RULES TO LIVE AND DIE BY

BChief Tecumsahy:  Chief Tecumseh

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.

Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, and beautify all things in your life.

Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place.

Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.

Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.

Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

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BRAND YOUR PURPLE COW

Purple CowYou can have the greatest product in the world, the most superb service, but, if no one knows about it, you will have a warehouse full of excellent products, and you will be sitting around your office, waiting for the phone to ring.

Strategic Positioning

This is where companies make a big mistake with their marketing. It’s important to have great products and great services. But too many companies fool themselves by thinking, “If people knew how great our products or services are, they’d buy us every time.”

They try to market themselves by saying things like: “We’ve got the best quality, the best product, the best customer service, and the best people.” I’ve got three words for you: WASTE OF TIME. Yes, all those things are important, but they won’t help you be successful with your marketing.

It’s not about the product; it’s about the positioning. Strategic Positioning or Brand Positioning is a statement of who you are. It is what your target customers think about when they hear your brand name. Red Bull owns the words “Energy Drink.” 1-800-GOT JUNK? owns “junk removal.” What words do you want to own? What will make you stand out from the herd?

Seth Godin in his book The Purple Cow says that you should stand out from the herd of competitors the way a purple cow would stand out from a herd of cows. That’s not just a little different. We’re talking “dramatically different,” and that takes courage.

The old rule of marketing was playing it safe. So, you created a good product or service, and then you sold it with sales people and advertising. You took out ads, you spent money, and you tried to drive customers to your business that way. That used to work, but it doesn’t any more.

Today it is different, you need to create remarkable products or services that your target market customers will seek out and talk about. They will spread word‑of‑mouth about your brand.

It starts with being dramatically different. You’re either a Purple Cow of a product or service, or you’re a commodity (whereby you sell only on price). But that’s only part of the challenge. You must also be dramatically and meaningfully different to your ideal target market customer.

Just being good is not enough. Your competitors are good. Your customers won’t even start down the path to buy your product unless they think you’re remarkably, distinctively, and meaningfully different. You don’t win the marketing battle with the best product or service. You win the marketing battle with Strategic Positioning. So let’s think about how you can position your company.

There’s no one best way to position your company (or brand) so you appear uniquely different from your competition. You need to choose a position that sets you apart in a way that appeals to your ideal target market customer. There are six basic ways to achieve that:

1. Position your company based on price point.

Walmart, for example, offers “everyday low prices.” Price positioning can work the other way, too, when people use a high price as an indicator of high value. Consider this story told by Dr. Robert Cialdini, the author of Influence.

The owner of a jewelry store that specializes in Indian jewelry purchased some good quality turquoise pieces and priced them reasonably, based on her experience. But, even though the store was full of tourists, those pieces didn’t sell. That happens in retail.

The store owner did what store owners have probably done since the beginning of commerce. The night before she left on a buying trip, she wrote a note to her staff, directing them to display the turquoise pieces prominently and to cut the selling price in half. She imagined that customers would snap up the jewelry at the low price and she could move on to other things.

When she returned from her trip, she was pleased to note that, as she expected, the pieces had all been sold. Then she discovered that her staff had not done what she had asked. Her assistant misread the note, and, instead of cutting the prices by half, the assistant had doubled them. The jewelry sold better when the higher prices sent the message to customers that the pieces were of higher quality. There are many stories like this that marketers tell each other.

2. Position your company by creating a new category.

That’s what Red Bull did. Before them, there was no “energy drink” category.

3. Position your company as something different from the category leader.

In rental cars, the classic Avis advertising campaign, “We’re number two, so we try harder,” is a great example.

4. Position your company as a specialist.

1-800-GOT-JUNK? is the specialist in junk removal. There are coffee shops all over the country that sell coffee and a host of other things like hamburgers and breakfast, but Starbucks positioned itself as the coffee specialist, the brand you know offers premium coffee.

5. Position your company as the master of a distribution channel.

L’eggs was the first supermarket pantyhose brand and became the largest-selling pantyhose brand in the country. Paul Mitchell became a $600-million hair and skincare brand by focusing on the professional hair salon channel. Ping did the same in golf clubs by focusing on the pro-shop channel.

6. Position your company by being explicit about Who your target market customer is.

Curves is the gym solely for women. AXE (or Lynx, in some countries) cologne positions itself as the cologne that makes young men irresistible.

How to find your Strategic Position

Here are two questions that I recommend to help you identify your Strategic Position:

  1. In what area(s) could you be perceived as the leader of a category or niche in your industry?
  2. In what area(s) could you be perceived as being dramatically and meaningfully different from your competitors?

ARE YOU A BAD BOSS?

Bad BossYour staff avoids you. No one stops by your office, desk or “skypes” you to check-in. This is a probable sign that your employees are afraid of you or have simply lost confidence in your leadership.

Inability to make decisions without your input. You staff constantly asks you for advice on the smallest details. It’s likely you haven’t empowered your employees, or they’re just too afraid of potential consequences if they don’t approach you on everything. There’s definitely a balance so make sure you check out my colleague’s post (Stephen Lynch) about having an open door policy.

A high turnover. Look at how many people you’ve directly or indirectly managed and have resigned within 1-2 years. Leaving for more money is likely not the initial motivator. People typically leave their boss not the company (unless you have a terrible company culture). Quite obvious, but few fail to face this reality.

Former employees disappear, forever. Nothing says it more than anything if your ex-employees don’t keep in touch or you don’t get recommendation requests. Good bosses typically become mentors or role models for ex-employees.

Lack of feedback. You fail to communicate with your team and may not have set expectations, goals or timelines. Bad bosses often change their mind frequently leaving their team feeling off balance. You’re also not available to receive feedback about yourself. Most people like to see progress and to progress in their careers. It’s important that you provide timely feedback. Positive feedback is typically best and constructive feedback is important if something needs to be improved or corrected.

If any of the above is true, here are 4 simple tips you can use to engage your team and help you get out of that bad boss category:

  1. Create transparency. Don’t keep your team in the dark. Share your company’s performance, track and communicate progress. It will help your team understand that the things they work on directly impact the company’s success and ultimately their own.
  2. Make work meaningful. Reinforce the importance of everyone’s role. Provide clarity and direction by defining both team and individual goals. Avoid ambiguity at all costs. This will help foster ownership and will help get things done.
  3. People-Focused Culture. Promote the sharing of ideas, suggestions and improvements. Recognize people for their achievements. Live your company core values and have your team nominate colleagues who meet different core values.
  4. Nurture employees and create a path for growth and opportunity. Create opportunities for career development and progression. Talk to your employees about their career plan. Does their current role make full use of their strengths and abilities? Provide feedback (both the good and constructive) sooner than later.

CONCLUSION

Take the time to think about the points above and keep in mind that highly engaged employees are 26% more productive and on average their company’s earned 13% greater returns. Creating a more engaged workforce benefits the company, your team, and yourself.

EXCERPTS FROM WARREN BUFFET’S ANNUAL LETTER

Warren Buffet“Investment is most intelligent when it is most businesslike.” –Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor

This tale begins in Nebraska. From 1973 to 1981, the Midwest experienced an explosion in farm prices, caused by a widespread belief that runaway inflation was coming and fueled by the lending policies of small rural banks. Then the bubble burst, bringing price declines of 50% or more that devastated both leveraged farmers and their lenders. Five times as many Iowa and Nebraska banks failed in that bubble’s aftermath as in our recent Great Recession.

In 1986, I purchased a 400-acre farm, located 50 miles north of Omaha, from the FDIC. It cost me $280,000, considerably less than what a failed bank had lent against the farm a few years earlier. I knew nothing about operating a farm. But I have a son who loves farming, and I learned from him both how many bushels of corn and soybeans the farm would produce and what the operating expenses would be. From these estimates, I calculated the normalized return from the farm to then be about 10%. I also thought it was likely that productivity would improve over time and that crop prices would move higher as well. Both expectations proved out.

In 1993, I made another small investment. Larry Silverstein, Salomon’s landlord when I was the company’s CEO, told me about a New York retail property adjacent to New York University that the Resolution Trust Corp. was selling. Again, a bubble had popped — this one involving commercial real estate — and the RTC had been created to dispose of the assets of failed savings institutions whose optimistic lending practices had fueled the folly.

Here, too, the analysis was simple. As had been the case with the farm, the unleveraged current yield from the property was about 10%. But the property had been under-managed by the RTC, and its income would increase when several vacant stores were leased. Even more important, the largest tenant — who occupied around 20% of the project’s space — was paying rent of about $5 per foot, whereas other tenants averaged $70. The expiration of this bargain lease in nine years was certain to provide a major boost to earnings. The property’s location was also superb: NYU wasn’t going anywhere.

Fundamentals of Investing:

  • You don’t need to be an expert in order to achieve satisfactory investment returns. But if you aren’t, you must recognize your limitations and follow a course certain to work reasonably well. Keep things simple and don’t swing for the fences. When promised quick profits, respond with a quick “no.”
  • Focus on the future productivity of the asset you are considering. If you don’t feel comfortable making a rough estimate of the asset’s future earnings, just forget it and move on. No one has the ability to evaluate every investment possibility. But omniscience isn’t necessary; you only need to understand the actions you undertake.
  • If you instead focus on the prospective price change of a contemplated purchase, you are speculating. There is nothing improper about that. I know, however, that I am unable to speculate successfully, and I am skeptical of those who claim sustained success at doing so. Half of all coin-flippers will win their first toss; none of those winners has an expectation of profit if he continues to play the game. And the fact that a given asset has appreciated in the recent past is never a reason to buy it.
  • With my two small investments, I thought only of what the properties would produce and cared not at all about their daily valuations. Games are won by players who focus on the playing field — not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard. If you can enjoy Saturdays and Sundays without looking at stock prices, give it a try on weekdays.
  • Forming macro opinions or listening to the macro or market predictions of others is a waste of time. Indeed, it is dangerous because it may blur your vision of the facts that are truly important. (When I hear TV commentators glibly opine on what the market will do next, I am reminded of Mickey Mantle’s scathing comment: “You don’t know how easy this game is until you get into that broadcasting booth.”)

During the extraordinary financial panic that occurred late in 2008, I never gave a thought to selling my farm or New York real estate, even though a severe recession was clearly brewing. And if I had owned 100% of a solid business with good long-term prospects, it would have been foolish for me to even consider dumping it. So why would I have sold my stocks that were small participations in wonderful businesses? True, any one of them might eventually disappoint, but as a group they were certain to do well. Could anyone really believe the earth was going to swallow up the incredible productive assets and unlimited human ingenuity existing in America?

Summary

When Charlie Munger and I buy stocks — which we think of as small portions of businesses — our analysis is very similar to that which we use in buying entire businesses. We first have to decide whether we can sensibly estimate an earnings range for five years out or more. If the answer is yes, we will buy the stock (or business) if it sells at a reasonable price in relation to the bottom boundary of our estimate. If, however, we lack the ability to estimate future earnings — which is usually the case — we simply move on to other prospects. In the 54 years we have worked together, we have never forgone an attractive purchase because of the macro or political environment, or the views of other people. In fact, these subjects never come up when we make decisions.

WHAT THE RICH DO . . .

Are rich people just good with money or is there something a little deeper contributing to their success? Most people would agree that certain lifestyle choices and daily habits are as valuable in the quest for wealth as a sound understanding of finances.

A recent study indicated that a whopping 21 percent of Americans see winning the lottery as an important wealth-building strategy. A similar study of Canadians showed that about 12 percent were counting on winning a big lottery so they could have enough retirement income to retire in style.

There are many things you should never do if financial security is one of your main goals.  So what do the rich do every day that the poor don’t do?  Tom Corley, RichHabitsInstitute.com, outlines a few of the differences between the habits of the rich and the poor.

  1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day.
  2. 23% of wealthy gamble versus 52% of poor people.
  3. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing a single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.
  4. 76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. Only 23% of the poor exercise.
  5. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work versus 5% of poor people.
  6. 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list versus 19% of poor.
  7. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month versus 3% of poor.
  8. 70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month versus 3% of poor
  9. 80% of wealthy make Happy Birthday calls versus 11% of poor.
  10. 67% of wealthy write down their goals versus 17% of poor.
  11. 88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons versus 2% of poor.
  12. 6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind versus 69% of poor. (Are you a Victim or Victor?)13.
  13. 79% of wealthy network five hours or more each month versus 16% of poor.
  14. 67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day versus 23% of poor.
  15. 6% of wealthy watch reality TV versus 78% of poor.
  16. 44% of wealthy wake up three hours before work starts versus 3% of poor.
  17. 74% of wealthy teach good daily success habits to their children versus 1% of poor.
  18. 84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity versus 4% of poor.
  19. 76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck versus 9% of poor.
  20. 86% of wealthy believe in lifelong educational self-improvement versus 5% of poor.
  21. 86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% of poor.

SUMMARY

  1. EAT RIGHT
  2. KEEP YOUR CARDS CLOSE TO YOUR CHEST
  3. SET GOALS
  4. KEEP FIT
  5. BE ORGANISED
  6. READ
  7. RING GRANDMA
  8. DON’T WATCH BIG BROTHER
  9. DON’T PUNT
  10. RUN YOUR OWN RACE
  11. AND ONE LAST THOUGHT . . .

There is a firm belief that a lot of poor people are simply too busy or disadvantaged one way or another to change their situation. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to pick themselves up. This is best explained from Dave Ramsey’s blog “Poornomore”:  “I was born poor, raised in poverty and watched my parents die that way. I worked hard, eliminated my bad habits, started doing what the wealthy did. Mostly, I stopped blaming others for my lack of wealth. Now I am wealthy, and help others who want to be helped.”

BALANCE . . . RHYTHM . . . TIMING

golfJust last week, I had a chance meeting with EVP and General Manager of a $188 million sports team (unfortunately I cannot use his name).  He was very gracious in the time he spent with this small group of business professionals, and he shared some wisdom that gave me new ideas to move some clients to the next level.

As with any athlete whether the sport is baseball, golf, basketball or hockey, a superior athlete has exceptional command of three areas:  Balance; Rhythm; Timing.  So, how can business professionals use these three commands in their business to drive it to the next level?

Business Balance:

As Sir Richard Branson say, “You can and must make time for both family and business. It is important to build a strong family life: It helps to give you a better perspective and balance in business. Moreover, a key responsibility for each generation is to bring up the next generation — and you need to be present to do this.”

How do you balance family life with the time required to set up and build a business?

1-    Make sure we had proper family holidays — time spent away from work and the office. Spending time away teaches delegation.

2-    Take yourself outside the ‘busy work’ everyday business and allow yourself to make clearer and longer-term decisions.

3-    Develop a strong bond of trust with your colleagues. This means that your team must be fully engaged and support you in their convictions in the good time and the bad times.

4-    There is a balance between being in the office and outside the company.  An entrepreneur must make sure to be seen by the staff and spend time getting their feedback and ideas. Listening to others is a key quality of a good business leader.

5-    Time off should be important to you. To keep yourself and your staff motivated and healthy, it is important to take holidays and get a break from work. The right balance will ensure that you have a committed and enthusiastic staff that performs better when at work instead of looking for excuses to take sick days.

6-    Keep fit and healthy is also a key to staying on top in business. Exercising every day – a swim, a run or a game of tennis – gives you the energy necessary to tackle the everyday decisions.

7-    Live life to the fullest and take advantage of good home family and business family.

Business Rhythm:

If you’re not familiar with the term, business rhythm refers to the set of meetings that management has on its schedule to drive and manage the organization. Generally, it can be concluded that most executives spent too much time in meetings that were not appropriately focused or aligned with the organization’s goals and objectives.

In fact, some reports say that owners and managers spend as much as 60 percent of their time in meetings. While most of the time was spent on the things that mattered to the company, they didn’t perceive the meetings to be overly effective.

An organization needs to understand that working in tandem with its management team members, each meeting needs to be linked to a core process and that is linked to a key performance indicator (KPI.).

1-    In building an operating rhythm the organization needs to assign specific and measureable KPIs to ensure every member of the management team has the same understanding.

2-    Then management needs to tie each KPI to the core processes that will enable them to be achieved. Then, management must detail these core processes to the next level of granularity, describing:

  1. Sub-processes (process maps)
  2. Inputs and outputs
  3. Roles and responsibilities
  4. Meetings
  5. Frequency

3-    Business rhythms drive core processes, which drive different timescales or frequencies.

  1. Annual meetings are necessary to set targets and strategy, typically two-three days
  2. Quarterly meetings are necessary to review results and adjust the strategy, typically one day
  3. Monthly meetings are necessary to check and correct deviations, typically two-three hours
  4. Weekly  meetings are necessary to track and monitor execution, typically one hour

Businesses can make significant progress in achieving their right rhythm if every member of management aligns their meeting schedule to the organizational core processes so that the right amount of time is spent on the right topics with the right people.

Business Timing:

1- Notice the signals of timing hidden all around.

An idea whose time has almost come gives subtle—but unmistakable—hints, often even leaving behind a physical trail of its presence. Everyone can relate to this. Common sense processes to help us make decisions about when, how, and whether to proceed with certain projects.

2- Be in tune with the timing of potential partners.

If you are making a sales call or presenting a business proposal, it is best to avoid your customers’ resistive periods. Each customer has at least one, but it is up to you to learn when it is. For some, it could be Monday morning; for others, Friday afternoon This is the best time to reach him. (It also helps that by ï¬?ve-thirty, his assistant has gone home for the day and he answers his own phone.)

3. Be aware of the relationship between your objective and your timing.

You have to determine where your strengths lie. If it is in research and development, then you do want to be first to market. If you are best at controlling costs—and therefore can be the low-cost supplier—then you want to follow the leaders and undercut their prices. The point is to align your objective with timing.

4. Use your intuition to improve your timing.

Intuition is like a muscle; the more you use it, the better it will develop. Whenever possible, before trying to figure out” the right answer to a problem you’re facing, try to sense what to do.

Yes, skills, training, and education are helpful, but don’t underestimate the power of intuition. By definition intuition is the way we translate our experience into action. Our experience lets us recognize what is going on (making judgments) and how to react (making decisions.) Because our experience enables us to recognize what to do …we don’t deliberately have to think through issues to arrive at good decisions [quickly].”

5. Use common sense.

You can improve your personal timing by tapping into your personal intuition and by doing your homework. We may not be able to control timing, but we can improve it by supplementing our intuition with common sense and experience and then following up by executing our plans in an ethical (and timely) manner.

Conclusion:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character.”

THE COST OF CUSTOMER SERVICE

AngryI recently had a customer service experience that I feel compelled to share.  Just a bit of background first . . .

I used this outside vendor for the past 12 months, with no issues.  However, I was not deriving the necessary ROI (Return on Investment) for this service.  Therefore I cancelled this service, compliant with the understanding they needed 30 days prior notification.  While looking at my business account some 45 days later, I noticed a recent charge that should not have been there- for this very service.  Therefore, I notified the company and requested reversal of the charges.

I received the following email as a reply to my request for the reversal of charges . .

“When you cancel, we do require a 30 day notification, so if you’re notifying us today that you do wish to cancel your agreement with us, that would technically start the 30 day notification as of now, and September would be your final payment due to us.”

After wasting my time researching and providing previous emails to this company, I received the following response . . .

“I wasn’t privy to these emails, so my apologies. I will instruct accounting to reimburse you immediately.”

As of today, over one week later, I am STILL waiting for the reimbursement into my account. In fact I am thinking that my next email will be to question the timeliness of their commitment to the word ‘immediately’.

What went wrong?

This business is not a terribly large, with only 15 employees, but (whether they admit it or not) they have significant challenges with their customer service.

1- Communication.  All communication needs to be shared with all people in their customer service area, by customer account is preferred.

2- Never write an email with a confrontational tone. There should be Systems and Procedures that have an approved email template that customer service personnel can use without deviation.  Remember, the objective for Customer Service is to help the customer not anger the customer.

3- In an apology, there are three critical parts that need to be addressed:

a. We made a mistake.

b. We are sorry for this mistake.

c. What can we do make it up to you?

4- The cost of acquiring a new client is six times more than maintaining an existing client.  I am NOT a satisfied (previous) customer, therefore the ultimate cost of a dis-satisfied customer has an huge exponential (and largely unknown) cost to your business.

5-    Every customer service break-down, represents the opportunity to identify and improve the level of the customer experience.

What to do?

You need to get into your customers’ heads.  Unfortunately, you can’t read minds. The Technician in you accepts this and tries to genuinely meet your customers’ expectations. Unfortunately, this doesn’t cut it.

The business owner wearing the Technician hat takes the easy route and bases the company’s entire customer experience system on the “standard” systems they see everywhere else.

• The automated hold message says, “Your call is important to us…”

• The customer service represent asks, “How may I help you?”

• The supervisor replies in a neutral tone, “I understand your frustration.”

These things might work at times. But they’re not achieving the desired result. In fact, they’re keeping your business stagnant.  If your business is like most, you thrive on repeat business, loyal customers, excellent customer service and positive word-of-mouth.

So, if the desired result is a healthy and thriving customer base that will keep coming back and telling others about you (and it should be), it’s time to change hats. Many companies have been able to achieve this. But staggering numbers haven’t, even though it’s entirely within their reach.

Companies that create a healthy customer base do so by providing an exceptional customer experience. They create an experience with a systematic approach and intention to exceed customer expectations.  It’s not by accident.  It’s by design.  The two areas of focus that most business owners tend to unintentionally overlook are also the two areas that can have the greatest impact on increased sales and profitability.

Customer Service and Delivery

“Customer service” is an overused phrase that has little meaning any more, but customers still want their needs met. To accomplish this requires that customer service is the responsibility of every employee, whether they have direct customer contact or not.

Customer service is different from any add-on service you offer for sale.  If you charge money for a service, it’s part of your product mix.  Customer Service is free.

Customer Service enhances your main offer – it’s not your main offer – but a pleasantly unexpected bonus that reinforces your message that you care.

Customer Service opportunities are endless.  It is a major area that can give you a competitive advantage – especially if you are seen as a commodity with numerous competitors.  So when you start thinking about the customer services you might offer, think beyond the obvious.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What attributes of your business lend themselves to better customer service?  Don’t be afraid to experiment and then elicit feedback from the people who know best – your customers.

Delivery Experience

There comes that moment in your customer experience where your customer accepts delivery of your product or service. This really is the moment of truth. It’s the culminating moment where you either exceed, meet, or fall short of your customers’ expectations.

The mechanics for delivery are different for every business, but every business has a process to get the product or service into a customer’s hands. The question you must ask yourself is: does it “deliver?” Delivery has two main components: transportation and experience.

Transportation runs from very simple to very complicated – from handing your customer their product at the time of purchase to outsourcing to a parcel delivery service. This decision is informed by the nature of the product or service and the available transportation channels.

One of the keys to building customer loyalty is to regularly subject your transportation systems to various measureable analytics – making sure you deliver the result your customers expect at the most reasonable cost.

The delivery experience, on the other hand, is your opportunity to differentiate your business from every other competitor.  In order to do that, you must fully leverage the marketing principle of “sensory impact.”

In other words, you need to do more than simply hand off your product or service to your customer; you need to make them feel good about the value they receive. The way you present your product or service to the customers who purchase it will have a lasting impact on their experience of your business.

While your concerns about delivery might be the costs of shipping, the reliability of your transport company, and whether to ship ground or air, your customers have their own definition of delivery.

They are focused on convenience, speed, and the cost to them. And because they look at how the package arrives, having it delivered by premium shippers like UPS or FedEx can enhance the perceived value to your clients. Not because those trucks are any better than anyone else’s, but because they are associated with speed and convenience.

From your clients’ perspective, you cared enough to satisfy them quickly, even if you had to pay extra for it. The result is a positive delivery experience.  Remember, “the medium is the message.” How you say or do something often has more impact than the actual content of the message.

In other words, the way in which you present your product to your customer may often times have more impact than the product itself.

Doing What It Takes

As a business owner, you know your resources are finite.  There is only so much equipment, inventory, cash, workspace, and employee time available.

When considering how to excel in providing an exceptional customer experience, it’s up to you to get the most value from those resources. But there’s more to it than just quantifying output.

It is counter-productive to your goals to simply squeeze more cost-effectiveness from your processes if it dilutes or sacrifices your customer experience or places undue burdens on your employees.

The key is to manage that delicate balance between productivity and the expectations that fuel true customer satisfaction.

WHERE’S MY OLD MARKETING MACHINE?

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????It’s time to crank up the old marketing machine!! Not only marketing for customers but for talent. As with most business owners, you need to dial-back almost a decade to find a time when marketing was as badly needed as it is today.

So, you are not sure where I put my marketing machine? Last I saw it, I think it’s sitting over with sales, but I’m not sure. I know we spend a lot of money to produce lots of marketing ‘stuff’, but I’m not sure who’s really leading the charge.

What we find is that the marketing function is simply missing in many of the company we meet with.  Or, a bigger mistake is take marketing and lump it in with sales with someone titled VP of Sales and Marketing running the show. And for many entrepreneurial firms, it’s the founder/CEO who is the default Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) with insufficient time to focus on the critical marketing tasks needed to drive profitable revenue growth.  So, here are four things you need to know about marketing:

Separate Marketing Function

The first step is to recognize the need for a distinctly separate marketing function with someone clearly accountable other than the VP of Sales. One of the first hires Michael Dell made, when he took back the CEO position recently, was a CMO, a position that had been vacant for over two years. It’s hard to get back market share without someone driving marketing.

Though marketing needs to work closely with sales, it must come out from underneath the sales function and stands alone within the company. Marketing requires different metrics, different conversations, and different personalities than sales. And in many cases the head of marketing should report directly to the CEO if it’s not the CEO driving the marketing process themselves.

In identifying someone to drive marketing, it’s vital to recognize that marketing professionals are different human beings than sales people. One is relationship driven, the other is process driven. It’s not surprising to see marketing leaders with degrees in physics, engineering, or even accounting. One of the best marketers of our time is Steve Jobs and he studied physics (along with literature and poetry) at Reed College.  As the CEO, if you are the best person to drive marketing, then it is imperative that you clear your plate of other functions and get focused on marketing. Marketing is a full time job from day one!

Get Data from Customers and Employees

You need market intelligence to drive your marketing decisions around price, place, promotion, and product, the 4 Ps of marketing – you just can’t be making these decisions in a vacuum.

The simplest approach is for each executive to call one customer per week and talk with one front line employee per week. Find out about their priorities, challenges and pains; inquire what they are seeing in their own industries and demographics; and ask them what they are seeing and hearing from your competitors (by doing a SWOT Analysis). Only last do you ask for their feedback on your firm.

You also need your sales organization calling in DAILY and reporting on what they’ve learned in the field. And the best way to get them to do this is to threaten with weekly sales calls reports!

Meetings and Metrics

The third step is setting up a weekly one hour marketing meeting, distinct from your weekly sales meeting. Here you will discuss what has been learned from the marketplace, any updated decisions around the 4 Ps, SWOT information about the competition and set marketing priorities for the coming week. This has been the universal key to driving marketing that high tech companies like Apple, Intel, and Genetech have implemented.

Besides the CEO and head of marketing along with any outsourced marketing resources you’re employing, I encourage as many of the other executives to participate as possible.

You also want to brainstorm this key question “what are the key influencers we need to reach this week that can fuel the word-of-mouth marketing of our products and services and how will we reach them?” Think tipping point!

As for metrics, the primary function of marketing is Lead Generation. ALL marketing activities must eventually drive leads, into qualified leads, and into buying customers or clients. Therefore, measure hits to the website; page views and time on the website; inquires tied to various promotions or ads; and referrals garnered from your word-of-mouth activities.  You want to measure the cost per warm lead so you can maximize the effectiveness of your marketing expenditures.

Last, to continue feeding ideas and topics for your weekly marketing meeting, become a great student of marketing. Read every book, attend every workshop, and visit every company that represents world-class marketing. Particularly in the field of marketing, it takes just one great idea. Start by reading most of Seth Godin’s books: Permission Marketing, Purple Cow and All Marketers are Liars, Is Your Marketing Out of Sync. Also sign up to receive Seth’s blog; and “google” his 43 minute presentation to Google.

Also study Dr. Robert Cialdini’s classic book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and master his six keys to persuasion and read Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller The Tipping Point. Read Gilmore and Pine’s Experience Economy and scan through Jay Conrad Levinson’s classic guerilla marketing books. I would also suggest Jim Cecil’s “Cure for the Common Cold Call” off his nurture marketing website.

There has never been a more explosive global economy – now is the time to grab market share. If you don’t, others won’t wait!

LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET THE HECK OUT OF THE WAY . . .

Follow leadDefine leadership. Now redefine it in terms of YOU!

What is interesting about recent articles and books written  about leadership, seemingly all these have been written by people who are no longer leaders. Yet, these authors routinely write as if they are ‘Monday Quarterbacking’ for today’s leaders under fire to adopt their “former leader” direction.

A recent article by one of these ’former leaders’ included  key points, one of these point was that “clarity is the antidote of anxiety”; therefore “clarity” is the main concern of the effective leader. What???

If you’re a leader, and clarity is your main concern, nothing important must be going on in your business.

During our Mentoring Sessions, we discover that leadership is multifaceted. There is no “one” concern more powerful than the other, therefore they are all important. So, what is more important here:  lead by example, get the ‘buy- in’ of the team, achievement of the strategic plan, management of the sale process, watching the bottom line, continual excellence of performance, management of the KPI’s,  absolute ‘open door’ communication, or fulfillment of the employees in the company?  All of these are far more important than “clarity.”

“Clarity is the antidote of anxiety.”  If a leader has anxiety, the first step would be to discover what is causing it, and then take the necessary action to eliminate or change it. Being “clear” is another phrase coined by another ’former leader’ to sell books.  Furthermore, it is a meaningless as “added value” or “on purpose” or “focus.” Just empty leadership-created words and phrases.

If you are the leader, boss, or manager, you need to sharpen the real-world skills you need to be a true leader.  These skills are the leadership qualities needed to succeed: the action items, principles, and skills to employ so leadership works. So it works for you, your people, your customers, your vendors, and your company-in that order.

But there are degrees of leadership effectiveness. Your ability to master these leadership skills are in direct proportion to your ability to lead. If you are looking for ‘clarity’, look no further than these skills:

  • Develop respect from your people and to respect you. If the leaders are not respected they are eventually overthrown-or fired. If a non-respected leader cannot be fired, people will quit.
  • Make sure your people and their jobs are a “fit.” Remember . . . Right Person, Right Seat, Right Bus.
  • Let your people share their goals. Part of the Strategic Plan is the common goal of the people and the leader.  When people set their own goals, they can achieve them, and they ‘own’ them.
  • Give your people specific responsibilities and clear direction. Everyone needs to fully understand their responsible. And make sure they see the big picture and how their part fits into it.
  • Create an environment in which people love their work and their workplace. Make the workplace fun.
  • Make sure all “money matters” are clear. Do not mess with employees’ money. And worse, do not reduce pay or commissions to cut costs. Pay fairly, benefit well, and provide security. Otherwise people will leave.
  • Make sure paychecks are accurate. People count their money and count on it. Nothing hurts morale more than wrong paychecks.
  • Encourage your people. The most effective leaders are coaches. They stand on the sidelines and cheer for their players.
  • Praise your people.  When is the last time you praised someone for their hard work? Praise effort publicly. Praise accomplishment. Often.

By your actions and your achievements-be their hero. If you want them to become dedicated players, your people need to see your dedication. If you are the one driving the bus and making big things happen, you will become a hero to those who respect your ethics and accomplishments.

So what is wrong with this statement?  “You don’t have to be liked, you just have to be respected.” People want to work for people they like AND respect, otherwise they will work for someone else.

Conclusion

So . . . Lead, Follow, or get the Heck out of the way. If you are the leader, and you are not following the above rules, you don’t have to worry about getting out of the way, because your best people will run away from you.

82 WAYS TO BEING A BETTER LEADER

Leader 3There is a huge difference between being an effective Manager and a Leader.  If you consider yourself a leader, or are interested in becoming one, you must first understand that becoming an effective leader is a process, one that never ends. Here’s a few tips (actually 82 of them) to guide you on your journey to becoming a better Leader.

Planning & Strategy

•Understand what the core principles of being a leader are. It’s not about power, but rather about vision, mission, core values, direction and setting the standard for others to follow.

•There are different ways of managing people.  So what is your leadership style?

•As a leader you are constantly studying and getting more information to continually improve.

•As you build your business, know how to maintain it and prevent serious failures in the business and the team.

•Constantly analyze and improve the process and systems.

•Be prepared in the event of a ‘disaster’. Have a plan ready and be ready to recover from it and move on.

•Keep ‘garbage’ out of your trash cans and out of your employees heads.

Team Building

•Know how to identify, recruit, hire and train exceptional employees.

•Having a standardized interviewing process, which means asking the right questions to find the persons core values and work ethic.

•Constantly building trust in your team and your team trusting you.

•Develop and effectively communicate your vision.

•Having your team ‘Own’ the companies goals and vision.

•Interdependence – making sure your employees are sharing responsible principles.

•Mentoring your team by being a strong positive role model.

•Improve yourself by being influenced and studying great leaders.

•Control the culture and core values of your organization and never stray nor sacrifice these.

Communication

•Never sacrifice ethics in the workplace as well as your company’s image in your industry.

•Develop strong public speaking abilities to get the message across to larger groups.

•Keep your employees up-to-date with things they need to know.

•Command your own body language and your team members as well.

•Improve your proactive and effective listening skills.

•Speak clearly and concisely using economies of words.

•Proactively deal with difficult situations and set the standard.

Build Trust & Confidence

•Clearly understand and communicate the definition of Trust.

•Believe in your team, and work hard to find the good in all your team members.

•Be open minded to accepting new people, new concepts and ideas into your life.

•Be credible and real by showing vulnerability.

•Be prepared to face your fears, only then can your empower yourself and others.

•Know and understand your positive characteristics and when to use them.

•Know, understand and work hard to improve your weak characteristic and shortcomings.

•Take a look outside yourself and see how others perceive you.

•Set the standards for confidence and charisma and others will be drawn to you.

Time Management

•Set goals to get you focused on getting important things done first.

•Have an action plan to achieve those goals.

•Stop procrastinating. Remember you can only manage yourself not Time.

•Know when and how to delegate work.

•Get rid of any and all kinds of distractions while working.

•Keep track of your life by writing things down.

•Keep a schedule and stick to it.

•Know your bad habits and how to break them.

Being Responsible

•Be responsible for all your actions, words and deeds.

•Be responsible and never deviate from your culture, core values, mission statement, name, brand, and company.

•Practice what you preach.

DWYSYWD (Do What You Say You Will Do)

•You must always be aware of what you’re saying and what your not saying. Does the listener get the message you were trying to communicate?

•Create responsible employees, but also be responsible for their actions.

•Assume responsibility, even when it is not your fault.

•Take care of your health. If you don’t care for yourself, why would anyone think you care at all?

•Teach responsibility to others, including your children.

•Surround yourself with the best and brightest team.

Continuous On-Going Learning and Improvement

•Continuously build your leadership skills by reading management and leadership books.

•Keep a leadership blog to document your learning’s.

•Attend management seminars.

•Find yourself a Mentor; shared wisdom proves to be priceless.

•Learn from your employees and associates.

•Embrace new technology, it only makes smarter.

•Understand and learn from yourself. And, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.

Become a role model

•Maintain a positive mental attitude- when times are tough, you need to be tougher.

•Great leaders exude strength before power.

•Lead by example in all matters.

•Demonstrate small and large acts of chivalry.

•Treat customers and co-workers with respect.

•Always dress for success.

•Set the standard for the office.

•Always encourage and nurture others; they will encourage and nurture you back.

•Be calm and exhibit patience in all your efforts.

•Know how to properly manage disappointments, both inside and outside of work.

•Value and cherish all life.

Being Real

•Show your employees and customers, that you care about them.

•Know that it’s okay to share your emotions from time to time.

•Allow people to see your shortcomings, for no one is perfect.

•The truth will set you free, so never lie to your employees about what’s going on.

•Don’t be afraid to put your foot down and redirect employees actions and attitudes when necessary.

•Look and learn from your employee’s vantage point.

•Promote job “ownership”.

•For everybody’s sake, make sure you have a life outside of work.

•Have fun at work! It will show.

Pay it Back

•You and your business donate to charity.

•Start your own charity or benefit.

•Help your employees learn, grow and develop.

•Good leadership means sharing your knowledge and mentoring those around you.

•Recognize exceptional performances and reward publicly.

•Use your skills and knowledge to write a book.