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Authors

Ira Koretsky
(click for all of Ira's posts)
Duane Bailey
(click for all of Duane's posts)
Guest Bloggers
(click for all of our posts from guest authors)

 

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I've always believed sales is not a spectator sport. It truly is a team sport and it requires the active participation and support of everyone across the organization, including: marketing, sales support, information technology, legal, operations, services, finance, accounts receivable and customer care.

One of the characteristics of an established sales culture in any organization is the alignment of these functional areas around "One Team, One Goal." Typically, this goal involves top line growth – in revenues, profits, earnings per share, etc. Sales provides the leadership that fuels the achievement of the organization's growth objectives. The other functional areas work in harmony with, and in support of, the sales team.

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Organizations who lack a sales culture are typically ones that struggle to achieve their growth targets. The functional areas I've mentioned above function as silos. Functional goals are disparate and rarely aligned. Sales (and all too often customers) are wrongly viewed as impediments to the achievement of departmental goals and there is little or no teamwork, both within and across functional areas.

Being a salesperson is one of the most challenging jobs in any organization. Salespeople are not only accountable for achieving their own growth targets; they are responsible for driving organizational results and improved shareholder returns. And, as I've shown in the whiteboard diagram above, they are accountable for directing the resources required to achieve those results.

How strong is the sales culture in your organization?

 

For more on the impact of organizational culture, please see:
The Building Blocks of a Successful Sales Growth Strategy
How Business Process Improvement Impacts Customer Experience
• The Purpose of Marketing Is to Drive Sales

While a focus on improving the way your external customers experience your brand is admirable and necessary, equal importance needs to be assigned to your internal customer experience, too.

Your brand, after all, is an ecosystem – a community of people from interdependent functional areas who interact as a larger system. When one function fails to deliver on its core mission, the other functions are unable to fulfill their responsibilities and the strength of the entire ecosystem is weakened. Frustration, blame and disappointing results are sure to follow.

Marketing, sales, sales support, operations, customer service, information technology, finance, accounting and human resources are all examples of interdependent functional areas. Each function provides a service to the other functional areas – your internal customers, if you will.

How your internal customers perceive the experience you provide is influenced by a number of factors, including the cost of the service, the quality of the deliverable, the timeliness in which it was delivered, the attitude of the people who performed the service, how well the service met their needs, etc. If your internal customers feel the work you are providing lacks value, quality, effort and timeliness, it's only a matter of time until these perceptions are felt outside the organization.

People who play team sports learn early on that attitudes are contagious. Is yours (and your team's) worth catching?

 

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Having traveled around the world both on vacation and speaking, I have come across a variety of interesting food names:

- Chicken with wilted spinach
- Stinky tofu
- Vegetarian meatballs

You may have heard, even tried some of these. By themselves, do the titles immediately make you think “yummy?” or do you mentally cringe? Personally, I cringed at "wilted spinach." Why would I order something out of date or not fresh? Because this was served at a very nice restaurant, I laughed out loud. It sparked quite an interesting conversation with my dining partners.

Quite unintended, I ended up liking the phrase wilted spinach quite a lot as a metaphor for bad messaging. As a result, I titled our approach to testing messages, “The Wilted Spinach Test.” At its core, the test looks to evaluate whether your words/messages resonate with your target audiences. At a detailed level, do your words/messages mean what you want them to mean? Words matter. A lot. To some, one word could be positive and to others, the very same word could be negative.

Do your written, spoken, and social media communications cause audiences to ask good questions, contact you, or skip right past you?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Words to Avoid - “Anxious”

altFor business communications, you should avoid using the word “anxious.” Anxious is a word all too often misused. You’ll hear people saying, “I’m anxious to meet Julie.” Or “I’m really anxious about xyz.”

By definition, anxious means: “characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency” (Merriam-Webster Online).

For business communications, always use “eager.” By definition, eager means: “marked by enthusiastic or impatient desire or interest” (Merriam-Webster Online).

If there is a cause to use “anxious” to convey worry, we suggest using “concern” or “concerned.”

Since all of your business communications to your target audiences are related to your relationship and what you offer to them, choose your words carefully.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Are Best Practices Holding You Back?

I like to try new ideas. I like taking risks. And I embrace change. It's how people and organizations grow.

Old ideas (i.e., "what's worked before," "what others have done," "the way we've always done it," etc.) are all too often packaged as "best practices" by leaders who are risk averse and resistant to change. When someone tells me the reason for not trying something new or taking a risk is "best practices," my first instinct is to call them out on it. I'll ask them to show me their best practices or I'll go online and search for my own "best practices" on how to drive change and transformation.

We live in a dynamic world. Change is all around us. We can either embrace that change or we can fight it with legacy thinking and traditions.

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In today's go-go-go world, people want and demand information to be on point. Once you get the reader's attention, you can offer more details.

We suggest writing all of your emails smart phone-friendly. These types of emails are fewer than 100 words and take 15 to 30 seconds to read.

Need to send a lengthy email? Break it into two parts. The first part should be the short version, summarizing your key points. The second part offers the details and goes below your signature line

One of the most common questions/statements we receive about storytelling is "I just don't know where to begin."

Choosing the right story, turning it into an engaging experience, and practicing to be a great storyteller of course takes time. What really doesn't take much time and very little preparation, is telling a “Today Story.”

It is an experience that happened to you the day of your presentation, before you begin.

Share your experiences:
- Airplane ride
- Conversation you had with someone previously (at the opening event night before is also a good source),
- Taxi cab ride from the airport with the person sitting next you
- Conversation you had with your spouse, child, parent
- "I was just talking to FirstName" about (a participant in the audience)

In three minutes or less, YOU CAN tell a great story. One that is relevant and interesting. And one that sets the stage for a great presentation to come to your audience.

The holidays are upon us.

It's time for all of us to take a well-deserved break: spend some time with family and friends, enjoy the festivities, and reflect on your experiences of the past year.

If you're like me, you started 2014 with a list of goals in mind. The current year is coming to a close and the New Year is approaching. It's time to look back. Celebrate your successes. Learn from your mistakes. Recognize and thank the people who helped you along the way. Set new goals for 2015.

Most of all, take some time to enjoy the spirit of the season.

When I showed up to my daughter's after school classroom, I was greeted by her class' election day voting.

For Governor, Jake won by a landslide. Superman barely earned Sheriff. Senators Pook and Eeyore won handily.

For the House, Elsa crushed and Anna sqeaked by Ariel.

I thought it quite clever how the teachers used the children's favorite characters to teach and demonstrate our voting.

What can you do to make learning/training more interesting?

 

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I read an article in Forbes recently, "Leaders Must Teach Employees 5 Unwritten Rules," by Glenn Llopis, a former C-suite corporate executive, entrepreneur and author. The article included five unwritten rules wise and selfless leaders should be teaching to their employees to ensure their organizations get the most from their talent pool.

Aside from the impact on an employee's career and personal well-being, how a leader behaves and the example he or she sets can have a profound impact on the success of the entire organization. I know from my own personal experience one bad leader can completely change the culture of an organization. As the Forbes article notes, selfish leaders who are territorial or who feel threatened by their employees prevent them from building influential relationships, thinking independently and unleashing their full potential.

I suppose the argument can be made that leaders who fail to teach and live by the unwritten rules of wise and selfless leadership are in many ways like the wicked stepmother in the Cinderella fairy tale. By visibly promoting those who pose no perceived threat to them and suppressing the "Cinderellas" on their teams, they are robbing the organization of the benefits it might otherwise have accrued from some of their best and brightest employees.

Most of us know how the fairy tale ends. Cinderella unexpectedly achieves the recognition and success she deserves after a difficult period of mistreatment, obscurity and neglect. Can we be certain there are no "Cinderellas" in our organizations? Do we know if our leaders are teaching and living by the unwritten rules that will allow all of our employees to build influential relationships, think independently and unleash their full potential?

Please see the following for more on leadership and organizational behavior:
How You Treat Your Employees Matters
Employee Retention: People Leave Managers, Not Companies
Accelerate Growth and Innovation – Encourage a Culture of Risk-Taking

Last winter, I blogged about the secret ingredients of an amazing customer experience. It was a story about my then recent experience with a small business called Campus Cookies. I concluded my blog post with the observation that every great customer experience starts with people. I also talked about teamwork and the role of the CEO or owner in creating a culture that enables his or her employees to deliver an amazing customer experience.

I'd like to pick up where I left off on my earlier blog, with an update to the story. Last week, I and many other Campus Cookies customers received an email offering a $5 gift certificate in exchange for a positive review on Facebook. With one finger poised on the delete key, I quickly scanned the email, using my thumb to scroll down the page.

I was about to press the delete button when this comment caught my eye: "The negative reviews keep me on my toes, but the positive ones, those keep me going." Then there was this statement: "The review pasted below, truly hits home for me."

In an instant, I felt compelled to scroll down and keep reading. I had to see for myself what was so special about "this review." To my surprise and delight, it was the blog post I had written last winter! I penned an email to the owner, Scott Davidson, thanking him for acknowledging my post and telling him to keep up the good work. Again to my surprise, I received an email back from Scott about an hour later, thanking me for my support and letting me know I, too, would be receiving a $5 gift certificate.

While this gesture of gratitude was very much appreciated, it certainly wasn't necessary. You see, writing about a brand whose owner and CEO gets that the key to success is less about providing a product and more about creating a personalized customer experience is an opportunity most people like me would embrace. I suppose the four dozen or so fans who responded to Scott's offer by posting positive reviews on the Campus Cookies Facebook page within hours of receiving his email are testimony to that.

While it's easy to find organizations whose leadership talks about the need for a culture of enabling employees to deliver an amazing customer experience, it's harder and far less common to see leaders like Scott who work side by side with their employees on the front lines to make that happen. Small companies whose CEOs and owners remain focused on serving customers are typically the ones who grow up to become the bigger companies listed among the best places to work

In the meantime, school is in session and cookie season is upon us. I can hardly wait to place my next order!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How You Treat Your Employees Matters

I've always admired how leaders in the top hospitality brands treat their employees. Follow them around a property for a while and you'll notice a very high level of personal engagement – they greet everyone they encounter with a smile and by their first names. The employees instinctively smile back and return the greeting, using the leader's first name, as well.

What you'll also notice during these exchanges is how natural the interactions are. The employees don't suddenly stop doing what they're doing when the boss appears. What happens behind the scenes in many of these hotels is evidence of a well-oiled machine. The employees are well trained in the brand's standard operating procedures. Their leaders have full confidence in them. The employees are happy to be there and it shows in everything they do.

Why does this matter?

What goes on behind the scenes invariably plays out in front of your guests and customers. If your leaders interact with their employees in a warm and genuine way, your employees will do the same with their guests and customers. If your leaders invest in their employees and value their contributions, your employees will take pride in their role of serving their guests and customers. And if your leaders empower your employees, they will go the extra mile to provide their guests and customers with an experience that keeps them coming back.

 

For more on the importance of employee relationships to your brand, please see:
Your People (Even the Volunteers) Are Your Brand
Your Employees Play a Leading Role in Shaping Great Brands
Why Family Relationships Make for a Great Place to Work
What Story Is Your Organizational Culture Telling?
Employee Retention: People Leave Managers, Not Companies

 

Join me at what will prove to be a highly useful business summit. Hosted at the beautiful Marriott Fairview, the Turkish American Business Group Annual Small Business Summit, offers a variety of speakers and panels all designed to help you grow your business.  The agenda includes:

2:00 - 2:40 Check-in

2:40 - 3:00 Opening Keynote by Varol Ablak, CEO of Vocelli Pizza with Emcee Dan Nainan (old friend of mine)

3:00 - 3:50 Access to Capital, Commercial Lending and Alternative Funding

3:50 - 4:00 Coffee Break

5:00 - 6:00 30 Tips in 30 Minutes by 3 Experts to Grow Your Small Business (Ira Koretsky's program)

6:00 - 7:00 Reception

8:00 - 9:00 Gala Dinner with Congressman Rob Wittman, Talha Sarac, President of PERA Construction and Chairman of the Turkish American Business Network, Nick Spanos Co-founder of Bitcoin Center at NYC, John S. Powell, SVP of EagleBank, and William D. Euille, Mayor of Alexandria

 

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Soon to be a Veteran? Veteran? Spouse? Looking for hands-on career advice? Join me and a distinguished group of presenters providing free career workshops at the annual Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference in Washington, DC.

I was part of the 2013 program and look forward to this year's event. While the event is Army-focused, any service member, veteran, and spouse is welcome.

The American Freedom Foundation workforce hiring event at AUSA is presented by Sourceamerica® and GES.  12 workshop sessions take place October 13 – 15 to provide resources and information for veterans and transitioning military.  I'll be giving my program, "“Your Upcoming Tour on Main Street:  How to Positively Engage and Influence Hiring Managers with Your Words and Stories" on Monday 10/13 10:30am to 12noon and Tuesday 10/14 1pm to 2:30pm (list of all programs)

AFF "mission is to honor the men and women of America’s armed forces, raise awareness for their service and sacrifice and raise money for organizations that serve and support our Veterans, active duty military and their families." 

If you need any more information please let me know (contact me here).
 

 American Freedom Foundation’s Warriors to the Workforce
Hiring Event at AUSA Announces Workshop Sessions  

12 Workshop sessions will take place October 13 – 15 to provide resources and information for veterans and transitioning military 

Attendance at Warriors to the Workforce Hiring Event is FREE and open to veterans, military service members and spouses.

Presentations will include topics such as mental readiness, confidence building, networking and presentation skills, resume writing, interviewing techniques, job searching, career planning through goal setting, translating military skills and training into civilian life and corporate experience, among others.

In addition to these transition workshops, veterans will have the opportunity to meet with some of the country’s largest and most veteran friendly employers including Aerotek, ASM Research, ATK, Inc., BAE Systems, Calibre Systems, CSC, Didlake, Inc., Easter Seals Veterans Staffing Network, esri, Elbit Systems of America, First Command Financial Services, General Dynamics Information T echnology, Goodwill Industries, Hendrickson International, Kaplan University, Linden Industries, Melwood, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pride Industries, RNDC-­?USA, SAIC, Still Serving Veterans, TFD Group, University of Phoenix, USACE, VETS Group, Working Warriors Nations–MVLE and Department of Veterans Affairs.

Attendance at Warriors to the Workforce Hiring Event is FREE and open to veterans, military service members and spouses.

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Sales is one of the hardest jobs in any company. There are daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly commitments to be made. And in organizations that are serious about sales growth, a good portion of the salesperson's compensation is at risk.

Sales and its sustained growth are requirements for long-term financial success in any organization. During my own career in technology sales, I lived by the mantra, "If you ain't growing, you're dying." Done right, sales drives revenue growth, which in turn drives growth in profit margins, net income and shareholder value (e.g., earnings per share). No sales, no growth.

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Yet the responsibility for sales growth is not the sole purview of the salesperson. There are many building blocks to a successful sales growth strategy. They include marketing, sales support, contract administration, finance, billing, customer service, operations, implementation and post-implementation services, and virtually everyone in your organization, from the CEO on down.

In my view, everyone is a salesperson. Everyone is accountable for growing the business. A sense of urgency, timely responses to emails and phone calls and the prioritization of customer-impacting issues over internal projects and reports are some of the ways these other functional groups can help support sales growth.

If you're looking for a simple way to keep everyone in your organization focused on your sales growth strategy, here's an idea. Invest in a set of building blocks, like the ones you see in the image above. Spell out your growth strategy (I chose "sales" in my example). Then hand a building block to a representative from each functional area. Ask each person to display their block on his or her desk as a daily reminder and to bring it with them to their weekly team meetings. During each meeting, ask the block holders to report on what they've done in the time since you last met to support your strategy to grow the business.

If your sales results are not meeting your growth expectations, take a closer look around the organization. Are the building blocks of a successful sales strategy in place?

For more on sales growth strategies, please see:
How One Brand Is Growing Sales While Raising Prices in a Weak Economy
Achieving Market Share Growth in a Weak Market
The Power of the Human Touch in Sales
Is a "Can-do" Attitude Part of Your Business Plan?
What Makes Your Company Different?

As an MBA graduate of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, I am excited about next week's presentation.  I'll be presenting "Executive Storytelling" with fellow part-time MBA students. 

It was a serendipitious meeting with Megan, the professional development program chair. We met at a Smith School Event for International Development. After chatting a bit, I learned Megan worked for the Department of the Army and I'm an Army veteran. Soon after, we talked about a variety of topics, which led to the "What do you do?" question.

A few months later, I'll be sharing some great video clips, thoughts, ideas, and exercises on business storytelling. I'm looking forward to a dynamic exchange of ideas.

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"How to Create Your Unfair Competitive Advantage"

Snag your spot now for a jammed-packed program with Social Marketing Maven Kim Walsh-Phillips.

This is the next exciting event from my organization, Ignition Shift.

Join us for this interactive workshop to discover:

- How to get inside your prospects heads to close more sales without conducting expensive research
- The marketing formula of  promotion +  giveaways to produce more sales in 29 days
- How to leverage social media and advanced strategies to outpace your competitors without spending more on marketing

Plus when register, you will receive a Facebook Ads Guide, a step-by-step ads blueprint to create Facebook Ads that sell lead to market domination! (Discounts expire this week - so CLICK HERE to get your spot now!)

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Results you will get include changes you can make in your operations to drive deeper, more meaningful, and more valuable relationships with your marketing dollars!  Join us!

Location

The West End Cinema (best indy theatre in DC!) and patio is a great, convenient location for us to enjoy connecting with other growth minded, accomplished business executive teams.

Your Ignition Shift team is excited to craft a fun and socially engaging experience for all of us to connect with the ceos and executives joining us for Kim's workshop. We'll have a red carpet interaction before Kim starts, and a fun, gift filled, social opportunity to run your marketing challenges by Kim post event!

 

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About Your Speaker  
Kim Walsh-Phillips, www.Facebook.com/KWalshPhillips, is the award-winning Speaker, Author, Strategist and CEO of IO Creative Group, a direct response social media agency.  She is a techie marketing geek with great shoes, a hatred of awareness campaigns and an obsession for marketing with a sharp focus on ROI. Kim has worked with brands such as Sandler Training, Dan Kennedy, Pamela Yellen, Harley-Davidson, Chem-Dry, and Hilton Hotels to increase revenue through direct response marketing. Kim is the author of "Awareness Campaigns are Stupid and Other Secrets to Stop Being an Advertising Victim and Start Monetizing Your Marketing" and the upcoming book co-authored with direct response marketing legend Dan Kennedy, "The NO BS Guide to Direct Response Social Media Marketing."
 
(Again discounts expire this week -  CLICK HERE & grab your spot now!)

I stumbled across a blog post from HubSpot the other day on the benefits of business blogging ("The Benefits of Business Blogging: Why Businesses Do It, and You Should Too" by Corey Eridon). Among the top benefits cited in the article were the following:
  1. Blogging helps drive traffic to your website,
  2. It helps convert that traffic into leads,
  3. And it helps establish your authority.

In short, business blogging drives growth. It can increase brand awareness, website traffic, credibility, leads and revenue.

Yet, a 2010 study by eMarketer found only 40% of businesses were using blogs for marketing purposes. While we can be certain that number is higher today, I continue to encounter businesses who still don't blog. If your business is among those who haven't tried blogging, maybe it's time to consider it as a potential growth tactic.

Still not convinced?

Consider these recent content marketing statistics:
  • 79% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve brand awareness goals (Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, October 2012)
  • 77% of Internet users read blogs (Social Media Today, August 2013)
  • Social media sites and blogs reach 8 out of 10 U.S. Internet users (Content Marketing Institute, February 2012)
  • Companies with active blogs have 97% more inbound links (Content+, February 2012)
  • B2B companies who blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who don't (Social Media B2B, March 2012)
  • 61% of consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post (Social Media Today, August 2013)

The American fast-food segment is highly competitive. Competition among brands is fierce – with respect to price, food quality, service, location, and the condition of each restaurant. Established brands are struggling and, for many, same-store sales are declining.

So when rising food costs caused Chipotle to raise U.S. menu prices an average of 6.25% to 6.5% during the second quarter of 2014, analysts expected a negative impact on store traffic and sales. Instead, Chipotle's same-store sales grew 17.3% for the second quarter, despite a weak U.S. economy. This was preceded by a strong first quarter, with 13.4% growth, and a steady history of extraordinary growth since the company was founded in 2003.

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Chipotle's growth is unique among its peers in the U.S. restaurant industry, whose same-store sales rose a mere 0.3% in the second quarter of 2014. In an attempt to lure customers and boost sales, many of Chipotle's competitors now offer lower-cost, "value-meal" or "healthy choice" menu options in addition to their standard fare.

Chipotle has taken a different approach.

Instead of trying to be like everyone else, Chipotle is redefining the customer experience. Chipotle believes food served fast doesn't have to come with the look and feel of a traditional "fast-food" experience. Their "Food With Integrity" promise is a strategic gamble that American consumers would be willing to pay more for food with great taste and nutrition. It's also evidence of their commitment to sustainability – that educated consumers would place a higher value on food that is sustainably raised with respect for animals, farmers and the environment.

The market research firm, PlaceIQ, recently profiled fast-food customers at several competing restaurant chains and found Chipotle customers to be among the best-educated. And as Chipotle has shown, better-educated consumers are willing to pay more for a product that is better and more sustainable.

For more on how brands are using sustainability to redefine and differentiate their customer experience, please see:
How Doing One Good Thing Is Making a Difference
Beyond Green: The Transformative Nature of Sustainability
A FRESH Approach to Going Green
Maximum Fun Meets Minimal Impact

There is one day left to register (click here).  Here's the top 10 and a bonus reason why you should register right now and not miss this!

1.  Don't miss the best entrepreneur author and business speaker expected in dc this year,
2.  Unleash your why to inspire, align and resonate with your clients - catapult your growth
3.  Enjoy the great entertainment by business owner and EO member Jim Reznikoff's jazz group "The Rez experience"
4.  Win a chance to get coffee one-on-one WHY TIME with Ridgely before he leaves DC
5.  Get to see behind the scenes at the inspiring and fun Performing Arts Center, The Atlas
6.  Get to know one of the hottest growing DC neighborhoods: the hopping H Street corridor - before the streetcar comes online!
7.  One of the top 50 business books will be being handed out too!
8.  Get $100 worth of free tickets for you and a date to a performing art event in dc - or for you to handoff to your executive team!
9.  Lock in the steepest discount available for the next Ignition Shift event.
10. Join several DC entrepreneur and thought leaders of EO YPO VISTAGE and CEO groups who will be here
and...
11. Meet the handful of business owners flying their teams in from other cities just for this event - they are all growing extremely fast - learn their secrets!

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"The Washington Post" recently ran an article in its Health & Science section on healthy and unhealthy office relationships. In case you might be wondering, the article was not talking about romantic relationships at work. Rather, it spoke to the impact of the office environment on your health, mood and productivity.

Like many of you, I've spent the better part of my career working in an office. I've experienced many of the healthy conditions described in the article: a boss who regularly interacts with his or her people and allows them to make decisions, co-workers who share time together over lunch away from their desks, more open work spaces where people tend to be quieter because they know others can hear them and a décor of natural colors and designs for promoting a warm atmosphere. And, if I could add one of my own favorites to the list – an "open door" policy that promotes collaboration and transparency through a limited number of shared closed spaces for private phone calls and meeetings.

Contrast those experiences to the ones I've had in offices with some of the unhealthy conditions mentioned in the article: a brow-beating boss who micromanages his or her people, co-workers who regularly eat lunch at their desks, loud conversations and other annoying sounds from cubicles with high walls and a monotone décor in shades of gray. And, of course, the pervasive presence of "behind-closed doors" conversations and other activities in closed office spaces that promote a culture of secrecy.

In my experience, businesses whose employees have healthy relationships with their offices tend to perform better than those where the opposite is true. Offices with unhealthy conditions tend to breed a lack of trust, little respect for others and low morale while offices with healthy conditions are places where people trust and respect one another and generally feel good about coming to work.

Employees with healthy office relationships generally are healthier (i.e., fewer sick days), more enthusiastic about coming to work (which shows in their interactions with your customers) and more productive (i.e., efficient). They tend to stick around longer and have higher retention rates than those with unhealthy office relationships. At the end of the day, their higher retention rates can translate into lower costs, higher margins and improved earnings for your business.

For more insights on office relationships and culture, please see:
Your Employees Play a Leading Role In Shaping Great Brands
When Was the Last Time Your Employees Had Fun at Work?
What Story Is Your Organizational Culture Telling?
What Makes Your Company a Best Place to Work?
Employee Retention: People Leave Managers, Not Companies

One of the clearest memories I have of my first summer job at a Howard Johnson's restaurant is of a poster in the service area, where the wait staff typically congregated when not serving customers. The quote on the poster read, "Our customers are the reason for our existence."

I'm sure this poster, or a similar version of it, found its way into a number of other restaurants at the time. It was, after all, nothing new and it was actually a simple way of reminding employees of the importance of serving customers in a way that was friendly and polite.

Although it's been a few years since I've waited tables, I've learned serving customers well entails more than providing friendly and polite service. Brands who serve customers extraordinarily well don't need simple reminders, either. You see, serving customers is in their DNA. It's instinctive and it happens naturally. Brands (and people) who serve others well have a genuine interest in helping others. In fact, I would make the argument that the desire to serve others is the foundation of a great customer experience.

In a few weeks, I will be departing for my third WorkCamp with the faith-based organization I belong to. There, I will manage a week-long service project where a team of high school youths will be making repairs and other improvements to the home of a resident who could use a helping hand or two. Although the working conditions may be less than ideal, none of us will complain. And the only pay we'll receive for our work that week will be the immense satisfaction that comes from knowing we made a difference by serving someone in need.

Many of the teens who participate in WorkCamp come back year after year, for as long as they are eligible. Why? Because serving others is in their DNA. They genuinely want to make a difference. They enjoy providing others with an uplifting and memorable experience.

Now, imagine these are the people serving your customers. What do you suppose your customers might say or write about their experience with your brand? 

For more on the importance of serving others, please see:
How a Chance Encounter Became a Magic Moment
Working Together to Accomplish the Extraordinary
Your Brand and the Community It Serves

As a business leader, you know how important it is to have alignment between your team, staff, and your vision. The alignment comes from truly understanding the "Why." And the challenge is to turn your vision into specific steps your team can take to discover, understand, and unleash the power of your why to make your business grow. You have to get your whole team rowing the boat in the same direction at the same time.

Simon Sinek (FaceBook) (TED presentation) talks about Learning your Why. How would you like to experience your own "Why" discovery?

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Next Wed, on June 18th (register here), one of the best entrepreneurial minds and authors, Ridgely Goldsborough, is joining us for a one night only IgnitionShift event with the tools, exercises, and direct coaching we guarantee will drive you and your executive team to:

a) Discover your "why" -- your passion for what you do and why you do it
b) Understand how your "why" can catapult your business forward in specific ways
c) Align your team and get the right people in the right seats based on their "why"
d) Connect on a powerful level with your clients and your marketplace

Join fellow high growth CEOs from Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO), Young President's Organization (YPO), and other regional leaders - along with their executive teams - for this one time only experience.

* Learn how to dramatically stand out from your competition.

** Sponsors will be providing door prizes and give-aways. The first 50 guests to arrive will receive a special gift. **

Register for the event before it fills up! Grab space for you and your team today! Early bird rate ends tomorrow, June 11.

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IgnitionShift is my (along with fellow charter members) ongoing event series and educational platform for high-growth companies.

On June 1st, Timothy D. Sands took office as the 16th president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (more commonly known as Virginia Tech). In a recent discussion about faculty promotion and tenure, he spoke of the importance of patents and other signs of innovation and entrepreneurship. He cited these as "evidence of impact," which he defined as "how that work changes the marketplace, how it changes the technology, and how [it enables] people to do things they couldn't do before."

It's easy to see how this notion concerning "evidence of impact" can be applied to marketers. For example, if you've spent the last few years researching, developing and implementing your organization's new marketing strategy, what evidence of impact can you provide? How have you changed the marketplace? How have you changed the way technology is used in your industry? How are you enabling your customers to do things they couldn't do before? Are you inventing the future or are you just following everyone else?

The answers to these questions are potential game changers. They look beyond more traditional measures of sales and revenue growth, profitability and ROI. They are what differentiates market leaders from their competitors.

As I have said before, activity is interesting, results matter. It may be time to look at your results and what lies beyond them. What evidence of impact can you provide?

My college-age son started his first full-time management job the other day. He'll be spending his summer as the Aquatic Facilities Manager at the local country club, where he'll oversee a staff of 12 lifeguards and the operations of the facility.

As he prepared to head off to work for his first day, I wanted to impart some sage advice. And I wanted to leave him with something I knew he would use.

Here is what I decided to share...

This is an exciting day for you, one you will remember for a long time. This is also an exciting day for the people you manage. They, too, will remember this day for a very long time. More than anyone they encounter or anything else that happens today, you will have a role in how they remember this day.

Because you're the boss.

They will be watching you to see how you react to the situations you encounter. They will be listening to what you say, even when you're talking with someone else. They will be looking at your facial expressions, to get a sense for how you think things are going. And they will care what you think.

Because you're the boss.

If you take nothing else away from this, remember to smile. Just smile. And smile often. Let them know you care about them and the people you are there to serve. No matter what happens. Show them you trust in their abilities and you value their contributions...however large or small they might be.

Because you're the boss.

When he came home from work, I asked him how his first day had gone. He just smiled.

For more leadership insights in the workplace, please see:
Your Employees Play a Leading Role in Shaping Great Brands
Why Family Relationships Make for a Great Place to Work
When Was the Last Time Your Employees Had Fun at Work?

As a speaker, I have a very high bar before I recommend other speakers. Ridgely, without question, exceeds the bar. He's personal, insightful, warm, and an expert at what he does. I had the pleasure of being in Ridgely's program several months ago sponsored by Entrepreneur's Organization in Baltimore (Ridgely's bio is below).

We were able to get him to come to the Washington, DC area to present his "Unleash the Power of Your Why" on Wednesday, June 18, 4:30 to 8:30, in Washington, DC.

Join us for an entertaining and transformational workshop where you will:

- Discover your WHY in an interactive format—yes, you will learn the exact process you can apply at home and at the office
- Create WHY-based messaging for your marketing
- Learn how neuro-science drives behavior and how you can use that in your personal life as well as your business
- Use your WHY to build an inspired organization—a WHY-focused organization
- Know how your WHY can drive the culture of your company

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Click to register. The event is hosted by IgnitionShift. This is my (along with fellow charter members) ongoing event series and educational platform for high-growth companies.

 

altAbout Ridgely Goldsborough

Author and international speaker, Ridgely Goldsborough, known in the Latino market as Richeli, has spent the last 20 years as an expert in personal growth and development. Much like Napoleon Hill did in the early part of the last century, Ridgely has interviewed titans of business and industry in person, for his television show and on the radio. Based on the principles learned from these interviews and his own personal journey, Ridgely continues to write books and create audio and video programs to help us all on our journey to success.

In Business
- Started his first enterprise at the age of 16. In the past three decades, he has created 36 companies, with 400 employees in 35 countries.
- Founded, as the publisher, Network Marketing Lifestyles, the first ever four-color glossy magazine distributed on the newsstands for the industry of direct sales and multilevel marketing, in addition to three other magazines.
- Continues to develop various businesses in a diverse array of industries, with a passion for personal growth, particularly in the Latin market.

As a Writer
- Written nine books, including The Great Ones, The Power of Belief, Masters of Success, Skinny, Happy and Rich and four others.
- Shares his columns and inspirational articles, in English and Spanish, on over 30,000 websites.
- Created over 60 audio programs on personal and professional development.

As a Speaker
- In the last twenty years, Ridgely has given thousands of presentations on motivation, personal and professional development and business education, on five continents, in both English and Spanish.
- Conducted well over 100 interviews with titans of industry on the themes of success, prosperity and wealth accumulation.

Radio and Television
- Created 50+ inspirational and educational programs entitled A View From The Ridge that played on the radio across the Midwestern United States.
- Created his own television program, Modest To Millions based on interviews of successful business men and women who shared their keys to prosperity and wealth.

In Summary
If you are looking for a first class speaker with years of experience in both the English and Spanish markets, who entertains, motivates and educates all at the same time—and who is one of the world’s premiere experts in personal growth, prosperity and wealth accumulation, contact us today to book Ridgely for your next event!

Ridgely splits his time between Latin America and Pensacola, Florida, where he lives with his wife Kathy and their four children.

 

I've spent the majority of my professional career in technology sales, where I've worked with some of the best salespeople I have ever met. We sold premium telecommunications products and services in some tough markets. Our newly deregulated markets were characterized by intense competition from new entrants, a steady stream of emerging technologies, a changing distribution model, industry consolidation and continued governmental and investor oversight.

No doubt, we had our ups and downs. While there were some "lean" years (i.e., weak markets), our focus never waivered. We were a quarter-to-quarter business and our objective was to grow market share in a profitable way. And we were successful. When I left Avaya, we were the market leader in inbound contact center solutions and ranked among the top three in IP Telephony.

What powered our success?

Let me offer a few personal insights from my experience:

Create Value
As a senior account manager, my role was to create value for my client's business. More often than not, I did this by showing how the products and services I was selling could help my clients achieve one or more of their top business objectives. As an example, instead of positioning our contact center management solutions as a commoditized product that could be purchased at a discount, I focused on how I could help my clients improve their customer experience by achieving first-call resolution in a cost-effective way.

Advise and Consult
A key element of the consultative sales experience was to provide customers with new ideas for enabling their personal and professional success. Clients wanted ideas on how to avoid risk, save money, increase productivity and grow market share. Our conferencing and collaboration solutions allowed a client to accomplish all four of these goals, with reliable technology that enabled employees from around the globe to make real-time decisions on new customer acquisition strategies.

Offer Solutions
We live in a world where information is readily available and clients complete more than half of their buying experiences online before they even meet with a sales representative. Today's clients are more interested in best of breed, multi-vendor solutions than a single vendor platform. Collaborating with trusted partners and bringing them together on behalf of the client to form a seamless, interoperable solution to address a pressing business challenge helped to differentiate me as a problem-solver.

If there is a point to this story, it's that creating value, providing your customer with a consultative sales experience and collaborating with partners to offer solutions will help you grow your market share in a way that is profitable. In fact, some of my largest sales were for "business solutions" that carried higher price points (and margins) than what my competitors perceived as comparable offers.

For more on winning sales strategies and tactics, please see:
How Social Media Is Changing the Way We Sell
If You're Selling, Are You Showing or Telling?
If You're in Sales, Tell Me Something I Don't Know
What Makes Your Company Different?
"Refrigerator Rights" and Why Organizations Value Them

Change. Transformation. Making a difference. These words evoke feelings of empowerment and optimism. The power to make a difference lies within each of us. And it happens one step at a time. It starts with one person and it spreads to many. I saw it happen one recent Saturday morning, while I was picking up trash along the banks of Four Mile Run River in Arlington, Virginia.

Like hundreds of others who had volunteered for the 26th annual Alice Ferguson Foundation Potomac River Watershed Cleanup across the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, I wondered how much of an impact I or my team could have on this massive effort to clean up the streams and rivers that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.

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As I walked along our designated cleanup site on the morning of the event, I saw an overwhelming amount of trash in the river and along the banks. At first glance, the challenge seemed insurmountable. As the morning wore on, however, a simple truth became obvious – when people come together in support of a cause they believe in, great things can happen. I learned later that 7,791 volunteers across 251 sites had collected 161 tons of trash that morning. Like the other volunteer teams, we had transformed our designated area from a litter-strewn debris field into a trash-free zone. And made a difference...one step at a time.

Think about your own business. What challenges are facing your business? Who is going to take the first step to bring people together in support of a common cause? What difference will you and your co-workers make in the lives of your employees, customers, investors and other stakeholders?

I read a fascinating article in "Inc." magazine this week. The article, "The Real Test of a Great Brand," is authored by Erik Sherman and invites us to consider the importance of the employer-employee relationship in branding strategy.

He goes on to say that while the brand's relationship with customers is important, the more subtle relationship between a brand and its employees is equally important. I don't disagree.

In fact, you may remember a post I wrote in 2012 where I told readers the brand promise is for non-customers, too. Erik Sherman reminds us, "If you can't satisfy your employees, on whom the entire business rests and moves, how are you going to satisfy your customers?" Your employees, after all, are among a group of non-customers who have a close, ongoing relationship with your brand. What they think matters. They have the ability to influence your brand's reputation through online employer review sites like Glassdoor, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and word of mouth.

Your employees play a leading role in shaping your brand and its reputation. When the employer-employee relationship is strong, employees are invested in the success of the company and are passionate about promoting the brand to their friends, family members and customers. They take pride in delighting their customers. And they will say good things about your brand!

More and more, I find myself looking online for a glimpse into others' experiences with brands I am considering. If I were to search online, what would your employees tell me about your brand? Is it a brand they would recommend to others? More importantly, is it a great brand?

For more on the role of employees in shaping a great brand, please see:
Great Brands Really Are...Different
When Was the Last Time Your Employees Had Fun at Work?
100 Different Success Stories from Fortune Magazine
What Makes Your Company a "Best Place to Work"?
Brand Loyalty Begins at Home...With Your Employees

I recently finished reading “The CMO Manifesto,” a 100-day action plan for marketing change agents by Forbes columnist and nFusion CEO John Ellett.

The premise of the book is that a new CMO or any marketing leader, for that matter, is fundamentally a change agent. The book draws upon the collective insights of over 50 CMOs and senior marketing executives. Stories are shared about what worked and what did not work in their first 100 days.

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Not surprisingly, the most successful change agents were those who recognized the importance of building relationships at all levels across the organization. Aligning with peers and cross-functional groups, asking questions, clarifying change (and the need for it), developing a strategy, and building organizational support for implementing and executing on it required huge investments of teamwork and collaboration. The leaders who came into the organization with all the answers and a pre-conceived plan to execute failed more often, mainly because they neglected the importance of relationships in understanding change and securing organizational buy-in.

My own experience leading large and small teams, in corporate and volunteer organizations, corroborates these insights. I learned the best and most effective way to build organizational support for developing, implementing and executing on a change strategy was through “management by walking around.” I seized every opportunity to escape the bubble that was my office and to personally engage people where they did their work. I went out of my way to solicit feedback from people at all levels and functional areas, collecting and acting on their feedback. I encouraged open and honest feedback by embracing a "safe to say" culture. And my success in leading change was markedly higher in organizations where the senior level executives were genuinely receptive to the feedback they needed to hear, not just what they wanted to hear.

How would you rate your marketing leaders as change agents? Are they successfully leading the change needed to move your organization forward? Or, is your organization standing still while your competitors are running by?

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