Team doing puzzle with Increasing Creativity text over top

As a leader, one of the things you’re responsible for is increasing the creativity for you and your team.

Settling on Solutions

As leaders, our natural disposition can be to settle on solutions. That’s leadership, right? We know the problem, tackle the solution, and keep pushing forward.

Not necessarily.

In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Leaders who are expected to know and have all the answers create two primary problems.

First, they limit the effectiveness and full potential of their teams.

Second, they are subject to burnout.

Because of this, a large part of great leadership is not just about providing answers but creating an environment where our team can come up with better ones. Increacsing creativity happens thorugh an intentional delay.  Team doing puzzle with Increasing Creativity text over top

Instead of seeking answers to questions like, “What’s probable?” as a question like, “What’s possible?”

Creativity is about “What’s Possible”

One of the necessary shifts in leadership thinking is to encourage and facilitate questions around what’s possible.

Instead of moving to solution-oriented ideas and tasks, entertain possibilities of the wild and extravagant.

  • Imagine a customer writing your business praising you for your new product that helped them. What did they say, feel, or experience? Once you know what that end destination is, then you can work backwards to create the product you just visualized.
  • Pretend a new company pops up and exploits your weaknesses, what would they do? Now that you know your biggest weaknesses, you can discover new ways to beat them.
  • Plan how you would operate your business if you were operating at ten times your current profit margin. Once you are aware of that, continue the discovery processes by dreaming up those new products and services. Start testing those and implement big change.

Increasing Creativity

Implementing a creative making process for your team or organization benefits everyone.

The team will be more productive.

Your customers will have a better experience.

The community will experience greater blessing.

You will have less stress and more productivity.

However the process looks for you, take time to implement that creative process time

  • Bring together multiple disciplines.
  • Research seemingly unrelated fields or areas of interest.
  • Study the competition.
  • Hire a coach.


Want to work with me to increase your teams productivity? Contact me here.

Looking for more ways to stay inspired? Follow me on YouTube.

Whatever you do, don’t be too quick to settle on solutions. Look for what’s possible, not just what’s probable. Listen to those around you and look for new ways of doing things.

Blog Post Cover: Digital Marketing with Social Media LIkes

Understanding branding, the image you present to your community, is the final piece to a growing and successful business.

In many ways, this is the ‘sexy’ part of business ownership. At the very least, it’s the component people think about first. Branding is about marketing, your public image, and advertising. Understanding branding, however, is about knowing the ways in which you need to line up with that image. If you as the business owner aren’t in congruence with the image you want to present, your business will fail.

Marketing can’t fix a broken financial model or dysfunctional operations. Marketing can’t help a company with an unclear vision or that doesn’t live up to its values. Marketing can’t overcome a product that does not deliver value or a terrible standard of service or a poor sales process. Marketing is a mirror of the truth for the business.*

Failing the Image Test

Part of my story includes being a pastor. There were many parts of that job that I loved. I can also acknowledge that it had more than its fair share of hardships and trials.

Compounding that difficulty was the fact that I worked in what’s often labeled a ‘turnaround church.’ The short version of it is: Turnaround churches are small and often (but not always) mired in conflict. They reflect fondly on their ‘glory days’ of being a bigger church with a large influence. There are many reasons churches go from large to small but the more common reasons are a changing demographic in the community, pastoral conflict, and the inevitable lifecycle of organizations. Blog Post Cover: Digital Marketing with Social Media LIkes

Think of it like this. The church declined because the community changed (and they didn’t), the leaders can’t agree on how to proceed, and an older generation fails to reach a younger one.

Creating Your Public Image

I loved working in turnaround churches. I enjoyed the challenge, even though statistically they almost all fail for one reason or another.

In my years of turnaround churches, I realized one key problem facing all of them. As the pastor, I was, in many ways, given the ‘image’ of the church. That is, I stepped into a deeply entrenched culture. These people already had a way of thinking, behaving, and interacting with one another.

The flip side of that is church planting. Instead of being a part of an existing church, it is, in many ways, easier to start a new one. As a pastor of a new church, I get to create whatever culture I want.

Those examples are true in churches and in businesses.

Stepping into an organizational culture has its benefits, but also its fair share of obstacles.

Creating a new business (entrepreneurship) gives you the power to create whatever culture you want. That also has its benefits and challenges.

When we begin the process towards understanding branding, we begin to understand the ways in which we, both publicly and privately, need to represent our businesses.

A Way Forward

For business owners, the challenge of understanding branding is about bringing alignment to the stated and the actual culture and public image of the company.

One of the more common things I tell new entrepreneurs is that they need to solve a problem. Their product is cool, but if they don’t solve a problem, they won’t have sales.

If you don’t have sales, all the marketing in the world won’t save you.

When your marketing is failing, it’s often because people don’t sense that you solve their problem.

It can be a vicious cycle. As Wiley states, “Marketing depends on all other concepts, but it is the most comprehensive and customer-facing of them.”*

So, how do we create a way forward?

1.) Congruence

Make sure all aspects of your business are lined up. I once received feedback from a trusted friend and business owner. He said, “In your last video, I saw you were wearing a cutoff and a hat. As a business owner, I knew you were talking to me but I couldn’t take it. I turned you off almost instantly.”


He liked the content (at least the little bit that he heard) but I lost him in the process.

My image and my stated goals weren’t in harmony.

As business owners, we must make sure that all parts of our businesses are in alignment. You are in control of your image.



All of it.

Stay on top of your company and make sure everyone presents the image you want.

2.) Commitment

It takes time. In a social media filled world of instant gratification, we can fail to see the larger picture of building momentum and quality leads over time.

We expect to run a Facebook ad in the morning and have sales by lunch.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.

Stay committed to long term vision and planning. Give thought to a campaign that builds over time. Educate your customers on your product, the market, and the evolving ways you meet their needs.

3.) Community

Seek feedback. As your customers what they like (and don’t like!) about your product.

Build a tribe of loyal followers and fierce fans.

Ask Question. Listen intently. Create an experience.

In a world of artificial likes and fake followers, building a deep community radical shapes the way we do business. More than that, it gives people a place to belong. Finally, it creates a culture for your team to thrive.

Eight Core Concepts

This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series. Create and Orchestrate Book Cover

  1. Leadership
  2. Finance
  3. Operations
  4. Growth
  5. Product
  6. Service
  7. Sales
  8. Marketing

* Whitney, Marcus. Create and Orchestrate: The Path to Claiming Your Creative Power from an Unlikely Entrepreneur (p. 89). Creative Power. Kindle Edition.


* Whitney, Marcus. Create and Orchestrate: The Path to Claiming Your Creative Power from an Unlikely Entrepreneur (p. 91). Creative Power. Kindle Edition.

Blog Post Cover, you are a salesperson text and man in business suit

One of the biggest shifts I see young entrepreneurs and business owners need to make is in their belief in understanding that they are a salesperson.

They might be visionaries, great leaders, product developers, weekend grinders, but they are not (at least in their belief) a sales person.

Guess what: if you don’t sell your product, no one is going to buy it!

Sales is what your company does to make a person give you money for a product they want … The sales process requires a complete knowledge of the product that the company is offering, and needs to be defined by the service standards and criteria that the company has set.*

The Death of a Salesman

I’ve shared on the blog before the early explosion of my coaching practice. In short, I saw quick growth in a short amount of time. Within the first year of coaching I had exceeded my regular income.

I let it go to my head.

I stopped marketing, stopped networking,  and stopped advertising (all things we’ll look at in the next post of this series).

The result was inevitable: I also stopped selling. As I finished up with my clients, I had no pipeline to refill, no prospects to call, and no income to replace what was lost. By the end of my second year, I was down to one regular client.

I failed to follow my own advice and never once told myself, “You are a salesman.” I didn’t want to sell myself, my products, or my services. And so I sold nothing.

I found broke.

That led to being miserable. Blog Post Cover, you are a salesperson text and man in business suit

Eventually, I vowed to change.

Listen. Share. Offer.

Recently, I was at the dentist getting my teeth cleaned. It was my first trip to this dentist, and we were making the usual awkward small talk while he dug around my mouth.

Inevitably, he asked me what I did for a living.

I work with small business owners like yourself focus on getting the right things done to maximize their business and personal lives through executive coaching and HR solutions.

It’s a question I’ve answered a thousand different times. I play with the wording depending on the situation to make sure it has maximum impact.

He sat quiet for a second. Pull away from my gaping mouth, scribbled something on the notes, and went back to work.

Now, I don’t know if he wrote a note to call me later to talk business, but I do know he spend a good portion of the rest of the time talking about how busy he was and how hard it can be to get everything done. At the very least, I’d touched a nerve that made him aware of how I could help.

Most of the time, my answer follows three easy steps to help me know how to talk to the other person, initiate low-pressure sales, and move the conversation forward.


First, I start with listening. I know how to shape a conversation and usually get to ask what the other person does for a living first. This time, I already knew (dentist), and had to guess at what some of his pain points might be.

But the important thing is to start with listening. Open your ears. Shut your mouth. Let the other person describe themselves, problems, hopes, dreams, fears, and family. You’ll learn quite a bit and have a good platform to engage them from.


Find a way to share about yourself. Your family, your own hopes, dreams, fears, and wild goals. Then share what you do, and if applicable, find a way to share how it could help them.

Above, I offered this, because I know what it’s like being a businness owner and having a wide range of needs on a day to day basis. He ended up telling me quite a bit about his struggle in balancing work and family, kids, grandkids, employees, and medical records. We have similar pain points and struggles. I knew I could help.

*It’s also worth noting that sometimes you may not be able to help a person. In these situations, don’t force your product unnecessarily and don’t assume they aren’t a worthwhile contact to have. Just because you can’t solve their problem doesn’t mean you can’t solve their siblings, parents, friends, or neighbors.*


The final step is to offer your services. Sometimes this happens right away, especially if I feel like I stand a good chance at closing. I tried this recently and closed a great deal for early next year.

Sometimes, it’s an offer to follow up. Networking events can be difficult to engage in deep-level business talks. Schedule a coffee or offer to come by their office.

Othertimes, it’s also a chance to keep the door open. The time may not be right, but they might know someone. I have a list of people that I will probably never do business with (for a variety of reasons). With them, I keep in touch every couple of months to check in, start a conversation, and see what’s changed. I may not get their business but I may just get business from someone they know.

Offering to stay in touch is a salesperson gold mine.

As business owners, we are the visionaries. We believe in our product more than anyone. That makes us the chief salesperson in our organization, whether we run a show that is just us, of a team of 100 people building a thriving business.

No matter your work.

No matter your product.

As a business owner you are a salesperson.

Eight Core Concepts

This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series. Create and Orchestrate Book Cover

  1. Leadership
  2. Finance
  3. Operations
  4. Growth
  5. Product
  6. Service
  7. Sales
  8. Marketing

* Whitney, Marcus. Create and Orchestrate: The Path to Claiming Your Creative Power from an Unlikely Entrepreneur (p. 88). Creative Power. Kindle Edition.

Blog Post Cover: Business Owner providing service with a smile

Years ago, I worked in a local print and ship store. When I was hired, part of my training included some of the standard customer service training. This included ideas like, “service with a smile.”

As you can imagine, during the holiday rush to ship packages the lines are long. Additionally, nerves are frayed, anger is simmering, and spending additional money to send gifts (at an often higher price than anticipated) is often met with some resistance.

Despite all of our marketing campaigns to let people know the last day they could send packages and still have them arrive before Christmas, it never failed that we were swamped on Christmas eve.

Suddenly, it’s six pm, and right before we close a customer would come in wanting to ship gifts to their family.

“I’d like it there overnight.”

After calculating the size of the box, the need to package everything, additional insurance, and the overnight charge, the expense was usually well over $100.

At this point, one of two responses would usually happen.

The first person would say something like, “That’s what I get for waiting. Let’s do it.”

The second person would berate me for being a victim-preying, money stealing, Christmas-ruining, greedy, evil-minded cashier.

And if I was really lucky, I would hear about how much more educated, rich, or important they were than me.

Three Steps Towards Better Service With a Smile

Providing great customer service is never an option. It can, and should, always be done. Even in the midst of the difficult and unreasonable customers (here’s looking at you, Karen), our obligation as success-oriented individuals extends into the way we interact with others.

Service humanizes relationships between the customer and the company … Service is your company’s ability to maximize customer satisfaction.*

Marcus Whitney’s six core business value is about the service we provide our customers. Whether you are trying to solve a product issue or a customer problem, world-class customer service is a must.

This is even more true today as the world deals with the economic hardships of COVID. How a business responds to its customers is more important than ever.

The idea behind providing service with a smile is about much more than a physical action. It is about an attitude and a mindset to help you solve and resolve a situation.

Here are three core concepts to take with you on your customer “service with a smile” journey. More than that, think of these as a good-better-best situation where each of the below points builds on the previous.

1.) The Customer is Always Right … Except when they aren’t.

Dealing with an irate customer can be difficult. The person standing before me, cursing me out on Christmas Eve is but a tame example in many people’s books.

And we’ve often been led to believe that the customer is always right. Which is true.

Except for when it isn’t. Blog Post Cover: Business Owner providing service with a smile

I am (nor have I ever been) any of those things that the customer accused me of. In fact, I love Christmas. I geek out over it more than almost anyone else and would love to have it go on even longer.

For reference, we started singing and listening to Christmas songs in October this year.

So how do we understand this rule? By separating the customer from the problem.

Where the customer is always right is specifically in regards to an issue or a problem that needs to be resolved. In my case, it was the need to get the gifts to their family safely, quickly, and for an agreeable price.

Overnight is $109. Two-day shipping is $79 and will get there the day after Christmas. Standard shipping is saying three to five days and is $29. All of these come with tracking and insurance. Which option would you prefer?

If I can give them options, and let them know they have choices in the matter, we can find a solution that works for everyone. Many times, they’d opt for the two-day shipping and the out of, “I sent it but the crazy shipping company can’t get it to you on time sweetie.”

I can live with that.

2.) Am I Doing My Best To Engage This Person and Solve Their Problem?

Going beyond a simple problem-solution type of answer, we can also look at the person and see the need, fear, or worry they are bringing to the situation.

More than giving them a list of shipping options, I can also say something like:

I see that Christmas is really important to you and that you really love your family. I’d like to help make Christmas special and get your gifts there as quickly as possible. Let me see what I can do.

Now, instead of just three choices, I’ve affirmed their humanity, the fear they carry of ruining Christmas and honored a core aspect of their identity.

Think of the difference in the answer to these questions:

Did I solve the problem? It’s a yes or no answer, with very little insight.

Did I do my best to engage this person in solving the problem? Now there is tremendous potential for reflection, growth, and future action.

3.) Go Beyond Your Customer and Into the Community

The final step in the service with a smile growth journey is to think beyond the walls of your business and the experience in the community. The exponential growth of sites like Google Reviews and Yelp show just how damaging a bad review can be.

More than solving the problem, more than honoring them think about what it means to be a part of the community.

How does your customer service change if you think about the businesses on either side of you? What about those that haven’t heard of you yet but would be likely to buy from you? How does your response change if you had to publicize it to your email list?

When we think about larger implications, especially those of how we want to be perceived and received in the community, it can change our responses.

Go beyond solving the problem. Go beyond doing your personal best. Instead, strive to make the entire community better through the experience.

That’s world-class customer service.


Eight Core Concepts

This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series. Create and Orchestrate Book Cover

  1. Leadership
  2. Finance
  3. Operations
  4. Growth
  5. Product
  6. Service
  7. Sales
  8. Marketing

* Whitney, Marcus. Create and Orchestrate: The Path to Claiming Your Creative Power from an Unlikely Entrepreneur (p. 86-87). Creative Power. Kindle Edition.

Episode 26: Louis Tolentino with the Coffee Mill

Today’s interview is with Louis Tolentino of The Coffee Mill in Tehachapi, Ca.

Welcome to season three of the LeaderQuest Podcast! This season we are focusing on small business leaders who have had to pivot or transition during the 2020 Covid Economy.

Each interview was structured around three main questions:

  • The Coffee Mill ShopHow did your business pivot during 2020?
  • What does the future (2021) look like for your business?
  • What is a current problem or question that your facing?

During each interview, you’ll hear real stories from real business owners. They will share their highs and lows, along with important lessons learned along the way. You’ll be able to take their knowledge and turn it into wisdom.

Today is Louis Tolentino of The Coffee Mill in Tehachapi, California.

About Louis

Louis is a friend with an extraordinary business mind. I have immensely enjoyed our off-air conversations about life, family, and survival in this business economy.

This interview is a personal favorite and the wealth of information, his passion, and his plans for future growth and service are inspiring.

Throughout this interview, you’ll hear not only how he cares for his staff, but how he is bringing innovation to a crowded coffee market and the larger Tehachapi area. Tune in to get inspired!

Connect with Louis @ The Coffee Mill


120 S. Mill St

Tehachapi, Ca 93561 Episode 26: Louis Tolentino with the Coffee Mill

Phone Number: 661-822-6455


Connect With Justin

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