Business Topics

Tiger Woods wins PGA Event after 923 day drought – Can your business bounce back from a major set-back? 0

923 days later, back in business

As you can see from his website, Tiger Woods is a business. Like all businesses, his customers make him successful. On a fateful night in November, several years ago, he lost the trust of many of his customers (fans). Then there was the famous news conference and the rehab. His business lost sponsors. For those first few months it seemed like Tiger Woods as a business was over.

Yesterday all the newscasters could talk about was the new Tiger. One pointed out that many golfers have an initial burst of success, followed by a plateau, followed by a second wave of success in the sport.  Tiger’s initial burst of success included winning 71 PGA tournaments and the Arnold Palmer six times. His win yesterday is what is surely the first of many more as Tiger Woods continues to take the steps needed to once again be successful on the golf course.

As I watched Tiger play the final holes yesterday, my mind shot to the chapter in Peter Shankman’s book, Customer Service – New Rules for a Social Media World. In chapter five Peter talks about Stopping Small Problems From Becoming Big Problems.  On February 19, 2010, one of the headlines was “Will Tiger Woods quit golf for good?” That same day Tiger held a Press Conference. “People learned more about Tiger in the past 15 minutes” than they have through his whole career, said Geek Factory CEO Peter Shankman on Fox News.

After the news conference, Religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman outlined her thoughts on how Tiger could recover from this; Admit your wrongs, take responsibility for them, express your regrets to all who were harmed, and spell out your path to return to integrity and righteousness.

No one likes to think that something bad will happen to their business, but not having a plan on how to handle set-backs is bad. By thinking ahead about the unthinkable, you  may be able to minimize the damage, keep your customers and even turn them into raving fans in the end.

So it’s on to Augusta as the new Tiger continues to reinvent himself, both on and off the golf course.

“Not in this economy!” That’s not why I buy 7

I was speaking with a vendor who services many supermarkets. He was talking about how his sales have changed since 2008. As the subject of advertising came up, I asked him how effective  POP (point of sale) signage is in this economy. It seemed to me that this would be a great way for people to see the value in an item as they were making their selection.

My friend had a different view.  He said:

“People aren’t buying POP ads anymore; not in this economy. People are shopping with a calculator.”

An informal poll among two or three shoppers in the aisle did not reveal any evidence either way, so I thought I would put the question to you, my readers. Please take a moment and let me know your thoughts. Not that I am competitive, but I can’t wait to see who is right.

Four reasons your plan is too complicated 2

Do we have anything, like, resembling a plan, or anything?

I was on the treadmill at the gym this afternoon and on one of the TV’s they were running Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard. I had seen the movie before and was concentrating more on getting to 1.5 miles in less than 20 minutes when this scene caught my attention:

Matt Farrell: Do we have anything, like, resembling a plan, or anything?
John McClane: Find Lucy, kill everybody else.
Matt Farrell: I mean, more like a plan, like, a way to do that.

Right after this John McClane (Bruce Willis) picks up a pipe wrench and takes out bad guys with his bare hands. The Geek, Matt Farrell, who is interested in John’s daughter,  is armed with a laptop and quite a bit of theory.

The whole scene  reminded me how sometimes managers can over complicate things. In fact, here are four reasons why your plan is too complicated:

  1. It’s over thought – it’s very detailed and complex. It smacks of “justifying your position” instead of a realistic plan
  2. It’s not taking into account the resources at hand. It might be a great plan if you had 20 super-star employees, but your budget is forcing you to do it with ten and you can’t choose which employees you get. So now the plan is not realistic.
  3. It’s not addressing the real issue. (This could be a plug for my book!) Your plan isn’t going to address the real issue and later you are going to need to go back and fix it.
  4. It’s not timely - it’s a 5 year plan for a two-week deadline

You might get lucky in the end, I mean Matt Farrell did get the girl. But did you see what he had to go through? Now if he had a less complicated plan…

How healthy are your employees? Three things to check 4

Davy Jones

RIP Davy Jones, Monkee Extraordinaire (Pittsburgh Post Gazette)
Davy Jones, the British-born singer-actor who was frontman for the Monkees from the show’s beginning in 1966 and continued in that role, died in Florida at age 66. Initial reports indicate Jones suffered a heart attack at his ranch.

I had just gotten off the phone with one of my employees who suffered a heart attack at work when I heard the news about Davy Jones. Last week I had an employee out for an operation. The week before that, it was an employee going for a cancer screening.

Let’s face it, for any business to survive, we need healthy employees. Employees who can perform at their peak when the job calls for it. As managers, we need to know the health of our workforce as much as we need to understand the financial health of our business. Here are three quick checks:

1. What is the average age of your workforce? Craig Juengling, The E2 Coach,  said in a recent  blog post  that there are four common age groupings in many companies: Gen Xer, Millennial, Boomer and Mature. Take a look at your workforce and understand where you stand

2. How much sick time do you pay? Things happen. Reviewing this will help you spot trends. But be careful how you draw conclusions as many employees use sick time for purposes other than what an employer had in mind.

3. How many Workers Comp claims do you have? Reviewing this (and by law, most of you had to post this in January) will highlight what your specific company issues are so you can focus training programs to address them.

Jones death was sudden and unexpected. Things will happen at your company that are sudden and unexpected. While the health of an employee can change in a moment, the health of your company evolves slowly, over time. You can make an impact on the health of your business, but first you must know where you stand.

Create Your Own Mardi Gras Tradition 0

Fat Tuesday Parade
Fat Tuesday Parade

The reporter said yesterday that the annual Mardi Gras Celebration in New Orleans generates over 500 million dollars in revenue for the local economy. What if you could create your own Mardi Gras event for your business? Create world-wide recognition of the event just by saying the name? Have people the world over mark your event on their calendars, search on-line for details and ultimately be at your event, just so they could say they were there? What impact would that have on your business, your non-profit, your town, city or state?

Now I can already hear the nay-sayers going “I’ll never be able to create global excitement like Mardi Gras”. And maybe your ad budget isn’t in the millions and maybe you don’t have hundreds of years of history (The starting date of festivities in New Orleans is unknown. An account from 1743 notes that the custom of Carnival balls was already established. Processions and wearing of masks in the streets on Mardi Gras took place. Thank you Wikipedia.)  To create your own Mardi Gras, you need three things.

1. Tradition -There are great traditions that generate income. My town of Lakewood, New Jersey holds a concert in the band shell on the 4th of July followed by fireworks from a barge on the lake. Hundreds of merchants and enterprising entrepreneurs benefit from the annual event. One of the keys to creating your own Mardi Gras in consistency. I have been in New Jersey 21 years and the town was holding this event at least 25 years before I got here.

2. Size – It must be big enough based on your situation to inspire people to action; The largest state fair east of the Rockies, the largest collection of antique cars ever assembled in Detroit, or Uncle Buster’s Annual Special Soup Cellar Collection Event, Main Street, USA

3. Economic benefit – You must decide on your ROI. How will you measure success? (  In 1833 Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville, a rich plantation owner of French descent, raised money to fund an official Mardi Gras celebration. Again, thank you Wikipedia) If your event generates sales, new customers or adds to your Brand, you may have a winner

So as you decide what to wear (or not to wear) for today’s  Mardi Gras Parade, spend a few minutes thinking about how you can start or build on something you do. How can you create an annual tradition that will create excitement, generate revenue and create a loyal following? When it becomes big enough,  they may write about it in Wikipedia.

If you take this death may occur 2

If you take this death will occur

What comes to mind when you hear the words “if you take this death may occur”? My first thought was it might be written on the briefcase carrying our Nation’s Nuclear Launch Codes. Perhaps it would be posted on a respirator in the trauma unit of a local hospital. Or even on the air packs and spacesuits NASA astronauts wear in space. I never expected to see it on a  stapler in an office.

Productivity is one of the keys to success in any business. Getting things done efficiently  makes us feel good and motivates us to the next task. But what if you can’t find the tools to do your job?

Many of us can relate to not being able to find a pen, a paperclip or a piece of tape when you need one. Offices are notorious for always running out of basics. I’m sure if you checked the tray between the seats in your car you have one or two office pens. Or maybe you have a collection on your dresser at home that you have been meaning to bring back to the office. The point is, having access to a stapler (filled with staples) when you need it seems to be a privilege, not a right, in an office setting. But then I saw this stapler.

Now the whole idea of taking the time to print an Avery label the size of the top of a stapler with the words “If you take this death will occur” seems a bit extreme. On some level you can really feel the frustration of the owner. You can picture years of going to the desk, a stack of papers in hand only to find the stapler missing. Then there’s the productivity issue of wasting 5 minute searching for;  first, your stapler, then any stapler, in order to complete a simple task.

I must admit when I first saw the stapler, I laughed. But that was before I needed to send a letter and I couldn’t find my roll of stamps. So next time you’re tempted to “borrow” a stapler in the office, imagine this  warning on top and at the very least, put it back when you are done. Everyone will be more productive.

Is It To Hard? 0

“If you are doing something and it’s to hard, then you are doing something wrong; ’cause things are made to be easy” My friend Ian

If you think of how a river develops, you can see this concept in action. The river begins as a stream, usually fed from a spring. The spring pops up through the earth and water begins its journey towards its ultimate destination, the sea. As the water moves along, it searches for the easiest path, the path of least resistance, the lowest ground. It also joins forces with other streams fed by other springs, collectively heading towards the ocean.

Once enough streams join together, a river is established. Rivers usually start with many twists and turns, taking the easiest course. Eventually some of these twists become so extreme that they meet, creating oxbow lakes. Eventually, the river takes a shortcut and bypasses this section, making the path to the sea easier.

If you draw a straight line from Canada to the Gulf Coast, that is the Mississippi River today. It took millions of years to develop. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of smaller rivers, streams tributaries, creeks, rills and brooks are all joined together in a single body by the time it reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

Before applying this concept to your business, think about your daily routine. Are you making things easy or are you making things hard? My friend Ian and I were talking about productivity in the workplace. He was noticing how some managers could “see the easy way to get something done.” As we talked I realized that Ian wasn’t saying that they were taking short-cuts, but that they could visualize a more productive way to get the task done. Accomplishing something in a productive manner may only mean taking a moment to make sure that the employee has all of the tools they will need before you send them out to start a project. Or that you have your employee repeat back to you what you want them to accomplish, so when you check with them later, they are actually working on what you need done and not what they thought you wanted.

Your efforts in your business require all of your employees to work together in order for them to be most productive. Being successful means everyone must be seeking the “easiest path”, the most productive path. Your individual branch offices must align if you are going to grow. Each part of your supply chain must mesh or you end up with parts of the company cut off from the rest, totally isolated and unproductive. Each department within your company must do what is best for the company, not protect their own interests at the expense of the organization.

The idea that “if it’s too hard, then you are not doing it right” is a marvelous gauge you can apply to see if you, your employee(s) or your business is as productive as it could be. Chances are, if it’s too hard, you’re not doing it right

You Never Know 0

All businesses have customers. Without someone purchasing the services or products that your company produces, there is no profit and no incentive to continue. Even in the non-profit sector, there are end users of the services provided by the organization and if you do not meet the needs of that group, they will leave you and find someone who will fulfill their needs.

Every day my managers, employees and I interact with our customers and work to give them the best possible experience. We give of our time willingly, proud of the products that we offer and proud of the company we work for. And because our company does a lot of business around the world and has a great reputation, we see a huge number of customers every day. So there was little time to think that what I did or said that Tuesday morning at 10:17AM would come back to me five months later.

It started out the same as any Tuesday. We opened the door a little early and made sure that everyone was ready to greet the customers. Then it was, “do you carry this?” and ” I saw this product in another of your locations, do you have it?, and “several months ago you had this product, I don’t remember the name, but it was really good, are you getting it again?” At 10:17AM I was making my way from the back of the store. As I passed the register area, I noticed a man standing near the entrance to the office. I approached him and asked if I could help.

He explained that he had purchased a product from one of our other locations and it was defective. He had returned it to that location only to find out they did not have any more. Really wanting the same item, he had asked if any other location had the same item and was told that my location stocked the product. So he packed a lunch and drove the 40 minutes from his home to see us. After researching what he had purchased, it turned out that we did not have any more of this item. Not wanting to disappoint this customer any further, our team found a slightly more expensive item that was in stock that would meet his needs. So we rang him up at the same price he had paid for the original item, loaded him up and away he went. The customer left happy and that’s the end of story. Or so I thought.

Five months later, a co-worker from another location, Debbie was riding the New Jersey Coast Line train into New York to see a matinee performance of a Broadway musical. Debbie was seated with five other employees talking about the show they were going to see, about their families and just generally making conversation as the train approached the tunnel into New York. Seated across the aisle was the customer I worked with 5 months ago. He was quietly listening to the conversation my co-worker and her employees were having. When someone in the group mentioned the name of our business, this customer’s ears perked up. He turned to Debbie and said “It sounds like you work for “my favorite store”".  She said, “yes”. He then asked “do you know Joel?” “Yes” was the reply, “we have worked in the same building in the past and I have known him for years”.  So he related to her his feelings about that day 5 months ago.

He told her that by the time I spoke with him he had been disappointed 3 times. He told Debbie that at the very moment I had approached him, he was actually preparing a very strongly worded complaint letter in his head and had every intention of never purchasing anything from our company again. But, by the time he left my location, we turned his thoughts around 180 degrees. He told my co-worker that he is now our biggest fan. We took a frustrating problem for him and turned it into a positive experience. By taking the time to hear him out, seeing what he needed and then meeting that need, we unknowingly won a loyal customer.

The most important lesson from this is that you never know. What my team and I did, we do all the time. I can’t remember thinking I’ve got to do something special or that I may run into him in the future, it was just taking care of the customer. When I  spoke to the customer on that Tuesday morning, he did not say anything about how frustrated he was or that he was thinking of boycotting our company. He was just a customer with a problem and we set about solving it. Having the positive ending come back to us 5 months later through a random meeting on a train going into “the city” was just proof that every encounter with your customers is the most important.

Most of the time you will never even be aware of the impact you have had on your customers. But every so often, the hand of fate gives you a glimpse. So do the right thing at every opportunity because… you never know!

How’s Business? How do you answer? 1

I ask this question as often as I can. Generally I get three types of answers.

  1. “It could always be better” – This type of person is never satisfied with what he or she has. They are always striving for more. But they are avoiding the question, the actual question of how is your business doing today? Based on the response and body language associated with this answer, I think they are telling me that  business is not that great
  2. “It’s a little quiet right now” – This is followed by a because… because of the weather, because people are thinking about the Super Bowl, because of the Greek debt Crisis. This group is waiting for something to happen that will cause their business to grow again.  However  they got into the business and grew it to its current state, they are now resigned to waiting for improvement.
  3. “It’s damn fine, thanks for asking” – Now this person (and I met one at the Toms River Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours Event last night)  has a plan. They are succeeding because they know where their business is going. They know their target market. They know what their current customers need. They know how to ask for referrals. They know the importance of giving great customer service. They are aware of the big picture, the State of the US economy, etc., but they focus instead on things they can control. Their response to the problems facing their customers makes the difference in the success of their business.

I urge you to think about how you answer the question “how’s business?” If you aren’t saying “damn fine, thanks for asking”, then it may be time to re-think your plan.

Is the Trend really your friend in Business? 0

Is the Trend really your friend in Business?

To succeed in business, you must offer what your customer’s want at a price they are willing to pay.  It’s one of those intersection things; you make the sale at the intersection of their need and your solution.  And to stay in business for more than three years, you must understand what your customers will want. One way to do this is to monitor trends.

The trick in any business is to know which tend to monitor. For instance, tonight is the Super Bowl, a contest between the Patriots and the New York Giants. Checking Twitter for today’s trends reveals the New York trends are #SuperBowl and Happy Super Bowl Sunday, while http://whatthetrend.com/top10  reports that in the past 17 hours and 55 minutes, #10thingsaboutmyself has been the Top Twitter Trend.

By knowing your market, you can focus on the trends that will impact your customers. Living just outside of New York City, my focus today is the same as millions of my fellow Gotham area neighbors. You can see it in their dress as they shop for the parties they are throwing. You can hear it in their voices as they walk through the mall and stand in the checkout lines. In fact, after 10 hours of listening to conversations of shoppers yesterday, I didn’t hear one person talking about themselves, except in the context of the Super Bowl.

So, if you’re a global concern, you focus will be different. If your market is New York, this week has been about one topic. The trend can be your friend if you follow the right one.