Customer Experience: What It Is and How to Create It

We all have certain stores and brands that we keep going back to time after time. They consistently provide us with great products and services. When our friends and family ask for suggestions, they are a name we quickly and confidently provide. We love these companies, but what brings us back for more?

Yes, they provide quality and a product. Yes, they have great customer service. But it’s more than just those things. They create and maintain an excellent customer experience. What exactly does that mean, though? How do you create it? Is it just something that happens with time? Can it be improved? Let’s discuss.

customer service
I bet you’re thinking, customer experience, that’s just a fancy way of saying customer service. WRONG. Though it does include customer service, customer experience is a mix of many things. Think about when you walk into your favorite store, there’s something about the atmosphere and the ease of finding or ordering what you need. Also, you can’t forget about the product or service. You get quality at each turn and you keep coming back.

So, how do they make it happen? Customer experience does not just happen (though if you have a good business plan it may seem like it does); it is created. It’s in the branding and package design, it’s in the materials that go into making the product, and that product’s design. It’s the look and feel of the brick and mortar location. It’s your online presence. It’s in the message the brand exudes. It’s the people and the training they receive. It’s planning. Whether you have an established company or are working to establish a new organization, here are some ways to create and/or improve your customer experience:

Keep It Cohesive

Make sure everyone and everything are on the same page. You take time crafting your mission and message, so put them to work. These should go further than just something employees read in their handbooks; be more than just a catchy tagline. They should mean something to the company and the customer. Everyone in the organization should buy into these messages, and they should carry through all facets of the brand. Also, don’t forget to make sure all branding and imaging carry through the brand as well. You want to be recognizable; make sure your theme is integrated through all platforms.

Make Things Easy

Who doesn’t like easy? Millennials and Generation Z have short attention spans. If it takes too many steps, they are moving on. We are also seeing in the retail world a move from shopping at brick and mortar stores to online shopping. If you don’t have an online presence, you are in trouble. So many locations extend their reach and experience for the customers to multiple channels; online, apps, social media, and physical locations. Each providing ease of access to products and deals. Companies that cannot convert the experience to multiple platforms are faltering. For example, The Limited has just closed all of its physical retail locations–just one of the many recent retail casualties. Though they provided good in-store experiences, The Limited was slow to transition to multi-faceted selling platforms. Only in the past several years did the brand start to offer computerized in-store online ordering, something many other brands had established long before which calculated into their demise.

People Power

Now, I know I said this wasn’t about customer service, but it is part of it. You can make sure that your online platform is easy to navigate, bug-free, and rarely down, but if your customer service is horrible, then forget it. Invest in your people, in their initial training, in their well-being, and their advancement. Happy employees carry their enthusiasm to those they interact with. I am currently planning a wedding and working to interview different “Big Day” vendors. It’s exhausting, but one thing I will say is that all of these vendors get what it means to create a customer experience. I recently said “yes to my dress,” and the experience and service there was amazing. They made sure my pregnant bridesmaids always had water and snacks; the woman who helped me find my dress even gave me her personal cell phone number so I can keep her updated on my wedding planning progress. They added the personal touch and made me feel special. If you can instill the importance of making a connection with your clients to everybody in your organization, you will have them coming back for more time and time again. Make them see the value in your people as well as in your product.

Customer experience is an expansive concept that includes, customer service, good products, easy online navigation, and more. Competition is everywhere. Make a plan that will help you stand out and connect with your client base. Plan for customer experience; don’t think it will happen magically.

Entrepreneurs in the Making: Ideation with Canon-McMillan Students

The holidays are over! This is leaving some of us relieved and a few of us a little disappointed that it’s time to get back to the grind. Regardless, this past month has been a busy time for everyone. Before we cocooned ourselves for the remainder of whatever PTO days we had remaining, ABG Capital took some time to do what they do best; invest in the future.


How so? One month ago today, we welcomed the students of the Canon-McMillan School District’s Entrepreneurship Program! Twice a year, as part of our community outreach initiatives, we welcome the class and their teachers to our office for an educational field trip.

ABG Capital finds it important to invest in educating students for “real-world” office life expectations. On this particular visit, the students gathered together to listen to ABG Capital’s CEO Jeff Tapolci, VoIP Innovations’ President Dan Ravenstahl, Director of IT Adam Scott, Director of Human Resources Sharon Kolesar, and Director of Development Jerry Eddy.

After a brief introduction of our company’s history, structure, and people-focused culture, Jeff spoke about some of the useful business tools he uses to ensure the alignment and health of our companies. The students learned about the importance of Strategic Thinking and the 7 Strata, along with Execution Planning and the use of a One Page Plan. The main topic of discussion, however, was the topic of ideation.


What is ideation? The thought process of ideation comes from Stanford University. The goal of performing ideation is to produce “innovation at work” whether it be the overall mindset of your employees or an actual team-building session completed throughout each department. Ideation occurs at every point of the project planning process, but these ideas are often brought together with others generated during specific exercises aimed at uncovering new methods, approaches, practices, and, perhaps most importantly, new ways of improving something such as a new user interface experience. So much information is uncovered over the course of most projects that there must be a point where it is combined, analyzed, and converted into practical solutions and means of making innovation at work more tangible.

After hearing the detailed overview of ideation, students formed small groups to perform their own ideation sessions. Following the layout and steps of this ideation/brainstorming template, the Canon-Mac students chose struggles that involve other people, can be solved with a physical thing or experience, and that could be tackled within a week.

The students dove deep into these brainstorming sessions and came up with some really insightful and thought-provoking ways to develop analogous situations, break through any constraints, and framework for the problems they decided to tackle.

Shortly after their ideation run-through, the students were able to wrap up their day with the chance to meet with members of our staff that work in departments like Development, Marketing, IT, and Accounting. Our team members shared with them how our roles in the company, along with other companies they have worked for, have helped shape their careers and led to new opportunities.

After the meet and greet, the day ended with pizza for lunch and a Q&A session from the students.

The day was busy, fun was had, but most importantly the students were able to take away a better knowledge and understanding of what may lie behind the door of graduation. The students were able to witness first-hand the power of what a small family run business has the potential to turn into with hard work, cultivation of those around you, and respect. Success is the aim of the game. ABG only hopes that we could instill that goal in the minds of these young adults and inspire the next generation.

For more information on ideation and how you can implement this philosophy and strategy into your workplace, click here.

To get a copy of the Innovation at work Ideation worksheet, click here.

Looking Back on INBOUND16

Cold calling is dead.

It’s just that simple. We now live in a time where marketing no longer reaches out by annoyance but by content filled with rich stories, SEO, automation, analytics, and so many other intuitive methods. Generally anything besides making those awkward phone calls in hopes of securing a customer.


That’s the beauty of Inbound Marketing. The barriers have been taken down. The opportunity for creativity and passion to be instilled in the way we choose to represent our brand is endless. Inbound brings forth a new frontier where captivating attention–and day trading it–becomes the holy grail of our marketing efforts.20161108_175314

INBOUND16 brought together over 18,000 attendees who live and breathe in the world of marketing, sales, and CEO-land, as well as HubSpot customers and agencies who understand the mentality and passion behind inbound and organic reach. All of us scurrying from session to session, taking notes and absorbing as many thoughts and tactical tips as possible to bring back to our organizations.

A few INBOUNDers from our marketing department flew to Boston to be a part of the gathering and came back full of insight. Upon landing, these three scattered throughout the convention center to gain the best marketing knowledge in the industry.

In the three and a half days of attendance Cherie, Cody, and Mark witnessed powerful keynote presentations from marketing gurus such as Gary Vaynerchuck, the “eloquently” spoken founder of VaynerMedia and host of #AskGaryVee, as well as Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Founders of HubSpot. Celebrities filled the halls of INBOUND as well. Stories of the rise and grind were told by Anna Kendrick, Michael Strahan, and Serena Williams. Even Alec Baldwin graced INBOUND16 with his presence one morning! The passionate life-tales and insight didn’t end there. Hundreds of breakout sessions filled all 80 rooms of the Boston Convention center as well as both of their grand ballrooms.20161110_141831_001

To summarize INBOUND completely is almost impossible. To experience this wealth of powerful knowledge and standout mentors, as well as those sharing the field of inbound from around the globe together in one location is something you truly have to be there for.

To squeeze just a little bit of this experience out of the conference we asked our three in-house-INBOUND-incumbents what moments of enlightenment, insight, actionable tips, and fun they experienced individually.

Cherie – PR & Social Media Specialist, ABG Capital: “INBOUND16 was such an incredible experience that it’s difficult for me to pick just one takeaway as my favorite. The initial thought I have anytime I reflect on INBOUND(16) is how amazing it was to be among other people in my field who just “get it.” The fellow attendees understand how crucial it is for us marketers to do what we do for a business. They also understand that while we have the “fun” jobs of the company, what we do takes hard work, strategic planning, analyzation, concentration, and creativity.

I’m downright giddy at INBOUND listening to others in my field “talk shop.”  And while my focus at work is on PR and Social Media, I have the opportunity to attend sessions on design, video, content creation, and storytelling, which aids in rounding out my expertise. If you want to be at the top of the sales and marketing field, a trip to INBOUND is a must for getting there!”


Mark – Product Manager, InspiraFS:  The Session titled: ‘The Science of Selling: How to Sell the Way our Brains are Wired to be Influenced and Form Buying Decisions’ really stood out for me.

David Hoffeld, The Hoffeld Group stated “63% of the behaviors salespeople deploy decrease the likelihood of a sale.” SAD! As marketers, we should care deeply about how prospects’ brains react to sales strategies. At the end of the day we are trying to drive sales, just in a different environment. There’s no reason we shouldn’t incorporate the science of selling into our content.



Cody – Inbound Marketing Specialist, ABG Capital: INBOUND showed me that your story matters. Something that outbound, or “interruption marketing,” doesn’t necessarily embrace. Interruption marketing is simply the interruption of someone’s activity to grasp his attention…it’s an annoyance. We’ve all seen in it with spam, pop-ups, ugly banner ads, cold calling, and even TV.

In Gary Vaynerchuck’s keynote he explained that the television networks we know and love are becoming extinct. What’s replacing them? Intuitive social media platforms that tell stories. Our iPhones have become the basis of our entertainment. They’re our new television sets. They’re filled with the networks we know and love–Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram.

We follow brands and celebrities by choice. Not by interruption. We “tune-in” to their stories, latch onto their content, and implement their output into our daily lives. Not because we were caged into watching a 30 second spot in the middle of the Walking Dead because our On-Demand isn’t working–but because we as a society, we as a human race, place emotional ties into what we view and love–the quality of story-telling.


Tactical Advice You Can Use Today20161109_144812

As I said earlier, summing up the lessons learned from INBOUND in their entirety is nearly impossible. However, we can give you few actionable tips that can improve your website and your conversions today!



Here are some tips you can incorporate right now:

  • Remove your slider/carousel hero banner. These diminish CTR (Click Through Rate) and take away from your value proposition.
  • A value proposition–you should have one! Peep Laja with ConversionXL has one of the best articles on how to create a great value proposition. Read it and test yours starting today. If you find this hard, just pretend someone asked you what you do and how you’re different. Once you’ve compiled that, organize it into a value prop and get it up on your site.
  • Define your conversion funnel assumptions. When someone lands on your homepage, where would he or she logically go next? Make that next step easier. That’s conversion optimization in a nutshell, and you can try that for each page. Use any data you have, or start with assumptions and test, test, and test some more.
  • Optimize your blog. Aside from your homepage, your blog is probably the second highest visited part of your website. You’d be surprised how your blog is leaking opportunities to convert.
  • Testing…Testing…Testing! So how can you do that? Add Hotjar to your site today. This will show you heatmaps, user recordings, and more.

Start using these tips today! We’ll be sure to enlighten you with more after INBOUND17. Grab your tickets for next years INBOUND with your company; you never know, we might just happen to see you there!


Aligning the Herd One Gazelle at a Time

Aligning the Herd One Gazelle at a Time

“Goals without routines are wishes; routines without goals are aimless” is a quote taken from Scaling Up: The Rockefeller Habits 2.0 by Verne Harnish. This book has inspired a business and leadership event that ABG Capital has been fortunate enough to attend; the Gazelles ScaleUp Leadership Summit.

It’s been three months since eight of our leaders attended Gazelles 2016 ScaleUp Leadership Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. Seventeen dynamic speakers and authors captivated our team by sharing their wisdom, experience, and talent for success.  We gathered for discussions throughout the conference spending time reviewing notes, sharing ideas, and reflecting on strategies and initiatives that would best benefit our organization in the short term. Upon returning to the office, our leadership team agreed to meet once a week to hold ourselves accountable, narrow down our top take-ways, and decide on the one big rock or number one priority for the remainder of the year. Together we came to a similar conclusion of what that one big rock is and what we feel is needed to be even more successful, creating alignment through shared consciousness and empowered execution.

The first step in this process is to share the plan with each employee and identify opportunities for all employees at all levels in the organization to make decisions and solve problems by enabling rather than directing. This concept of engagement through empowerment leads to a “team of teams” approach to foster transparency and allow for stronger communication and understanding of the company’s strategic plan. The execution portion of ScalingUP pinpoints three critical components that must happen throughout the organization in every team; priority, data, and rhythm.



Promoting trust and purpose with and between teams will contribute to bottom-up results from daily interaction. Our company initiative for quarter three and four is to ensure that each team is meeting regularly to define its big rock for the week, month, and quarter.  We’ve been instrumental at achieving improved communications resulting in better efficiency and enhanced teamwork between departments.

Align Today is a tool we use to keep everyone in the loop by sharing a one page plan available for all to see, update, and work together toward aligning department initiatives with the company’s common goal or BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal). We recently outsourced Centric Performance to conduct employee surveys and management review meetings for selected teams to help identify each employee’s understanding of his or her role and how it contributes to the common goal of the company. Leadership is serving others and bringing out the best in people.  It’s important to rally the emotional connection and understand the importance of what each employee values to truly have an engaged staff who wants to develop individually and succeed as a team. Our plan is to involve the employees in designing a plan for their own critical numbers and KPIs to create buy in, appreciation, accountability, and involvement toward the common goal.

As you can see, the quote we began this with has a lot to do with the processes and tools we have injected into our environment. Routine matters. Let’s face it–if you’re moving without a routine, your priorities are most likely scattered and you have no analytical evidence to uphold any of your efforts. Even more important, your goal, or “big rock” that every employee and department should be focusing on as a priority, should be backed by rhythm. The rhythm within your day-to-day tactical progress is your routine–that “groove” or effortless pattern you get into when you master your priorities and data.

We realize that growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together in synchrony. If there’s one key we continually take away from the Gazelles it’s that our people are our rhythm. They are the force that continually pushes us toward success. If we cease to invest and cultivate in our employees, then there will be no perpetual development. All of our growth depends upon their activity within our organization. Activity that sprouts innovation.

4 Keys to Success from the Gazelles Growth Summit

It’s that time of year again–time for the annual Gazelles Growth Summit! ABG Capital’s top dogs are fortunate enough to travel once again to this learning event in Atlanta to continue their growth and education in the world of leadership.

ABG Capital, along with hundreds of other business owners, will learn from CEOs of some of the world’s top companies to understand their habits, experiences and insights to craft an industry dominating strategy!

gazelles 1This year’s summit is focused on Verne Harnish’s book Scaling Up- Mastering the Rockefeller Habits 2.0. There will be a buffet of knowledgeable guest speakers presenting, including Jim Whitehurst, David Butler and Aubrey Daniels just to name a few. Also, team workshops that focus on the “Rockefeller Habits 2.0” in a day-long spirit of “how-to” interaction, collaboration and networking will be featured.gazelles 2

Today we’re going to dig right into the meat and potatoes of Scaling Up and showcase how ABG Capital practices the four main strategies found in the book on the day-to-day.

To summarize the book (which is almost sacrilegious to do), Harnish focuses on four keys to scaling your business. Keys that allow some companies to “make-it” and the rest to fall.

The keys are:

  1. Attract and keep the right people
  2. Create a truly differentiated strategy
  3. Drive flawless execution
  4. Have plenty of cash to weather the storms

The People

The book states that the job of the leaders is to make sure the right people are doing the right things.

Your values and culture should be so strong that they act like an immune system, forming a system of protection against those who may not align, all for the greater good and health of your organization.

At ABG Capital we invest in our employees. We cultivate them and promote their growth and success. We shape our employees into their roles and allow them embrace their passions. When everything aligns, it’s almost magical. It’s wonderful to see our teams share our C.O.R.E. Values, make them their own and embrace their responsibilities. Our organization exists almost as an accounting statement. Each produced effort has a column with numbers of the extraordinary people responsible. It only becomes problematic when those names in the column don’t align with the work and values presented.

Some companies may think turnover is a scary outcome within their business. It’s actually a good outcome. Only when you invest in your employees are they at the peak of strength. Why? You’re weeding out the B and C players that eventually become toxic to your A players–the players in which you invest.

The Strategy

Core values are the rules and boundaries that define our company’s culture and personality. They’re also the rules and boundaries that define our strategy. We developed a set of C.O.R.E. Values that have helped define our niche, simplify our execution and turn our revenue into profit. Our strategy is differentiated due to the fact that each of our portfolio companies has a Profit Per X. Meaning that our companies individually have one product, service, technology etc. that sets them apart from the rest.

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We each also have a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), a long term goal that changes the nature of business. For example VoIP Innovations, one of ABG Capital’s portfolio companies, differentiates their X Factor, which is their BackOffice software that is unlike anything in the industry today. VoIP Innovations also has a BHAG of offering complete Choice, Automation and Control of their telecom services. Scaling Up teaches us that we need to sandbox our brand promises. Who are our customers? What are we really selling them? What are our three brand promises? And the most important; how do we measure?

The Execution

At ABG Capital we like to focus on three key components to steer our ship in the right direction: priority, data and rhythm. We pride ourselves in focusing on these three words in all that we do. What does that mean exactly? Well let’s break it down. Priority–when you come in to the office bright and early, just poured yourself a coffee and sat down at your desk, you should have a piece of work carried over from the previous work day that needs to be finished before your meeting. This task becomes your priority. Each business day should present a new priority; that one project, simple or complex that needs to be completed before moving on to anything else.

Collecting data requires us to have data. Key performance indicators (KPIs) must be identified, and effort needs to be expended to capture this information. ABG Capital’s KPIs vary between companies and KPIs enable us to measure how we are performing by revealing both areas in which we excel and those in which improvement is needed.

Rhythm is the heartbeat of your organization. Have a daily huddle. This 5-15 minute meeting should be implemented to discuss tactical issues and provide updates. Brief, daily meetings will help establish a rhythm, as can weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings. Meetings are useful for obtaining feedback, getting “real” information, reviewing KPIs and identifying problems that prevent things from running smoothly.

Meetings can even provide those all-too-rare opportunities to pat people on the back and “recharge their batteries.”

The Cash

In Scaling Up,  Harnish says to never blame the industry for your company’s financial situation. “Well, this is just the way it is in our industry,“ isn’t a phrase you’ll hear uttered from top executives. Could you imagine Warren Buffett or Mark Zuckerberg giving a shrug followed by these words? In fact, Harnish says there are only two time-frames that matter: 90 days, 10 years and nothing in between.

Your 90-day plan is data driven, and you’re focused on overcoming the choke point. This is your time to review a daily report of available cash and to note why it has changed in the last 24 hours. Recognizing these changes and following the efficiency and progress of your “rhythm” will promote huge growth in the next decade. So no more excuses–only improvements!

Getting Your Core Values Off The Wall and Into The Office


If you were to walk into your company today, where would you find your corporate values? In the employee handbook? Hanging on a plaque in each room? Is your HR department protecting them? Regardless of where your core values may be found; they’re all empty promises if you as the business owner aren’t modeling them through daily office behaviors.

As a business owner, you’ll find yourself flip flopping in and out of other operating roles. Especially when pulling together your team to find out what your company stands for, besides the products/services it sells. In today’s post we’ll be taking a look at your core values, from the position of one question; Why? Why do we stand for these purposes and HOW do we make sure these purposes are off the wall and walking around the halls?

“Are our core values off the wall?” We all know what core values are. I discovered, in my college internship that core values aren’t as “ugly” or monotonous as my business planning classes made them out to be. Core values should be thought of with emotion. They should be a result of the cerebral planning process that is left out of the business plan. They should be looked at from within. It sounds a little silly, but really, look at your business as a whole in the mirror and tear yourself apart. What’s good about you, what isn’t? Core values are how your customers and the people you hire are connected. They’re why they buy from you instead of your competitors.

The process of developing a set of core values isn’t as intimidating as one may think. In fact, the building blocks for great core values can be broken down into three easy steps:

  1. Name the value: “Integrity is the essence of our success.”
  2. Describe the demonstrated behavior: “Our walk matches our talk. We make and keep commitments.”
  3. Measure how the leader demonstrates the value: Needs improvement–Delivery of commitments are inconsistent.

It’s unfortunate that part of the reason why businesses fail is because of their poorly executed core values. Internally and externally, if your partners in business don’t share the same purpose–and if they don’t share the same values–it will be difficult to make any progress.

The same goes towards your employees. These core values you have so proudly displayed on almost every wall need to keep your employees unified. If your employees don’t understand your values and purpose as a company; chaos could be the result.

Ask yourself why?  Why are you doing what you do in the first place? How are you doing what you are doing? Keeping that WHY at the center keeps the focus on those core values you set in place for your business.

Where are your core values being carried out?

Where are your core values being carried out?

Assembling a team of like-minded partners and employees that understand your WHY keeps those words you have plastered all over your office walls in the discussions where critical decision making takes place. As well as in the break room during lunch.

Make your core values a navigational practice for your business. Bringing in your WHY when hiring will assemble a team of like-minded employees. Hold your core values as a high priority during the interview process and watch reactions.

What about your preexisting employees? Employees can be looked at in two ways: Those who have high values and those who have low values. Those who have high values might need to be trained to have better performance. Those employees who have low values, even if they have high-performance, should be relieved from the company. They become toxic. This is where most companies go wrong–they base everything on performance and not the culture.

Without letting your employees know where you stand through your meetings and team-work events, your employees won’t know where you stand. So be straight with your values first and then measure performance.

So next time you walk into the office take a look around. Each day keep an eye on where your core values have bounced to next. You may be surprised, but you’ll certainly feel satisfied.

Selling Skills Assessment Tools Help Business Development

In the realm of business, there are times when things simply don’t add up. You have all the ingredients for success, but you can’t quite figure out the recipe. Great salespeople? Check. Awesome products? Got it. Competitive pricing. Yup, you have that too. Why, then, do your sales figures fail to reflect the fact that you’ve got all the right stuff?

Thanks to selling skills assessment tools, you can pinpoint exactly where your company is falling short.

“I wish that finding a solution was as easy as pressing my pants.”

If you’re tired of looking for answers and coming up with a big fat zero, there is good news. Thanks to selling skills assessment tools, you can pinpoint exactly where your company is falling short. Finally, you will have some answers.

What is a “selling skills assessment tool?”

It’s hard to be completely objective when evaluating your team. Thankfully, as “Understanding the SSAT as an Effective Sales Tool” states, these tools are designed to “provide an objective look at your peoples’ strengths, their skills, and specific areas that need improvement, providing you with a detailed, accurate quantification of the selling abilities across your organization.” Armed with the valuable information gleaned from this process, you will be better able to make the changes needed to equip your company for success.


Let’s further examine objectivity. You likely try to be objective, but it is impossible for any human to be completely devoid of personal preferences–and these preferences will, naturally, make you prefer some people to others. “5 Things to Know About Employee Assessments” warns that we all have subconscious preferences and attitudes towards different types of people. Assessments, however, simply look at the cold, hard facts and yield an accurate picture of each individual based solely on their ability to do the job.


Sure, Ethel is a great people person. And, yes, her customers do love her. The only trouble is that she can’t seem to close the deal. A subjective human may be so blinded by her incredible interpersonal skills and her positive customer comments that they fail to identify her shortcomings as a sales person. An assessment, however, would spot her weakness right away. Why?

According to “The Four Best Benefits of Using Pre-Employment Assessments“, “well-designed assessment are tied to key competencies required for the job” enabling you to better predict success on the job. They can also be used to identify the ideal position for Ethel and her highly coveted social smarts.

Company Culture

By identifying your sales force’s strengths and weaknesses, you will be better able to nurture the desired traits and begin correcting areas that are problematic. And, in doing this, you will be able to work towards fostering a new company culture–one that leads to success.

One such tool, the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument, OCAI, provides employers with “a picture of how your organization operates and the values that characterize it.” If your organization’s values are incongruent with success, you will be made aware and provided with the opportunity to correct it.

Even if you possess all of the ingredients for success, selling skills assessment tools will enable you to pinpoint where your recipe is going wrong. And, if you’re missing a key ingredient or two, you will find that out as well.

How have selling skills assessment tools such as SSAT helped your business?

Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer and avid blogger who hasn’t ironed a piece of clothing in years. She can be reached at

Around Town with Jeff

WHO: Jeff Tapolci and Jim Hoffman

WHAT: One-on-one coaching session

WHERE: The better question is where weren’t they!

WHEN: Wednesday May 22, 2013

There were two goals set for this day: 1. Gain business knowledge and tips. 2. Learn how to pick out the perfect shotgun for shooting sporting clays. It’s safe to say that both of these goals were accomplished in the day that Jeff and Jim spent together.

They started their day at Jeff’s house and then made their way to Cabela’s. The long drive gave them the opportunity to really talk about any issues, questions, or new techniques that could be helpful for the entire organization. This is similar to what all the managers at ABG Capital do with their employees: they meet once a month to discuss the things they’re doing well and the things they need to work on. After all, CEO’s even need some coaching once in a while!

Once the guys made it to Cabela’s it was time to put the business talk on hold and get down to the fun stuff. Jim knows a ton when it comes to shotguns and shooting and Jeff is a novice. In their last meeting, they talked about having a lesson on skeet and clay shooting and that day was almost here.  They spent some quality time finding the gun the fit Jeff perfectly and then they loaded up with plenty of ammo. Once they had all they needed from Cabela’s, it was time to grab some lunch at Cheddar’s. After lunch they met up with Ron Eggert at Bistecca at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino where they enjoyed some cigars and cocktails.

Despite the excitement of picking out the perfect gun and enjoying a relaxing evening, the day revolved around coaching, brainstorming, solving problems and some good old fashioned male bonding time. The great thing about these guys is that they never forgot that these kind of meetings need to be fun too and they always remember their motto, “Always have fun while training.” That’s a pretty good motto for anyone to keep in mind!

They always make sure these coaching sessions are out of the office so everyone is free of their normal daily distractions. It’s a great way to stay relaxed and keep a clear head while learning new things for the organization. The new tactics and information they learn can be brought back to other organization leaders and ultimately help to meet more goals of the entire organization.

WHO: Jeff Tapolci, Ron Eggert, Jim Hoffman, Justin McNeil

WHAT: Group coaching sessions

WHERE: Millvale Sportsman Club

WHEN: Thursday May 23, 2013

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression four heads are better than one, but the meeting Jeff had with Jim, Ron, and Justin brought more life to it. Justin McNeil, owner of McNeil Industries, is a friend of Jeff’s and comes in from Cleveland on a regular basis to meet with Jim and also with Jeff. Today he was joining them for a day filled with more business talk and lessons on skeet and clay shooting.

You have to understand that when Jeff gets together with Jim the things he learns go far beyond the business realm. Jim talks about guns, golf, hunting, and fishing but he always manages to teach Jeff important business and life lessons.

The guys met up at the Millvale Sportsman Club and swapped stories of different things they’ve been through throughout their time in business. They asked questions and got advice and it was a great day spent with great company. They all learned some very important business and life lessons while also learning the fundamentals of skeet and clay shooting. Jeff was thrilled because the day was finally here where he could shoot his own gun! Other than the business talk and gun shooting, Justin picked up another valuable life lesson; how to change a flat tire.

ABG Capital Flat TireRon and Jim have been around the block a little longer than Jeff and Justin and they remember when flat tires were happening all the time. Jeff had just encountered his first flat a few months ago and this was Justin’s first. The guys noticed the flat but figured they would change it later and continued their day. You would think that with the ‘four heads are better than one’ theory on their side they would have just changed it then, but they didn’t. Before they knew it, they were regretting their decision to wait because it started to rain. They did however work as a team to figure out how to get the spare tire off the rack but after a few phone calls, they were able to get the flat tire repaired without taking it off completely. That’s lucky!

All in all they had some great coaching sessions and ended their day Jergels with some dinner and drinks. Everyone learned some new techniques to bring back to the office, or the shooting range, and they had fun doing it.

ABG Capital to Participate in Strategic Planning Session

ABG Capital

ABG Capital

December brings us many things.  The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is among us, the final quarter draws to a close, many businesses are preparing year-end reports, and thoughts of the upcoming New Year are in our heads.  Many people take the time to reflect, both personally and professionally, on the past year and look forward to 2013.  On a personal level, many look at what they have accomplished over the year and make new resolutions for 2013.  Corporately, businesses may draw up year-end reports and analyze numbers to determine their goals for the upcoming year.  At ABG Capital, we do all of those things.  We utilize our ideals to enhance our work and personal lives.  Our ideals are to cultivate ideas and people through our C.O.R.E. (Cultivate, Overcome, Respect, and Evolve) Values for the purpose of Giving Back.

Employees of ABG Capital utilize these ideals personally in many ways.  We participate in various activities throughout the year, where we are given an opportunity to Give Back to our community.  These activities include working at the food bank, fundraising for Make-A-Wish, and cleaning headstones at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies.  In addition to Giving Back, employees also are encouraged to live healthy lifestyles.  We do an annual Biggest Loser contest, where interested employees weigh-in on Fridays, and the biggest loser receives a cash reward.  Also, we bring in an inspirational speaker/author in on a regular basis to educate our team about healthy eating habits.

In terms of business, we take our goals, or New Year’s resolutions, very seriously.  Every year around this time, our companies participate in Strategic Planning Sessions, where goals for the upcoming quarters are brainstormed and strategized.  These 2-day sessions employ strategic planning and executive education adopted from the Gazelles Growth and Leadership Summits.  As discussed in this earlier post,, ABG Capital sends key employees to these Gazelles Summits to gain valuable training on how to lead and grow their companies.  This education, along with a Gazelles coach, enables each of ABG Capital’s portfolio companies to evolve solid annual strategic plans.

As 2012 draws to a close, employees at ABG Capital are busy preparing for holiday festivities, gathering gifts and monies for Giving Back causes, and focusing their energies on having a productive 2013.