Exponent Leadership: Small Business Development

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Now 42 years old, John left a high-paying job five years ago to start his own clothing business. For the first two years, the business was horrible. He was forced to sell many of his stocks, took out loans, and made several other business sacrifices. Over the past three years, however, things have turned around, and the store is now making a profit and a staff of five employees.

I was contacted by John because, as he said, “I just cannot get these lazy people to work, and I’m scared that I will lose everything.”

Our first conversation lasted more than three hours, as we were trying to determine what was working well and what areas needed improvement. Following our discussion, I interviewed John’s staff to evaluate their skills and perspectives on the situation. It became apparent that the staff had the expertise and abilities necessary to perform the work.

The Following Areas of Focus Were Created
  • Train, consult, and coach John on the 7 steps to high-performing teams.
  • Create success and failure metrics for feedback loops.
  • Ensure John can discipline, coach, and re-align staff in a calm and understanding manner.

John agreed to the above areas of focus for three months.


During this three-month period, I conducted a mixture of observations:

  • John with staff.
  • Staff with customers
  • Employees when John was not around.

Interviews with staff revealed that many of them were unclear on John’s expectations. While investigating measurements of success for the team, I found that the expected method was prone to John’s mood on that particular day. Thus, there was no objective understanding of good vs. bad work within the store.

Additionally, the staff reported that John was prone to sudden mood changes, and they felt he didn’t know anything about them. For these reasons, despite liking John as a person, the staff felt miserable about coming to work and working for John.

I coached John through the 7 steps of High-Performing Teams. He learned more about his staff and created relevancy connections from their work to their lives, community, and families. At the beginning of our work together, we created measurements of success and failure for the staff.

Specific Exponent Leadership Process Content Sections Were Used
  • Goal Setting and Time Span
  • Managing Time: Managing Yourself
  • Coaching Underperformance
  • Coaching Performance

As John completed each of the content sections, we spoke about areas of success and areas where challenges existed, then discussed how he could continue to implement his learning into the business.


At the end of the three months, I re-interviewed the staff. Here’s what we found this time around:

The staff now had clear and distinct goals, tasks, and timelines, allowing for excellent work and customer service. Sales increased by 8% in the three-month period.

They reported marked improvements in John’s interactions with them and their perception of John as a manager. All staff, including John, were happier and felt more connected to each other, the store, and their community.

John managed underperforming staff members into high performers by setting goals and delegating proper tasks that aligned with the person’s values and commitment to the store and work.

People join companies. But they leave managers. Be the reason people stay with your company.