24 Aug

Are You Advertising, Marketing or Don’t You Know


Many people confuse marketing and advertising, even those who perform these tasks for businesses.  It is important that as a business owner you understand the difference.  Both of these activities can help your business, however, using them interchangeably could harm your business.

Let’s define the two first:

Advertising – this is a paid promotion of your business, its products and services.  It gives potential consumers an idea of what you do and where.  This can happen in many different venues.  For example, television, direct mail, radio, ads in newspapers or magazines.  All advertising is good.  However it may not be good for your specific business.

 Marketing – marketing is designed to reduce the cost of sales.  It is charged with bringing your business a specific number of new customers on a consistent and sustained basis.

 Now right now you may be saying “what is the difference?”  It is a fair question.

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17 Aug

Are You Afraid of Success



Your career is sailing, your business is profitable, everyone looks at you and says “WOW, I want to be like them.”  I am certain many of us have read or seen such a scenario.  To be the “WOW person” is wonderful.  To be associated with that person is pretty good too.  Imagine the WOW person and a WOW business.   The perfect scenario.

Then, one day it all falls apart.  Some behavior enters into your life, you start making bad business decisions, you stop listening to others about your business.  We have all seen or read of those.  Successful Business Leaders who start affairs with subordinate employees, Successful Business Leaders who illicitly take money from their business, Successful Business Leaders who abuse a variety of legal or illegal substances, Successful Business Leaders who take legal short cuts.  One day they get caught and their self-destructive behavior brings them crashing down. 

In each of those situations above, all based upon real situations I have observed in the workplace, this self-destructive behavior amounted to nothing more than a fear of success.   Reckless behavior brought about through a clouding of judgment, values, personal and professional goals.  It is more common than you think, is a form of anxiety and often times the individual is not aware of the behavior.

Certainly no one knowingly sabotages their career or business.  Further, we as humans do a great job of rationalizing our behavior that we frequently mask the true nature of what we are doing.

In the early 1900’s Sigmund Freud wrote about this issue in a paper “Those Wrecked by Success”.  Sometimes it is the act of success itself that creates this problem.  Sometimes it is a rapid rise in career or business that causes this.  We have all experienced the “What was I thinking” moment in our lives.  Most often it involved some juvenile antic.  Sometimes it was more serious.  Occasionally it is a realization of success that takes you so far from where you were that you unknowingly desperately want to return to where you were.

So what do you do about it?

You need to begin by evaluating what you want and why you want it.  You have to self-reflect on the goal and objective, what it takes to get there.  Ask yourself these and similar questions:

What are the pro’s and con’s of this decision?

Must I give up anything to achieve this?

Do I have the right personal skills to be successful after I achieve this?

Is what I am pursuing worth the things I have to give up?

It is important to be brutally honest with yourself.  There will be conflict between your ego and the truth.  There will be conflict between what you think others will judge you by and what you will judge you by.

 Being successful should not be something you are afraid of.  Being successful should not be something you let others define.  Being successful is something that is personal to you and you alone.  However, you cannot truly achieve success alone; we all need support.

 When finding your support it is important to find those who do not judge, who will be honest (Honesty is the single greatest point of this entire subject).  Your support needs to be people who will “VOLUNTEER” their input and not those afraid to do so because it may hurt your feelings or interfere with the relationship.

Yet you must also understand one basic principle besides honesty.  That principle involves what do you do to be successful.  Are you happy where you are now?  Are you unhappy where you are now?  If you are happy then stay happy, maintain the status quo.  If you are unhappy and want more, explore the questions above and determine if you truly want to go further, succeed at a different level.  If so, then do what you are comfortable with to reach that goal.  Just make certain your goals are achievable and not the greatest dream ever imagined.


10 Aug

Customer Retention Can Make or Break Your Business


You put a lot of time and effort into acquiring your customers or clients.  You developed a product or service, you identified ways of getting it in front of those who would potentially buy it.  Your hard work and efforts paid off; you sold your goods or services.

As time goes along you increase your sale. You develop new customers and new markets for what you have to offer. As a result of your success, you broaden your offerings with new products and new services.  You feel good about what you have done.

At the end of a month, you look at your business, preparing for the next month.  You notice that your Gross Sales are down.  You walk over to your head of sales and ask why.  Your Sales Manager explains that they are selling a lot, so you begin to dig deeper.  Your next stop is your Manager for Customer Service and Retention.  They inform you that they are on target for upselling value added parts to the products and services that are being sold.   Knowing that you haven’t answered the problem, you go back to your office and dig some more.  As you review your sales you notice something.  You aren’t getting enough repeat business.

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03 Aug

Leaders Don’t Use Band Aids



A friend of mine recently shared an article by Reid Hoffmann, co-founder of LinkedIn, in a group we belong to there.  The article was promoting the philosophy of “…the Alliance and the tour of duty framework.” For future employer/employee relationships.  [http://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2014/07/08/linkedin-founder-how-to-fix-the-way-we-work/]

In other words, as Hoffmann wrote “If they signed up for a 2-4 year tour of duty and made an important contribution to some part of the business, Reid and the company would help advance their careers, preferably in the form of another tour of duty at LinkedIn. “

Why was he doing this? Again Reid writes “In an era of at-will employment, company loyalty is scarce and long-time ties are scarcer. “It’s just business” has become the ruling philosophy—especially when layoffs hit—and workers are encouraged to think of themselves as “free agents.”

Yet bosses and hiring managers still ask workers to commit to the company without committing to them in return. This creates a relationship built on mutual self-deception.”

My response to this complex and fraught with legal risk idea is this; “It is putting a band aid on a gash.”  It addresses an outcome to a root cause of the problem.  It does not address the problems cause.

 Let us first identify the real problem.  I have used this Gallup Research and Right Management study before because it is powerfully accurate, “…study that determined only “…4% of U.S. employers report having an ample pipeline that will cover most of their leadership and management needs…”   I also wrote that a Gallup survey showed that poorly lead work groups are 50% less productive and 44% less profitable than well lead ones.


The problem is leadership or more importantly a lack of leadership.


This isn’t solved with some new complex system that will only benefit a few.  The solution to the problem is two-fold. The first solution is leadership. For the most part it doesn’t exist. We have management but we do not have leadership. We manage things, we lead people. Some pundits would say “that’s ridiculous”. They would be incorrect. 


The Solution is a Holistic Approach to the Business, Starting at the Top


When a company lay’s off employees it is because leadership failed. It isn’t the economy, it isn’t the weather, it isn”t Uncle Bob’s gout. Leadership failed. It failed because it did not do those things necessary to sustain the company month after month, year after year. It became lazy and entrenched. Doing more than the status quo was too hard, it meant…gasp!!! working for accomplishment instead of activity.  In those companies leadership is a position, it isn’t a role. Further, it isn’t even leadership, it is failureship. It is much easier to simply toss away people, write off inventory as a loss, bad product as a loss, etc. Why actually work when I have those incentives to MANAGE that still gives me a big salary, leisure time and power. Plus the investors are happy because we make enough short term profit to satisfy them and Wall Street.

The other issue is the Employee Value Proposition. One of those fancy look how smart I am terms created to show others just how smart the creator was. In reality it means simply how does the employee add value to the organization.

If you come to work every day at 8, clock out for lunch at 12 and return at 12:30, then end your day at 4, you did what was asked of you. No more and no less. You don’t have to show any more interest in the work or company than that.  No problem. 

Another person comes into work on that same schedule, they complete their tasks ahead of time and look for more work. Or they propose cost saving value enhancing ways to produce or deliver. 

Two very different employees. As an employer I know which one I will show value to.  I also know which one I try to improve and if unsuccessful suggest another place of employment to.

Of course, and again this is where we get holistic, that means creating an intrapreneurial environment that supports employees like our second example. That falls back on leadership. Bad leadership sees those kinds of employees as threats. Threats to their little piece of don’t have to do a lot to survive while getting a big paycheck existence. 

Is all of that cynical? You darn right it is. It is also, if we are honest with ourselves, the hard truth.

So how do we fix that?  Simple…invest in leadership.  Leadership and not leaders.  Leaders leave by retirement, new jobs, etc.  Leadership remains in the company.  Train your leaders in leadership.  Not some off the shelf out of the box process, not some fly by night $199 one size fits all local seminar from someone who has never set foot in your company.  Leadership development that is customized to your organization and that comes with specific financial measurements to show success.

You owe it to your business if nothing else.


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