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Kim Shepherd’s “Get Scrappy” Featured in Enterprising Women

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Decision Toolbox CEO Kim Shepherd’s most recent book “Get Scrappy” was featured in the fall edition of Enterprising Women.

The copy from the article appears below, or check out a PDF of the print edition here.


Moving Your Company Down the Field with Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust
Thinking like a Growth CEO

By Kim Shepherd, CEO, Decision Toolbox

All CEOs know that sales is the lifeblood of a company…too little and your company becomes anemic.  As a result, sales is an area of business that has been drowned in consultants, seminars, books, lectures, programs, and essays, and I can see why. I find it is the most difficult of all departments to build and manage. Many times, leaders become so tangled up in our underwear trying to build sales processes, infrastructure, and KPIs that we forget that the sales team is supposed to be selling.

Sometimes, the first steps are the hardest, whether for a new salesperson, or simply during a down business cycle, getting the momentum going is the number one priority. To get the ball rolling, I deploy a strategy I call “three yards and a cloud of dust.” For football fans, you know this means grinding it out over four downs to gain ten yards, and starting again. It might take a while to reach the end zone, but you reach it in the end and have smaller celebrations along the way.

Many organizations are structured more for the Hail Mary pass, which are by design high risk. How you get it done doesn’t have to be pretty.

The Sea Lion Sales Approach

Over the years, I have sat on many CEO roundtables and listened to many CEOs talk of elaborate plans for market penetration, the hiring of exorbitantly priced consultants to build this strategy, and analyzing their elaborate approach ad nauseum.

Sometimes these strategies are years in the making. But I prefer an easier path. At our company, a management Tiger Team envisioned a local territory domination strategy, so rather than spending hundreds of hours on or hiring pricey consultants, I got in the car. I drove down the freeway, made a note of every company name I saw, and that became our target list. We landed some fifty percent of these clients, some of the most highly visible companies in our local market. Territory domination is a perception, both in your own mind and in the minds of your prospects: if you can see the signage, and that’s a client of ours, then we own the territory.

Here is where the sea lion comes in: on my way to meetings, I love looking up at the building and seeing our client name, chanting out “Ars, ars, ars (ours, ours, ours).”

Growth Ideas from Pretend Spend:  What Can You Buy for an Imaginary $1 Million?

The quick answer is: a whole slew of great ideas. And, surprisingly, those ideas might not cost much at all — in real dollars. Here’s how I came to this insight.

My company, Decision Toolbox is a 100% virtual company, so our annual all-staff meeting is hugely important. At a recent one we organized into tiger teams, small cross-functional groups of people who brainstorm intensively around a specific topic. Each group had the same topic: if you had $1 million to spend on improving the company, how would you spend it?

We certainly don’t have a million bucks lying around, but the tiger teams went into high gear and filled a dozen flip-chart pages with some great ideas. Once the leadership team consolidated all those ideas, we realized that 80% of them could be implemented without spending a penny. The ideas included process changes, time management tips, performance motivators, and more. And no team spent the entire $1 million.

Removing the limitations and confinements of the brainstorm opened the idea floodgates. Think about it: imagine you went into a tiger team meeting and said, “We have $3000 to invest in improving the company. How should we spend it?” Before the creative juices even start flowing, you’ve put a box around everyone’s mind. They’re focusing on cost rather than ideas. Even if you encourage them to think outside the box, you’ve already got a box.

Granted, with $1 million, you still have a box. But for most of us, a million-dollar box is so big that just about anything is possible. If you are an $80 billion global corporation, you might need to use $1 billion for this exercise, and lucky you. One way or the other, the goal is to eliminate any boundaries or restrictions.

A couple of extra value-adds: this approach makes the exercise fun, as no idea is too crazy — and we heard some crazy ones. In addition, brainstorming is a team-builder. Not only do people feed off of one another’s energy and become more and more engaged, but they also gain a glimpse of each other’s thinking and values.

So you could say that spending $1 million is free. The ideas you get, however, may be priceless.

The key lesson I hope you picked up here is when it comes to growth, try not to overthink it.  Get creative, focus on small wins along the way, and keep the sales flowing.

This article is derived in part from Kim’s new book “Get Scrappy” – now available in both print and Kindle editions.  See more about the book here.

 “Get Scrappy” is available from booksellers everywhere or directly from the Berkus Press at

Get the Kindle edition on Amazon

Follow Kim on Twitter

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