Five Steps of Learning and Retention

5879640_XLThese five steps will help you to get, use, and keep good ideas.  Learning is the acquisition of new information or knowledge, and retention is the ability to capture that information and recall it when wanted or needed. This can be broken down into five steps.

  1. Impact
  2. Repetition
  3. Utilisation
  4. Internalisation
  5. Reinforcement


First on the list is Impact or the receiving of the idea into your mind. Impact can be in the form of a word, a visual observation or a concept. It may involve new information, or it may be a new juxtaposition of old information. This mental processing results in a new concept of the world, however small that concept may be. Thousands and thousands of bits of information, loose ideas, and more fully formed concepts continually wash through the mind. Separating out the useful is the first step; it is all too easily swept away in the torrent of everyday thought. Retention is now the more important facility.


To achieve that, the second step is Repetition. One university study revealed that an idea that was read or heard only one time was 66% forgotten within 24 hours. But if that same idea was read or heard repeatedly for eight days, up to 90% of it could be retained at the end.

So once you’ve read this article all the way through, go back and read it again. But this time read with a highlighter, a pencil and notepad handy. Mark up everything that needs to be highlighted. Write down the ideas you feel that fit your personal business situation. This repetition will help you retain more of the information than if you had read it only once.


The third step in the learning and retention process is Utilization. This is the “doing” step. It is here that neuromuscular pathways are actually developed, creating a “mind muscle memory.” And according to the study quoted earlier, once you physically experience an action, it becomes twice as easy to recall it than if you had heard it only.


The fourth step is referred to as the internalization. That is to actually make the idea a part of you. That may involve some customizing or tailoring of the idea to fit your situation or style, but it is vitally important for you to personalize the idea and make it “yours.”


The fifth step is Reinforcement. In order to maximize the effectiveness of an idea, you should continually be looking for ways to support and strengthen it. The more you can support the idea, the more you will believe it, the longer you will retain it, and the more effective it will become in helping you serve your customers’ needs.

Now, what does all this have to do with your business? In your daily business and personal activities, as well as throughout your experience, you are going to be exposed to a great number of ideas. Some will be brand new, that is, you’ve never heard them before. Some will be ideas you have heard in the past, but have forgotten. And others will be ideas you come up with on your own as a result of something that was triggered in your mind as you read. Understanding and applying these five steps in the learning and retention process can help you retain more of what you read and experience.

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Five Phases of Business Growth

When you first enter into business, you are in the first phase: start up mode. Once through that, you move into the second, a growth phase, and then maybe into a rapid growth phase, and then a more mature phase.

typical phases in the evolution of a businessFor the owner or the CEO, each of these phases has its own requirements, and the skills needed for the startup phase may not easily translate to other phases.

There are always exceptions, but as a general rule, a business fails because the CEO or the owner cannot carry the business between these phases. In moving from one phase to another, it is often the owner who cannot transition between phases and as a result becomes a detriment to the business and can even jeopardize the success of the business.

To meet these challenges and change yourself from a potential problem to a strong vital leader you need to know how to recognize these phase transitions. The technical term for these transitions is infection points or junctures where the needs of your business drive it in a new direction. Let me give you an example, in the startup phase you are generally worried about revenue, cash flow and how to pay the bills. The skills required are those that keep expenses low and ensure that bills get paid.

In the next phases, you have enough revenue to cover your fixed expenses, and you are not worried about where the money is coming from on a month-to-month basis. Now, however, you need more staff. The skills you need are now more on human asset management. You hire staff, and then you begin to have staffing problems. Once you’ve acquired the skills to handle that, you can then start to build the business momentum and take on more work. However, with more clients, you begin to run into customer support problems. Once you solve these, your business really takes off, which means more staff, and managers to manage the staff. You can see that as you move from phase to phase, your skills as a CEO are continually evolving. What you do has changed completely, and maybe you are not so good now at what you do.

In addition, when you start your business, you are probably doing most of the work. In the next phase you are doing some of the work, but are beginning to hire other people to assume some of the workload. In the next stage, you have stepped away from the grunt work, but now you need to be a motivator to make sure that everybody stays on the same track. You must be the one with the vision and inspire others to support your vision

The range of skills necessary to transition a business through the various stages is daunting at the very least. How often have you heard, that an owner is a detail kind of person, or a people person, or a creative type. As a business owner, you learn the strengths and skills of your staff and you employ them as effectively as possible to maximize their efficiency. You don’t expect an employee who is a stickler for details to suddenly be able to ignore them. Yet, this is exactly what is expected of a business owner or CEO. The odds of a business owner being able to lead a business through all the phases is approximately thirty percent which means that about 70% of the time, according to the research studies, businesses will fail.

How often have you heard of companies that replace the CEO with a new person and suddenly the business sky-rockets? Within six to twelve months it is a completely different company. What happened is that the new CEO suits the new business phase in a way the old CEO could not, although he might have been excellent in the previous phases.

This can often be seen in the turn-around industry. The first thing that you generally do with an ailing company is replace the existing management team, the concept being that the team that got the business into trouble, is unlikely to be the same team that can get the business out.

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4 Ways to Grow Your Business

shutterstock_172642112One of the most important things for any business owner, manager, entrepreneur or professional to realise is that there are four principal ways to grow any. If you learn to apply these simple concepts believe me, your competition won’t stand a chance.

  1. Get More Customers

That’s it. Build your customer base by converting more prospects into paying clients. When more people buy from you, you take in more gross dollars, and as a result (depending on your margins and overhead), you make more bottom-line profits. As a spin-off benefit, the more people you add to your customer base the more people you have to mine for additional sales and an increased opportunity for more referrals.

Each business, industry, or profession has their own methods and timing to contact those who are most likely to be interested in their products and services. For example:

Telephone Soliciting - You probably have received your fair share of calls from these telemarketers. They tend to call at the most inconvenient times such as just when you are sitting down for dinner. This is a cold calling scheme made from a list. Companies can buy lists, or use their own customer list.

Television Advertising - Chiropractors, car dealers, truck driving schools, and lawyers often take a different approach. Many of them advertise heavily on television, especially during the afternoon hours to attract new customers. They’ve found that a large part of their intended audience… the people who are most inclined to use their services, watch television during those hours, and it’s a cost-effective way to reach them.

Doing What Everyone Else is Doing - Most likely, the method you use is the same method that nearly every other business uses. It’s called the, “That’s how things are done in our industry or profession,” method. Typically, when a person first chooses to go into business they look around and see what everyone else is doing. They imitate their competition in most every detail. Who says it’s right, or that it’s the best system for you to use?

  1. Get Your Customers to Make Larger Average Purchases

Get your customers to spend more money when they buy something from you. This just happens to be the quickest and easiest way to increase your profits. Simply increase the size of the order, and get more money from each of your customers every time they buy from you.

Up-Selling and Cross-Selling

Nearly every fast-food restaurant incorporates up-selling and “cross-selling” principles in their order system. When you place your order at a restaurant, the waiter would typically ask if you’d like an apple pie, or fries with your order. That’s a classic example of cross-selling, or selling an additional product in addition to, or beyond the initial purchase.

They might also suggest that you “super-size” or “giant-size” your order. This is an example of an up-sell… increasing the size of the initial order. In any case, if you take them up on their suggestion, what they’ve done is just increase their profits substantially. They made an additional sale, with no acquisition or marketing costs.

By being aware of what their customers might want, but may not ask for on their own, and then by asking questions or making suggestions, they bring in a substantial number of dollars.


Another technique fast food restaurants frequently use is called “bundling,” or “packaging.”

They combine a sandwich, a drink and fries, and throw in a couple of “bonus” items, like maybe a cookie and a toy. They put it all together in one package, and give it a name like “Happy Meal” in the case of McDonald’s. They’ll charge you less for that package than what each of those items purchased separately would have cost, but the total dollar amount you spend will be higher. Since there were no marketing costs involved, just product cost, it’s pure profit and goes straight to their bottom line.

Developing Customer Loyalty

As a reputable business, you have an obligation to your customers. If you have additional products or services that can enhance their purchase, then you should do everything reasonable and ethical to see that they at least have the option of taking advantage of those items. Again, it’s playing the numbers game. Only a percentage of your customers will take advantage of your offer. But at least you will have given them the opportunity, and you will have fulfilled your obligation to them.

When applying this concept to your business, be sure you train your employees properly. You need to be sure you don’t make the decision for your customers. Give them a choice, and let them decide. If you come across as sincere, and not pushy, they’ll realise that you are really trying to do them a favour. They will see you as helping them get more value, more use, and more benefit from their decision and their purchase.

  1. Get Your Customers to Buy From You More Often

Give them reasons to want to come back and to continue doing business with you. The longer your customers go between purchases from you, the more chance they have of buying from your competition. Use educational information, notices of changes in the law, or updates regarding the products or services they’ve purchased from you that can affect them. Tell them about new products, new lines, special incentives and other offers that might benefit them.

This idea works two-fold.

  • It “locks” your customers in, so they can’t afford to do business with anyone else.
  • It makes it so attractive to do business with you, that they wouldn’t even consider going anywhere else.

What you really want to do, is lead your customers to the inescapable and undeniable conclusion, that they would have to be completely out of their minds to even consider doing business with anyone else but you. This transcends your selection of products or services, the prices you charge, your location, or any relationship they may have with another business.

  1. Extend Your Customers’ “Average Buying Lifetime”

Customer Retention refers to a measure of the average amount of time you keep a customer. Have you ever even stopped to figure this out? This is an important step, and one that we’ll be discussing in more detail in later pages.

Next, what are you doing in your business right now to make sure your customers continue doing business with you? If you don’t have a strategic plan, a working system in place, you are going to lose a certain percent of your current customers to the competition. There’s no doubt about it.

The question you need to ask yourself is not, “What are you going to do about it?” The real questions are:

“What are you currently doing about it?”

“What are you doing about it right now?”

Let’s factor in word of mouth referral. What if 100 customers tell 5 others about their experience with you? That’s an additional 500 potential customers who won’t be doing business with you this year (or maybe ever again, for that matter). What if each of them had been spending an average of $200 per year with your company? That’s $100,000 you won’t be receiving from them, PLUS the $20,000 you lost on your existing customers who left. That brings the total in lost income to $120,000 in just one year!

All customers are important. In fact, they’re critical. A business couldn’t remain in business unless it has someone to buy its products and services. Those “someone’s” are real people like you and me. If you sell your products to the business community, remember, businesses don’t buy from businesses. People in business buy from other people in business. Your market is always people, not businesses.

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2 Widely Used Methods for Testing Ideas on the Web


  • Google Adwords

Another excellent method of testing web ideas is Google Adwords. In Google Adwords, you can test two ideas at the same time through split testing. You can put up an ad on a keyword and, if somebody clicks it, you know that the customer is interested in what your ads says. If you use two different ads and you split test if one gets twice as many clicks as the other, you are then on your way to creating the best ad to get the customers clicking. The next thing is, if they click on your ad, they go to a website. If that website asks them a question and offers to give them something if they answer that question, it is like doing a survey. So, what is the point? Not only are you testing different headlines in your Google Adwords, but you are also getting a survey that tells you what customers are likely to want. You now not only have a list of what people want, but also an idea of what headline might attract them in the first place. That is very powerful and it is very cheap.

  • Appealing to Women

Another, even more cost effective survey is to pitch any new ideas for the business to your partner. If you haven’t got a partner, ask a female acquaintance, and pay attention to what she says. From my experience, you are likely to get a really accurate answer, but you may not like it. If so, don’t get upset, she is probably right. Studies show that in almost all buying decisions it is women who have the last word. I don’t care what type of business you have, somewhere down the line it is most likely a woman who will make the final buying decision.

I can almost hear you say, “Well, that is not true. I buy the car and I buy the house.” Be truthful. Did you make the decision without their influential input? Not likely. In any case, it’s right in the broad view, and it pays businessmen to take that fact into consideration. Design everything you do in your business to be attractive to women.

Now, you are thinking: what about a car mechanic or any other male-oriented industry? Perhaps, but what harm is there in making your premises attractive to women. Car mechanics certainly have to deal with as many women as men dropping off their cars for repair. In addition, any such service facility worth its salt will have a clean and tidy waiting room with as many women’s magazines in the rack as there are men’s. The point of all this is to convince you that you can’t go wrong designing your business with a female perspective in mind regardless of what business you’re in. Of course, that doesn’t mean that everything is in shades of pink. It just means clean and attractive enough to make a woman feel relaxed.

As an example of businesses adopting a female perspective, one of the areas that I have been heavily involved in is in customer service call centers. They have large staffs with a high percentage of women. It sounds strange now, but back in 1997 or ’98, I was laughed at when I suggested that all the bathrooms should be cleaned at least twice a day. I insisted that especially the women’s restrooms be spotless with hand creams and even fresh flowers. It certainly kept the women happy, and that goes a long way to keeping everybody happy. It also helped keep staff turnover at an industry low.

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What Do Exceptional Performers All Have In Common?

What Do Exceptional Performers All Have In Common?What makes some business people more successful than others? According to Earl Nightingale, a famous radio personality and producer of self-improvement cassette programs said that to be successful, your rewards should always be in direct proportion to the amount of service you render. As such, people who serve others, prosper while those who do not serve don’t.

What Failures Don’t Like to Do

As a business owner, serving your customers’ needs effectively means that you must do the things that unsuccessful business owners don’t do. The things that those unsuccessful people don’t do are the things that most of us don’t like to do either.

There is no doubt that it is difficult to work long hours or on weekends when your family is waiting for you at home, and only have a couple of “shoppers” stop by or be stood up for an appointment someone made with you.

Enough of these experiences can be discouraging for anyone. And after a while, some people just quit trying. But if you keep up the quality of your service to your clients and customers, they will more and more continue to do business with you because that kind of personal service is very hard to find. In the end, it is what makes the difference between the successful and unsuccessful business.

Personal Qualities for Success

Service is essential, but there are also a number of other personal qualities that if developed, will help you to become successful in your business endeavor.

Sacrifice and Determination

For everything in life, there is a price and in many instances, sacrifice. If you want to reap the rewards a successful business can provide, you’re going to have to do what Earl Nightingale said. You are going to have to do “…the things that unsuccessful business owners don’t want to do.”

That may mean leaving the comfort of your store or office to see what your customers need even during inconvenient times. If you are just starting out in or want to increase your business and achieve some new goals, then you may have to make that sacrifice. It is important to be sure that you have the support of your family, along with tons of patience and understanding, as they will be making sacrifices as well.


You are responsible for the success of your business and your life. There are no excuses. However, do not discount the possibility of setbacks. Your family situation may change; your suppliers or vendors may discontinue selling, economies change and corporate policies change and so on.

While those things definitely have an impact on the way you do business and the sales you make, it is important to realize that those things are beyond your control. But for all other things, here’s a little credo that can help you. It contains just ten, two-letter words:
“If it is to be, it is up to me.”

That simple one-line sentence says it all. It places the responsibility exactly where it should be… directly on your shoulders.


Commit to your success. Once you have made the decision to be in business, be in that business. Get into it with both feet. Don’t let anything hold you back.
In the same veracity, see to it that the business gets into you. This can be done by focusing on one business at a time. Don’t try to work two different jobs or projects at one time. You can’t do either of them justice, and you’ll likely end up frustrated and broke, and never know whether or not you could have been successful. Set your goals and then keep yourself moving toward them.

Go the Extra Mile

It’s the “Under promise, over deliver” concept, and can be summed up in the following statement coined by Robert Cialdini in his book, “Influence: The Psychology of


“If you are always willing to do more than what you get paid for, the day will come when you will be paid for more than what you actually do.”

So, when you go the extra mile for your customers or clients, you’ve just set the stage for the Law of Reciprocity to take effect. But it’s only on that “extra mile” that this works. When you give what might be considered “normal” service, or “adequate” service, or even “good” service, or even “knock-out” service you haven’t earned the right to expect that law to work for you.

You’ve really got to do something special in order to gain an advantage in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Then, and only then, can you expect to create that compelling desire in your customer to want to reciprocate.

After all,“there’s no traffic jam on the extra mile.”

Time Management

Your time is precious because it is a finite commodity; therefore, it is important that you master and take control of it. You must treat your time as precious, and guard it wisely and selfishly. Don’t let anyone disrupt you or take you away from.

People who don’t have goals are used by people who do. If you let others draw you away from your goals, you are simply saying that their goals are more important than your own. So if you are serious about business success––really serious, then this is one of the most important and critical areas to defend.

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