Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

How to Make Your Business MUCH More Successful in 2019







Every year I do a video with some ideas about how to make your business more successful in the coming year. This time I’ve changed it up a little bit and instead of giving you a list of “Big Ideas,” I’m going to give you a challenge, a great new tool, I’ll ask for a favor, and I’m making an offer to help you have a great 2019.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch the video and please share it with your network if you find the ideas of value.

Thanks so much – John

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Be sure to tell me your business challenge for 2019 in the “Speak Your Mind” section below so I can find the answer for you.



Business Success Made Simple

8D9xPlllM2WzeTfM4McZ-Tl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBU8NzMXDbey6A_oozMjJETcFor nearly a decade I’ve been jumping up and down at almost every seminar I teach shouting, “Whoever owns the voice of the customer – owns the marketplace.” Yet I am still absolutely flabbergasted by how few companies truly do even an average job of listening to the people who pay all the bills – their customers. Because I’ve built my entire career around making complex things simple, here are four very simple questions to ask as many of your customers as possible:


  1. What are the top THREE reasons you do business with our company?

If you ask lots and lots of your customers this question, and a clear pattern emerges, they have just told you your value proposition and given you incredible insight into how to build your brand. I will quickly use myself as an example; I asked several dozen of my top clients around the world specifically why they hired me and the answer came back exceedingly clear,

 “John, we don’t know any other speaker who reads and studies as much as you do, you been reading more than 100 business books a year for 20 years, teaching for some of the top companies and business schools in the world and you are a top 100 business thought leader  – you are a complete freak for learning about business. You’ve also been the owner or CEO of 10 companies, and was the CEO of a Rockefeller foundation at the age of 26, so this is not just about theory – you actually know what it’s like when you’re having a hard time making payroll. Lastly, is easy to see that you are deeply interested in and knowledgeable about business, every time you present you are focused and passionate about what you’re teaching– and because of those three things we always get a high ROI when we engage you.”

So my brand isResearch + Real-Life + Passion = ROI

I challenge you to do the same thing with your customers, ask a large number of your best customers specifically why they chose to do business with you and they will give you information that will be invaluable in your marketing and branding going forward.


  1. What do we do that frustrates you? What would you like us to start doing, stop doing or do differently in order to make it easier to do business with us?

Again, if you ask a significant number of your top clients this question there will likely be a clear pattern and then it’s very simple: immediately change the stuff they want you to change if at all possible. Be warned, if you ask this question and do not heed their advice it would be worse than never asking the question at all, so you have to be prepared to make the changes they suggest.


  1. What would we need to do to earn more/all of your business?

When you get quality feedback on this question you have essentially been given your growth strategy directly from your customers. It has been my experience in working with dozens of clients on this exercise that your top customers will give you the same three or four answers, which should then be turned into key strategic objectives. I cannot possibly think of a better way to grow your business then ask the people who are already spending money with you specifically what you would need to do to get them to give you more money. Yes, it is just that simple.


  1. What would we do that would cause you to fire us immediately?

Typically you get several very clear and straightforward answers here around breach of confidentiality, unprofessional behavior, substandard work, missed deadlines, scope creep and things of that nature. Once you collect these answers make a list of the pattern and then make sure that everyone in your business understands that they must never do any of these things!


You can change the questions around a little in order to match your industry and your customers, but at the end of the day if you’ll just pick up the phone and call a handful of your best customers and ask them questions like the ones above, you will be overwhelmed by the quality and value of the answers you get and how significantly this information can impact your business. I know this suggestion is so obvious and simple as to almost be offensive, but I can also tell you that less than 10% of businesses ever do this exercise. So get on the phone or send out a survey and let me know how things turn out for you – I very much look forward to your feedback!

Some Thoughts on Personal Branding

 Recently a good friend of mine who is in the financial services industry asked me for my thoughts on personal branding, because he was preparing to make a presentation to his team of associates about how critical it was to their career to create a strong and focused personal brand. Here is the note that I sent to him…


Dan, great to hear from you this week. Here are some thoughts on branding/marketing /sales – and especially personal branding – I hope you find this helpful.

Branding is about creating an image/feeling/connection with the customer. There are many branding experts that say that the customer actually owns the brand and creates the brand – but I believe that an organization/person can have a great deal of influence on how the brand is perceived in the marketplace by the consumer. An excellent example of branding would be products that are automatically tied to thoughts/emotions. Some examples would be:

 Volvo equals safety — A diamond is forever — Pepsi is for the new generation — Nike: just do it! — BMW, the ultimate driving machine — The little blue box from Tiffany’s — Ritz-Carlton = ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen — With a name like Smuckers it’s got to be good!

All of these organizations have done a fantastic job of linking their brand to a belief/emotion. The goal of branding then, is to understand the emotions, thoughts, beliefs that you want your customer to have – and then attempt to present your brand in such a way that it will elicit those thoughts and feelings when your customer thinks about you.

 Marketing is much more about getting someone to want to purchase your product. Marketing focuses on features/benefits/price – and your USP or Unique Selling Proposition. There are two major marketing strategies – the “push strategy,” which says you push information out in the marketplace and drive the end-customer to go buy the product at whatever place you want them to go to, for example – think of a computer or electronics company that tells you about their awesome new product and says,  Available at Best Buy now! The other major marketing strategy is the pull strategy which says that you create awareness and interest in the customer and get them to request your product  from the supplier – so that the customer “pulls” the product into the marketplace. A good example might be soy milk – it isn’t until consumers start asking for it that major chains will pick it up – that is why a lot of new products from smaller companies use guerrilla marketing to build up a big fan base – and then have their raving fan customers demand their products from their local suppliers – think: micro beers. Advertising is the tool used to implement the marketing strategy.

 Sales, is the last step in the process which is convincing the consumer to buy the product. This is where it is critical to understand the customer/client at the deepest possible level – and understand the decision-making/ purchasing process. I have a saying here that is one of my very favorites: Whoever owns the voice of the customer – owns the marketplace. Whoever gets the closest to the customer, has the strongest relationship, and understands them at the deepest level – has a huge advantage in the marketplace.

 Now you can take all of these things and apply them directly to personal branding.

Each of us, as a professional, and especially those of us that interact directly with our clients – need to consider the importance of creating a personal brand. In other words, what are the thoughts, beliefs, emotions you want to come into people’s minds when they hear… your name! Do they think: “trusted advisor,” do they think about someone who is highly competent, caring, a true expert? Or does your brand not have a distinctive and unique position in the customer’s mind? Today, to create a successful career as a person who delivers professional services – such as a lawyer, insurance salesperson, real estate agent, financial manager… or “business expert” such as myself, it’s critical that you take the time to think through the images, feelings, thoughts, emotions and connections that you want your clients to make when they think about you – and when they refer you to their friends and colleagues!!!

 Let me use myself as an example:

After more than 17 years as a business consultant and professional speaker I have listened to my customers closely enough to understand that they hire me for three very specific reasons – what I call the 3R’s.

 Research – you would be hard-pressed to find any other business consultant or professional speaker in the world who spends as much time, energy and effort as I do in reading 100+ books a year, listening to another 50 on audio, reading hundreds of white papers, magazine articles, blogs – truly investing a major part of my life into becoming as knowledgeable as I possibly can about the topics I teach.

 Real Life – not only do I read and study an enormous amount of information and data – I have been the CEO of 10 companies – two of them multinational – so I don’t just teach, I have been there and done that. I know what it’s like to have to make payroll – I know what it’s like to make bets with hundreds of thousands of dollars and many people’s jobs on a strategy. I have been in the trenches and continue to be there with my clients right now. I don’t teach theory – I teach what I know works from direct personal experience.

 ROI – the number one reason that people hire me is that I don’t waste their time or money – everything I teach, every idea I put forth, every workshop I deliver is focused intensely on delivering a strong Return On Investment for the money they have invested not only in me – but the sometimes very substantial expense of bringing in a large group of people, flying them in from all over the place – putting them up at a hotel – feeding all of them – and letting them spend a few days in training with me. The investment can be massive – the return must also be significant.

To my clients my brand is pretty straightforward: John Spence is a human Cliff Notes who can teach my people extremely valuable ideas in a simple and easy to understand way – and he constantly drives for turning the ideas he teaches into action in my company!

 As you can see I have a very clear and specific understanding of the brand that I am trying to portray – and that my clients have told me reflects who I am and the work I do for them. Actually, I have a 15-page “brand platform” that my team and I wrote to help us stay extremely focused on what the “JohnSpence” brand is and how to communicate it effectively.

 That is exactly the idea of personal branding, just like any company would, you sit down and figure out clearly what you want the brand “YOU” to stand for the marketplace and how you want your customers – and potential customers – to think about you and the services you offer. And in this day and age if you want to be successful as someone who delivers professional services it is absolutely essential that you take the time and effort to carefully craft a unique and compelling (compelling – as defined by the customer) personal brand and then become and expert at using social media and personal referrals to market your brand aggressively. But that’s an entirely different topic…

 I hope you found this helpful – let me know if you have any questions at all. Take good care — John


Do You Know Your LVC?

VOC + MOT + WOM = Success

Here is a video from my Udemy Lecture Series with some key ideas I feel will truly help your business. Please share the link with anyone you think might find value in these ideas…


The Secret to Owning Your Market

I have some very strong beliefs about what it takes to run a highly successful business and right at the top of my list is: Whoever “owns” the voice of the customer and uses that information to build an organizational culture of Extreme Customer Focus will own the marketplace.

Here’s why: When you focus intensely on your customers and provide customer service that truly meets and exceeds their specific needs, you win their loyalty at a level that is nearly impossible to shake—even when that competitor down the street is offering giveaways and steep discounts, or your market is crowded with dozens of me-too products or services.

Simply put, Extreme Customer Focus produces unparalleled customer service, and unparalleled customer service creates an unfair advantage for you. And what business owner wouldn’t want an unfair advantage? Continue reading “The Secret to Owning Your Market” »

Two New Videos: Branding & Impatient Customers

This first video is in response to a request from my good friend Hiro who asked me to recommend a few of my favorite books on branding. Hiro and his business partner Song run two amazing sushi restaurants in Florida, Dragonfly Sushi and Sake Company, and he is getting ready to update the brand on those wonderful restaurants and the franchise idea he has called Rolls ‘n Bowls. So here are six books that I think are superb for helping you build a stronger brand…  Continue reading “Two New Videos: Branding & Impatient Customers” »

How to Win in a Local Market

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine that is starting up a new professional services firm asked me to have lunch with him to talk about what he would need to focus on to be successful in our town. Here is the exact memo I sent to him and I think that much of it applies to just about any business and /or any individual trying to separate themselves from the rest of the market – especially a local market. Take a look through my suggestions and see which ones might work for you and your organization. Continue reading “How to Win in a Local Market” »

A Universal Master Key to Business Success

In one of the greatest self-help books ever written, Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” the author states that one of the Universal Master Keys to Success is creating mastermind groups (a small group of experts, advisers and mentors that focus on assisting you with your business, career and life). I could not agree more, as I’ve stated many times the most important thing I’ve ever learned is: You become what you focus on and like the people you spend time with. Along those same lines, it is also my firm belief that one of the Universal Master Keys to business success is: Referrals. Continue reading “A Universal Master Key to Business Success” »