995. And it had no bombs.
Many successful advisors have 500 or more clients. These advisors have successful businesses that generate substantial revenue and comfortable profits.
Sanduski asks who got shortchanged? The answer is the clients! None of those advisors would ever go on the record as saying they did a great job of taking care of all of their clients. Typically, 20% received great care and the other 80%, well, they were mainly an entry in a database.
So the key question for advisors is how to restructure their business to deliver 100% quality, to 100% of clients?
Lesson Three: Focus on your people
Jobs devotes a considerable amount of his time to talking with prospective employees that he thinks can be A-list players on his team.
At the end of the day, there are no weak links in his executive suite. He’s as obsessive about the quality of his people as he is about his products.
Quality work starts with quality employees. For many advisors, finding and retaining quality staff members is a perennial issue. Advisors are tempted to hire the first person who marginally fits the bill.
Unfortunately, that’s a recipe for long-term pain. It’s better to bite the bullet now and continue pursuing the right person, rather than settle for an average candidate who is destined to deliver mediocre results.
If you currently have no support staff, then go out and hire your first person. Without staff, you’ll have a job, but you’ll never have a business. If you have existing staff, continue to support and nurture your A players — make sure they feel appreciated and know that they’re an important part of your team.
For your weaker links, work with them to try to get them to A status. If they can’t make the jump after you’ve given them every opportunity to do so, it’s time to let them go.
Lesson Four: Refuse to settle
The last lesson is not to settle.
Jobs says, “We’re just trying to make great products. We do things where we feel we can make a significant contribution.” To him, it’s about staying focused. It’s about doing great work. It’s about loving what you do and doing it with all your energy. Don’t settle for anything less.
Sanduski writes that settling is a common trap for many advisors. They rise to a level of production that makes them comfortable and then they coast. They have the house, the cars, the vacations, the club membership, and the kids’ college education funded … and many stop pushing themselves.
When you get to a point in your life where you are comfortable, coasting is the worst thing you can do. You’ll get stale disenchanted, and start cynical. The key is this: When growing your business is no longer satisfying, it’s time to find new challenges and to start growing again.
To see more insights from Steve Sanduski, go to www.succeedwithpeak.com.
Tags: Apple, Business Lesson, Ceo, Compendium, Conviction, Dramatic Impact, Initiatives, Iphone, Ipod, Macintosh, Macintosh Computer, Market Capitalization, Peak Organization, Philosophy, Pixar, Sanduski, Scale Projects, Steve Jobs, Target, Walt Dis
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