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This Is What Makes the Difference

In my fifteen years as a business coach, working with thousands of small business owners on their business development and marketing strategy, I’ve seen it all.

From businesses that continue to grow and thrive year in and year out, all the way to businesses that never seem to get off the ground!

So what makes the difference?

Over the next several months, we’ll look at why business owners succeed.

And I’m not talking about simply what activities they engage in … the do’s and don’ts.

Those are important, but what’s even more critical to success is who they’re being.

How you show up in the world, in terms of your behaviors and defining personal characteristics, is just as important as getting the strategy right.

We’ll look at which traits and behaviors serve you well and which are problematic, so you can play to your strengths and up your game where you’re falling short … or at least compensate for your weaknesses.

So, what’s the first all-important characteristic? It may not be sexy, but it’s an absolute determinant of your long-term success.


Rigor’s all about bringing your “A” game to the table, doing whatever you do scrupulously well, while adhering to the highest standards of customer service and personal integrity.

Will we come up short of perfection most of the time? Of course, we’re human. But it’s not about achieving perfection. It’s about striving for excellence.

Your work represents you. Your reputation’s on the line. And frankly, inexplicably, we see a lot of businesses coming up short in the quality department.

Applying rigor to your business means you’re committed to developing a great product or impactful service … and the organization to support it. And, it involves holding true to your standards, even when it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient.

It’s about holding true to gold standards of quality in each of the following areas:

  • IN YOUR COMMUNICATIONS. It sounds crazy I know, but I see so many business owners who are way too hard to reach. Their voice mail is full. They don’t return calls in a timely manner. They can’t seem to manage their calendar with integrity. No amount of brilliant strategizing is gonna make up for those deficiencies.
  • IN YOUR FOLLOW-UPS. It’s about doing what you said you were going to do when you said you’d do it. For example, I see people fail to respond to requests in a timely fashion. And I’m amazed to see business owners who don’t follow up with a potential client, letting the opportunity slip away or go stone cold.
  • IN YOUR PROMISES. Successful businesses are built on trust and integrity. Do you make promises you can actually fulfill and do you actually fulfill them? Big promises, such as “Make 7-figures in six weeks” might sound good and hook the gullible, but where’s the integrity?
  • IN YOUR POLICIES & PROCEDURES. Do you have policies and procedures or is it hit and miss? Do you have a written procedures manual? I started mine in year 2 of my business and now it’s too big to print! And we rely on it every day. Do your employees or 1099 consultants know the policies and procedures and are they committed to upholding your standards?
  • IN YOUR EFFORTS.   What’s the overall quality of the work you do? Are you committed to doing first rate work, or are you doing the minimum required to get by? I have a lot to thank my first business coach for. She helped me create a strong foundation for success. And yet, she’s out of business now. Why? She was brilliant and had great ideas, but her implementation was somewhat sloppy. She was satisfied with “B” effort materials, and I believe it came back to bite her in the butt!

I know you’re busy. We’re all busy. Steve Jobs was busy. But he had the same 24 hours you and I do.

The busiest, most successful business owners I coach have gold standards of excellence and are rigorous in their communications, their follow-up, and the promises they make.

Maybe you’ve attained that level of standards and performance as well. If so, bravo.

If not, you CAN.

Take an honest look at the checklist here and see where you need to up your game, so you can be both successful … and a true standout performer in your field.

Best Wishes,


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Meet Denise: Denise Hedges is a Business Development Coach and Speaker Coach for small business owners who want to be more comfortable, confident, and successful with their sales and marketing efforts. She specializes in helping them use speaking as a way to dramatically improve their results!