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Get More At Bats

A good hitter knows he has to get more hits to be great. A great hitter knows she has to get more at bats to get to the Hall of Fame.

In the wake of the fading scars from the recent recession, most companies have turned their focus to revenue enhancement, a fancy term for “get more sales”. What are the key metrics that will help you drive that achievement?

Get More At Bats - Exkalibur.com

What could be easier than to focus on top line growth?

There is probably no clearer metric to measure and analyze. Check the ledger: sales are up or they’re not.

But, where do sales come from? From Prospects who become customers … so if you’re not tracking how you’re developing Prospects, and treating them as importantly as customers, your sales are unlikely to grow much.

Here’s the real key to getting more sales

Get more at bats.

If you need more customers, find more prospects.  If you own stores, figure out how to get more people through the door.

If you don’t have enough prospects, find more suspects.  If you sell services, talk to more people.

Sales result from developing Suspects … nurturing them to become Prospects … all the while recognizing most of them never become customers   …  but without them, there will be no new customers at all.

“At Bats” are not the same as “Plate Appearances”

Baseball distinguishes between “plate appearances” and “at bats”.

Just showing up at the plate isn’t enough. Keep reading so you don’t miss the metrics checklist…

Have You Created a Battle Plan – or is Hope your only Strategy?

Most of us weren’t around during World War II … but D-Day was the largest amphibious invasion of all time.

It involved over 250,000 troops and 15,000 ships landing along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast on June 6, 1944.


Accident? … or the result of rigorous strategic planning and project management?

Could this happen without planning?

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower, (Our 34th President)

Did General Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander, lead this effort without any planning?

Of course not, and even if our business plans aren’t quite as extensive, we know (deep down, we know for sure) that we need some sort of an organized planning process to build a successful business.

We need to make sure that everyone’s headed in the same direction … that we don’t ignore the obstacles or overlook the great opportunities on the road ahead … or don’t squander valuable resources chasing rainbows.

Do I really have to plan to have a successful business?

I find myself using General Eisenhower’s phrase repeatedly for at least two reasons … first, because it’s absolutely true … and Keep Reading to learn the 4 reasons you Have to Plan


12 Holiday Morsels to Strengthen Your Business

Yes, the holidays are here and already the list of things to do continues to grow – completing the annual budget, planning parties, visiting with friends, figuring out what to get who for when … and so it goes.

Yet, my spirit remains strong, so I’ve prepared a menu of 12 holiday treats that I hope will slide down like Amaretto eggnog in front of a winter fire.

I’ve even scoured some of my earlier columns to find the most delectable morsels.

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” — Yogi Berra

So, here’s a smorgasbord of lessons learned – a few appetizers, a choice of entrees, a little dessert – from executives of both extraordinary capability and numbing incompetence  — that should grace your executive table for 2015.

1.     It’s never about you.

It’s always about them. Customers, employees, suppliers … family, friends, colleagues.

Be clear about it and thrive.

Get it backwards?


2.     If you don’t think you’ll ever have a management succession problem, you already have one.

Keep reading. There are 12 days. Remember?


The 4 Pillars of Long Term Success You Can’t Live Without

4 Pillars of Long Term Success

4 Pillars of Long Term Success

These are the four pillars of any firm’s long-term success

“Lary, give this customer a call. We’ve just received an unauthorized return, and I want these shoes sent back.

“Funny how the green shoes don’t fit and the red ones fit perfectly.”

It wasn’t uncommon for the chairman of company North (you may remember him from the 2nd article in our Culture Series, How Are You Paving the Road to Superior Performance) to stop by my office with a message like this.

I realized later he was talking in code

His remarks were actually a code:

“The red shoes sold well but the green ones the customer bought aren’t selling … so now they’re claiming they don’t fit so they can return them. We’ve had no other such complaints. Tell them we won’t accept them and refuse them at the door if they come back.”

I made a note to contact the customer, figuring I’d call them after lunch when I would be more likely to catch them three time zones away.

No e-mail back then.

What the hell are you waiting for? Read the Full Article to see what he was expecting


Leadership Insight | What are we doing to help you?

“There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.

Winston Churchill

Why do you have your own business?

Winston Churchill could have been an entrepreneur to have so eloquently dramatized the thrill associated with building a business.

Whether you own it yourself or share it with partners, it’s yours to build, to mold according to your dreams and values.

You may be building it from scratch or seeking new opportunities to jumpstart a mature company. In either case, I hope this will help you on your journey.

Want to build your own boat?

Why do you have your own business?

Independence, many will say, the chance to run my own show?

Be my own boss?

Do things my way – maybe because you’ve seen them done the wrong way and you can do better? (more…)


Lewis & Clark didn’t load the canoe with Mojitos!

What Does It Take to be a Great Leader?

Every Tuesday, we’re sharing valuable and practical leadership tips and tools to help you BE a better leader so you can BECOME a better leader. Remember … you won’t BECOME a better leader until you start BEING a better leader … implementing NOW the changes necessary to adopt the proven strategies of successful leaders. You might start by building on the communication matrix and making sure you’re defending the castle to get done what only you can do. Make sure to take some time so you’re thinking past today. Don’t forget our 12 part Leadership series.


We’re human, we make mistakes, we miscalculate …

I continue to examine some of the first 100 newspaper columns I’ve written … and continue to be struck by the timeless issues that we face as we build our businesses.

We’re human, we make mistakes, we don’t always get done what we intend, we miscalculate, things don’t turn out as planned.

Stuff happens.

We know we’re on a journey and not just seeking a destination, but that doesn’t diminish our struggle to overcome many of the same forces that have plagued progress throughout civilization.

(We’ll explore some of those forces, and how to overcome them, in an upcoming column.) 

“The importance of knowing accounting can not be underestimated, it’s the language of business. If you don’t know it, it’s like being in a foreign country without knowing the language.”  ~ Warren E. Buffett, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.

This famous quote from the Sage of Omaha kicked off the 13-part Big River series, a narrative journey examining the value and dangers of accelerated growth and illuminating many of the business finance issues that affect our businesses.





Liquidity … and more.

It illustrates the balance that your business requires between the growth that nourishes the organization and the strains it imposes as the body grows. That series is now being published in book form, so stay tuned for that announcement very soon. 

“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” ~Will Rogers

Few would disagree about the timeless value of this statement. It appeared in a column in November 2008 as the wheels of American commerce were grinding to a halt. I used this “Double V” image to signify the High degree of Volatility and the Low degree of Visibility that branded the horizon, and I’m not sure those characteristics haven’t returned … if they ever left.

At the time, I suggested attacking the nefarious “V” words with a few “F” words of our own to communicate with your teams during hard times.

  • Face time by spending more time with your employees.
  • Be Forthcoming and tell it to your team as straight as you understand it.
  • Use “Facts” not Fiction; your employees can take it and will appreciate knowing that you don’t have all the answers either.
  • Frequency reminds us that we can’t over-communicate during these periods. Keep talking; update everyone on what you’re learning as well as what you still don’t know.

As I emphasized then: “Don’t wait to get this done. Your employees are walking on eggshells every day. Pick up the shucks and create a positive environment where employees know the rules and trust that you’ll keep them in the loop at all times.”

“Lewis & Clark didn’t load the canoe with Mojitos!”

I love this tagline from Jim Beam.

It says that we know who we are … and who we’re not … we’re proud of it … and if you don’t like it ….

When we recall the “sustainable competitive advantage” that should earmark our Strategy, it’s critical to stake out “who we are”, a subject we have covered in several previous columns.

Know your core market and “stand for something” is always better than trying to be all things to all people.

Try it sometime.

Your real customers like to hear that you understand the core values they’ve come to respect in your products and services … and you’ll be able to extend your appeal to people who want to buy from someone who knows who they are will make them part of something greater.

We’re got a few tours left through the museum of previous columns before we begin to tackle why these lessons are so hard for us to adopt and put to work.

In the meantime, take stock of these principles.

  • Manage growth so it doesn’t consume your resources instead of adding to them.
  • Continue to communicate with your employees in this stalled economy so they don’t have to be looking over their shoulder and can focus on what’s important to make the company more successful.

While you’re at it? Make sure everyone knows what you stand for.


This article was published in the October 31, 2011 edition of the North Bay Business Journal, a publication of the New York Times, and a weekly business newspaper which I have served as a regular columnist for over three years. The Business Journal covers the North Bay area of San Francisco – from the Golden Gate bridge north, including the Wine Country of Sonoma and Napa counties. The electronic version of this article, as published by the North Bay Business Journal, may be found here.


Lary Kirchenbauer is the president of Exkalibur Advisors, providing practical business strategies for family and other privately owned businesses in the middle market. Exkalibur works closely with senior executives and their businesses in the wine and other industries, and hosts the Exkalibur Leadership Forum for leaders of middle market companies in the North Bay. Please visit Exkalibur.com for a library of valuable resources, articles and insights or connect on Twitter, LinkedIN or the Exkalibur fan page on Facebook.


The Cornerstones of Leadership | L = Loyalty

Isn’t there something almost magical about having a loyal friend?

They know when we need help and even better, offer their help without our asking.

They’re committed to a lasting relationship with us and they inspire us with their loyalty.

They don’t judge us, they overlook our shortcomings, and they expect nothing in return.

>We have no trouble understanding that kind of loyalty.

What is Loyalty?

But there are others we know as “fair weather friends,” good friends even. We enjoy their company, they’re responsive when their help is sought, but they wouldn’t be our first choice to join us in a foxhole.

You’ve got to give loyalty down, if you want loyalty up.” ~ Donald T. Regan

What is loyalty and how important is it to successful leadership?

Some philosophers think loyalty is only a sentiment; others argue that it’s more of a test of conduct than an intensity of feeling. Some argue that it’s a virtue; some claim that disloyalty is a greater vice than loyalty is a virtue.

Others argue that we must set aside good judgment to be loyal; I contend that while steadfast loyalty is a welcome quality, no individual or company should expect mindless fealty.

Is Job Loyalty a Worthless Virtue? (more…)


The Building Blocks of Leadership | What are they?

What Does It Take to be a Great Leader?

Nothing in life travels in a neat formation accompanied by bugles and cavalry. A lot of it shows up filthy and unkempt, prominent in the mess we’ve made around our foxhole. These lessons are typically the offspring of hubris, naivete and ignorance … or from overlooking the land mines hidden beneath our feet.

Every Tuesday, we’ll share valuable and practical leadership tips and tools to help you BE a better leader so you can BECOME a better leader. Remember … you won’t BECOME a better leader until you start BEING a better leader  … implementing NOW the changes necessary to adopt the proven strategies of successful leaders. You might start by building on the communication matrix and making sure you’re defending the castle to get done what only you can do. Make sure to take some time so you’re thinking past today.


This is the introductory article to an upcoming 10 part series on the building blocks of


Some of the greatest battles will be fought

within the silent chambers of your own soul.”

— Ezra Taft Benson

As a business leader, how often have you paused to wonder, “Am I a very good leader?” “Is it possible that I’m really just a ‘legend in my own mind’ and that when I turn around and look closely, not many people are following?”

Leadership is the centerpiece of our business success. We start out with what God gave us, and stumble, fall, grow, learn and build from that foundation, emboldened by our success, nurtured by our failures.

What does it take to be a great leader?

Your business will not survive … let alone thrive … if you don’t (more…)


Business Finance | Why you should read Warren Buffett’s Letter

A Weekly Business Finance series for Non-Finance Executives!


Read Warren Buffett’s Letter to Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders

So, why not  jump into the deep end right now by reading Business Finance is about much more than finance

I’ve said before that leaders don’t have the luxury of confining their interests to just a few things



Leadership Styles: The Smartest Guys in the Room can kill you!

When a fellow says it hain’t the money but the principle o’ the thing, it’s th’ money.” — Frank McKinney

‘Always ask why.  Dig deeper.  Get the facts.’ Avoid the crowd mentality

“Ask Why” was their motto.

“Wheel Out,” “Fat Boy” “Death Star” and “Get Shorty” were some of the nicknames applied to their strategies.

Confirmation letters of successful trades were addressed to names like “Mr. M. Yass and “Mr. M. Smart” … and I think you can parse the underlying contempt.

“Rank & Yank” described their people performance system, “Pump and Dump” their trading strategy.

About $70 billion of market value was destroyed, more than 20,000 employees lost their jobs and pension funds worth $3.2 billion were destroyed, more than two thirds of which belonged to retirees with little chance to rebuild.

I had always intended to watch “The Smartest Guys in the Room,” the 2005 movie based on a book by the same name from co-authors Peter Elking and Bethany McLean, but it got lost in the shuffle until last week.

It chronicles the Enron cataclysm, whose meteoric ascent was violently terminated with its bankruptcy on Dec. 3, 2001.

“Be like Enron” is still an ignominious curse

It’s hard to believe this happened almost 10 years ago since to be “like Enron” still reverberates as an ignominious curse. It’s really more like a viral infection, though, because so many of the forces that drove its destruction have cleaved similar fissures in scandals from (more…)