Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Social Media – Building Relationships

How can social media become a tool for business? Although it has become part of the Sales Model, how often have you still heard that question raised?

Here's a brief look at two examples using Facebook to further develop the relationship with the customer – adding depth and creating a personal bond.

At the Weather Channel, Kelly Cass uses Facebook to keep in touch with her audience, answering questions about the weather (Why is it getting so cold so early this winter?), talking about the show (Tonight Kim and I have a whole bunch of interesting things for you.), offering her personal observations (I just love the snow!), as well as engaging in light banter (viewer: Kelly, you always look great! Kelly: Always???). She will even let folks know that she will not be able to keep in touch when she is doing a solo show – keeping them informed.

Years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Kelly Cass while visiting The Weather Channel (my client) – I found her to be warm and engaging – a real person who you'd like to have as a friend. The really cool thing about her Facebook writing is that she projects that same aura – like Kelly is a friend keeping you caught up on what she is doing and thinking. It is as though she is dropping you a personal note each time she posts to Facebook.

In Bethesda, Maryland there's a wonderful restaurant called Chef Tony's – great food and a welcoming atmosphere – like dropping over to a friend's home for a fine meal. Tony Marciante, the chef – proprietor, is always on Facebook with updates and uses the restaurant website to publish the daily menu, recipes, and beautiful pictures of food – among many things. Chef Tony (the person) will post to Facebook about upcoming activities (lobsterpalosia – Maine lobsters, comedy club night, Leadership Breakfast of Maryland, cooking classes), and what he is up to (baking deserts for next day, marinating meat for a special dish, wrapping up for the evening and heading home). He even uses Facebook posts to let folks know personally that Chef Tony's (the restaurant) will be closed and suggest a friend's place as an alternative – with a free glass of wine on Chef Tony.

With all this personal attention, does Chef Tony and his restaurant have a loyal following? Each Facebook piece feels like a personal message and it creates a relationship between the patron and the proprietor. This depth has a fascinating element to it - for many, they will drop a note to Chef Tony asking about menu suggestions or with entree preparation questions – like you might with a close friend. Of course Chef Tony responds with great dish choices and preparation instruction (for me he suggested chicken & prosciutto with a mushroom/white wine reduction sauce – to die for!) .

What's the common thread here? Do the Facebook posts create a stronger bond between the reader and the program or restaurant? Would you be more likely to watch Kelly and visit Chef Tony? This establishes another level to a traditional relationship. To makes it personal – between the reader and the writer. Even though the post may go to a thousand or more people, it feels like it is being sent just to you.

How do you see this 'personal' attention being used by other organizations to develop relationships and create community?

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Give Them What They Need! Are You Reaching Your Audience?

'Your speak with individuals; you sell to organizations; and you live by referrals' – a friend noted in a recent conversation about professional service firms.

Are we meeting the needs of each of these functions in our communications with clients and prospects. ?

I'd say yes when meetings were face-to-face and we were a primary source of information. While speaking in person, we can demonstrate how our service will get the needed results through stories related to concerns we just heard from from the prospect. How best to approach the organization to get an assignment or who else may benefit from our services are just a natural part of the flow of a conversation.

Has this changed as indirect communication has become a more important (or more frequent) part of our contact with others? Has our delivery changed as well?

Clearly the role as an information provider is different now – much of what we provided is available on the internet with just a few clicks; the carefully choreographed metering out of data and information is no longer effective to educate or to sell the prospect.

--But, do we still include this kind of stuff in correspondence and sales materials? Before you answer, think about the boilerplate in a recent proposal or the 'filler' in that thick leave-behind collateral currently in use.

When using the 'new media' should we abandon face-to-face meetings?  No!

--But we must make efficient and effective use of the meeting time. It is no longer a major portion of our meeting to educate – now the focus on what keeps them up at night and how our services will get bring restful sleep..

When I was in the Big Chair (CEO), I was constantly sought out by individuals and firms who wanted to sell me their services. Here's what I found was most useful to me:

  • Don't bring me a solution looking for a problem – learn about my needs and tell me how you can satisfy them – AND show me that you have hands-on, practical experience in doing so;
  • Time is precious – don't spend mine by reading background material or educating me about things I already know;
  • PLEASE don't tell me about your awards and being a member of the million dollar sales league – good for Mom to hear, but it brings nothing useful to my ears;
  • Listen carefully to what I am saying about issues, the market, and my competition, so you can respond specifically to how you can help me – don't spend my 'talk time' framing your next brilliant statement or prepping for line 26 of your prepared sales presentation;
  • Provide me with useful resources that I may draw upon for a deeper understanding and to better assess what help I really need;
  • Tell me stories about other similar or related assignments and how YOU achieved the results my counterpart needed and expected (exceeding the expectations is fine as well – IF true); I am not talking about a brag session highlighting how great you are, more to the point, the stories should make it easy for me to visualize myself as the benefactor of the achieved results;
  • Telling me that you spoke with another person in my organization carries no particular weight – if it was a useful conversation for that person, I probably already know about the conversation; if not, it adds nothing to the conversation if I am the decision maker;
  • It's OK for you to ask my intentions and time frame – HOWEVER, if you offer to do something – get in touch, provide further information, make a referral, or whatever – DO IT in the time frame promised (yes, it is good to set the When for promises);
  • Keep the meeting to the agreed amount of time – if you asked for 30 minutes, you should be shaking hands & saying good bye no later than minute #30 – don't worry, if I want more I'll ask you to continue.

The face-to-face meeting has shifted from an education session to an assessment session – going from the What to the How & are you the right one to do it. And the individual, the organization and the referral will all be satisfied in the process.

Is this how you see it?

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Activity or Results – Which Do We Reward?

Activity is: movement; working on tasks; kinetic energy; being (or looking) busy; doing 'stuff'...

“Getting Results” brings to mind: meeting goals; creating value; making sales; completing projects...

Are they the same thing? NO – Results require activity – BUT – Activity does not necessarily produce Results.

To that point -

I can recall seeing an energetic guy wearing black rubber boots while waiting 3-hours for an 'about-an-hour' work on my car at a large auto repair shop. 'Boots' was in perpetual motion – heading toward the parking lot, front office, mechanic bays and elsewhere. He showed a sense of purpose and moved with great determination. But he never made it to any destination before changing course – off to a different one lickety split!

Fascinated by this constant motion, I flagged down Boots and asked what he was doing – “Keeping this place organized and working!” was his reply. Interesting; I never saw him touch a car or accomplish any task during the entire time.

When settling up for the repair, I asked the service rep about Boots and was told that he is of our most valuable employees – the guy is on the move from the time we open until we close.

In contrast, when managing a club recently, I had a server who had that perfect balance of providing attentive service without hovering. He would glide by the table filling water glasses and removing empty plates as he went – if the kitchen was slow, he'd stop be the table to let his guests know as he put down fresh bread & butter; he would check back with the table as the folks began to eat to see that everything was properly cooked and the meals were correct. This was greeted with smiles from the guests and often a supplemental order of side dishes. Of course, he offered desert and coffee after the meal.

I once overheard him asking the head of the table if she was thinking about coming back soon and offered to put in a reservation for her favorite table – Great Idea!!

In response to lagging satisfaction and declining patronage, we had set new goals of exemplary service, increased sales, and greater diner volume. This server had a grand slam getting top results for all three goals – he was a strong positive peer influence for the other servers as well.

Do you find that we reward – directly or indirectly – activity as if it creates the value of getting results?

Is Boots really perceived as a top employee for his perpetual motion rather than accomplishment? Can top notch service be delivered by disinterested servers – and – can customer service be improved without great service? Focused activity leads to achieving results.(The New Management is Leadership).

Does any of this make a difference in leading an organization in today's New Normal (When Will We Get Back to Normal)? How do you see it?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The When of Leadership

This post began as “Is Everyone a Leader?.” I quickly realized that this is truly determined though the crashing together of needed skills, desire or duty, the situation, and timing.

John Wayne typically played characters that are leaders – people follow him over the hill or turn to him for “The Plan.”

To the contrary, Leonardo DiCaprio's character Jack Dawson in Titanic rose to the occasion during the cruse. If he had taken the boat before or after the Titanic, would Dawson have made it to the First Class Deck and had a life changing effect on a rich girl?

Does the situation create the leader – even for those 'natural' or 'born' leaders? Being in the right place at the right time certainly has some weight.

I can recall a recently graduated MBA – top school, great student, head of the class – who joined my organization and spent several frustrating years casting about trying to be a leader with no success. He certainly had the training and abilities for the task, but was unsuccessful in bringing it off – during this period there was just no compelling situation which required a new leader to step forward.

On the other hand, during an early game in the 2004 ACC Basketball Tournament when the team was trailing, John Gilchrist slapped the floor and took leadership of the team – it was electric! Through his playing, encouragement of his team-mates, and creating a shared vision that the trophy was theirs, the University of Maryland basketball team won the 2004 ACC Basketball Championship. Gilchrist rose to the occasion and was clearly the leader at the tournament, but did not serve that role either before or after. Timing...the right circumstances...each member of the team playing above their best effort...all brought together under his leadership.

Leadership in an organization is 'assigned' to certain positions or titles – a team captain and  a company CEO are expected to be leaders. Often, situations develop which require a leader to address the situation or circumstance – either immediate or ongoing – and a person steps up to take the role. There is no magic pill here – the individual needs to have the traits & skills necessary to pull this off, but like Dawson (mentioned above), it just doesn't work too well if you missed the boat or took an earlier one.

The WHEN of leadership is an interesting issue – and there are many, many stories and examples of ordinary people rising to the situation at hand to become leaders.

This topic will become very rich and insightful through the sharing of such stories – PLEASE add a comment below with your favorite example of a 'made leader.'  By doing so, we may better understand the common elements and can apply this knowledge to develop potential leaders.

Presentations you might find useful:
Talk Your Business How to make more and better sales right away!
December 7th, 7:30am to 9:00, Intelligent Office, Alexandria

How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, Buy
Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Gibbs Rules – Leadership by the Numbers?

Leroy Jethro Gibbs heads up the high performance field team of misfits for NCIS. How does he get extraordinary results week after week? Rules, feedback, and required growth for his staff.

Gibbs, a former Marine sniper demonstrates his personal competence and skill through results – not the least of which was shifting from a loner to a leader. His band of 'unique individuals' include: a vain DiNozzo adverse to scutt-work; McGee – a tentative agent and computer geek; Ziva - a Mossad trained assassin; Ducky with his constant stream of inane facts; and Abby - a goth gal with a big heart. That aside, each of these folks is brilliantly competent and extremely dedicated to the success of the team in getting results – catching the bad guys. And, they would do anything for Gibbs.


Gibbs focuses on the talents and skills of the people on his team and expects the best from them at all times, regardless of personal foibles.

Gibbs has rules – he follows them and he teaches them to his staff. Short...Practical...Memorable...they are reinforced by Gibbs and by the staff to each other. These rules are NOT written and posted on some wall or in a manual. They are shared as needed verbally. Gibbs says there are 51 rules and it is his job to teach them. In doing so he does not do their job for the staff nor tell them the one right way – to the contrary he presses for their view of the issue and how the team will solve it.

Gibbs puts each of his staff into challenging spots for growth and development – uncomfortable for them but shows they can do it. However, like a father running behind a child riding a two-wheel bike for the first time, Gibbs will appear and help out IF needed.

What keeps the rules alive is feedback – a slap on the back of the head as a wake-up call or his brief acknowledgment of a job well done – WHEN IT IS – each emphasize the validity of the rule.

Are the rules some kind of magic? Some secret of a world order? You decide – here's some of them:

Rule #1 Never let suspects stay together.

Rule #1 (yes there are two #1s) Never screw over your partner.

Rule #7 Always be specific when you lie.

Rule #9 Never go anywhere without a knife.

Rule #15 Always work as a team.

Rule #38 Your case, your lead.

Rule #45 Clean up the mess you make.

Rule #51 Sometimes – You're wrong.

And the unwritten rule is Family ALWAYS comes first!

Short – Sweet – To the Point... Applicable to the work they do.

Is this just a fictional account of a TV series or the chronicle of a true leader?

Do you know of a leader in an organization who is like Gibbs?

I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the many contributors to the collections of Gibbs Rules; here are several links for more details:

Comprehensive footnoted list - http://ncis.wikia.com/wiki/Leroy_Jethro_Gibbs/Rules
Annotated list - http://www.ncisfanwiki.com/page/NCIS%3A+Gibbs+Rules
List with explanatory notes - http://www.ncisfanatic.com/2010/06/gibbs-rules-ncis-the-complete-list-of-gibbs-rules.html

Other presentations you might enjoy:
Talk Your Business How to make more and better sales right away!
December 7th, 7:30am to 9:00, Intelligent Office, Alexandria

How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, Buy
Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Subscribe for RSS Notification for Upcoming Sales Lab Events http://bit.ly/Sales_Lab_Events

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Bright White Stripe on My Porch

A guy rang my doorbell the other day – with a generic spray-bottle and a couple of brushes, he completely filled the 10-minutes we spent together with talk, questions, and product demonstrations.

This guy was selling a liquid cleaner door-to-door.

He introduced himself, told me why he was there, and that he was selling the best cleaner in the world.

Then he pointed to my cement stoop, said it was moldy and dirty and asked me to watch this: he sprayed the liquid and used his wire brush to scrub down to a stripe of clean white cement. He kept up a constant stream of talk about the benefits and results of using this cleaner and showed proof on that stoop.

He took me down to the car, asking what was the most difficult thing to clean on the car (wheels). So he squirted his stuff on the wheel and made the spot shine. Then he did a section of the window, the bricks on the wall, and even a portion of the sole on my sneakers. All bright and clean.

When asked about why the cleaner worked so well, he answered by giving a brochure with details about what is in the cleaner while he kept talking about the benefits and results that I was seeing.

He opened his order-book and quoted the price ($48 per quart) and said it is concentrated - makes gallons, and pointed out several order forms from neighbors in the community.

This guy knew his product. He spoke only about benefits and demonstrated results – all from the viewpoint me getting something cleaned. He provided 'evidence' that others had purchased from him and that he would immediately provide the product right on the spot. When we were done, he thanked me and was gone. But I have reminders of the visit with several little clean areas – like the bright white stripe.

He never once claimed he had some Sales Award, or about the history and accomplishments of the firm, or about the thousands of bottles of stuff he has sold, or that he was only one sale away from getting a trip to somewhere.

The number of door-to-door sales has been increasing lately – an old fashioned means of making sales, which - although labor intensive - can be effective even today.

What if sales conversations were based on the principles that this cleaner guy executed so naturally? Does your customer have a need? Do you have a solution? Can you communicate the benefit and results FOR THE CUSTOMER from your solution without a bunch of other noise?

Please join us for:
Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday, November 10th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, and
How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, or Buy? Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Saturday, October 16, 2010

When Will We Get Back To Normal?

Our economy has been going through cycles – up & down – since the depression in the 1920's. Cycles start and cycles end – we are trained to expect things to 'return to normal' at some point. 'NORMAL' was back to growth and abundance – with some adjustment it was business as usual.

We will not return to rapid growth and abundance this time within the span of a cycle or two. We ARE back to normal, but it is a new normal. What you see in the economy today is the new normal. It is more modest with less return and growth than we have enjoyed in the past. So, it is time to quit holding our breath waiting and get back to business at this level and pace.

We may have been distracted by the economic implosion and missed the structural change that has taken place. Seth Godin calls it “the forever recession” which is the end of the industrial age and local markets. Now it's best mix of price-quality-value for goods & services and the extensive access to information and communications for finding them.

The reality of all of this shows up in a recent conversation with a guy launching a start-up – his planning uses what is today for scale and scope and being flexible for opportunities as developed.

Good point of view for all of us, don't you think?



Dick Davies said...
Sure is hard to forget what I thought was going to happen!
Jack Gates said...
Reposting comments and my replies: Mathieu Federspiel • I've started collecting statements from authors who do not see a return to what used to be normal. Your question seems mostly economic in nature, which in recent times depended on continuous population growth and other non-sustainable fundamentals. Future Shock is here. In May 2010 Scientific American, Lawrence Krauss stated "...there is no chance...to stave off considerable change to the planet's climate..." (Human Uniqueness and the Future, p. 36). Read also Eaarth and Threshold, two great collections of information about limits which have been exceeded. Taking the view that normal will not happen, the other part of your question is what will happen. There are some enclaves of people who are developing environmental friendly technologies and lifestyles. I hope this gains momentum throughout society and corporations. But for the most part they are in conflict with multinational corporations which have great political power (even though they cannot vote). For example, massive solar farms are being proposed, but distributed panels on factories and houses more appropriate. The economy will have to change, as will individual lifestyles, and the question is can this occur peacefully. For a time, economic growth could be the result of changes from oil-based energy to other sources, as well as other large lifestyle changes. What then? Jack Gates • Mathieu: Thanks for your thoughtful comments. The effect on the economy is obvious, but the structural change is even greater, but less visible. Individuals are identifying needs and finding marketable solutions - and can do this from the kitchen table for a world market. Look at the effect of the Android smart phone - I can write my own app for the phone, and you can change that app to meet your needs. No need to wait for the carrier or manufacturer to do it. Same is true for solar devices and LED lighting for consumers and business - developed by individuals. A great deal is changing with this disruption in the norm. Busy table - new opportunities - as reality is evolving. With the underlying structural change comes a shift in point of view, and with that a new view of current reality. Amid the pain of the tumbling economic conditions is the innovation and optimism of new opportunities to address the vexing issues. matt milne • it will get better, but only if we make it better. Could take a year, could take ten. Jack Gates • Matt: Thanks for your comment. You have hit on a key element of the structural change - it requires our participation not our anticipation. Rosaliza Julao • ... What is normal? Change is a part of life... The present economic condition is now teaching us a lesson... Spending what you don't have is the main reason why we are where we are now... Learn the lesson and move on... Jack Gates • Rosaliza: Thanks for your comment. Spending within our means is great advice for individuals, businesses and even countries.
Jack Gates said...
Reposting comment and my reply: Jack Rollan • There has been at least one recession/depression EVERY DECADE in US history. The dotcom bubble was the longest expansion. The current recession may be just beginning..... Japan has been in a real estate-based recession since the Lost Decade of the 90s. THE GREAT DEFLATION Japan, Once Dynamic, Is Disheartened by Decline By MARTIN FACKLER Economists are pointing to Japan, which has been trapped in low growth and deflation, as a dark vision of the future for the West. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/world/asia/17japan.html?th&emc=th Jack Gates • Jack: Thanks for your comment. The growth - contraction cycles of our economy are merely adjustments - but the underlying structural foundation has been pretty much the same since the early phases of the industrial age. What is different now is this structure is changing - not as visible as the economic change - and this is NOT a cyclical adjustment. It is an overhaul and will continue to create disruption along with opportunity. It is has a world-wide impact. It is an interesting contrast to see a world stage with individuals as the key players for change. As in "Makers" by Cory Doctorow.
Jack Gates said...
Reporting of comments and my replies: Jack Rollan • We are entering a Post-Industrial Age, where most workers will either be temp, contractors, p/t, consultants, or mgmt/exec. Millions of workers (especially aged 50+), are never returning to traditional work, which is being automated, outsourced, or has become obsolete. Jack Gates • Jack: Agree that we are in a Post-Industrial Age and that how we do work is changing. this will affect all the workers. For their entire career the group you call 50+ has seen little structural change in the of nature employment and may face the most radical transformation. But they've shown how resourceful they can be in the past Walter Wise • My estimate is at least 2 more years and possibly 3. And firms that are doing nothing to grow now, will not be here when the turn-around begins. Walter Wise • My estimate is at least 2 more years and possibly 3. And firms that are doing nothing to grow now, will not be here when the turn-around begins. Jack Gates • Walter: Thanks for your thoughts. I strongly agree that organizations that do not make changes will have a hard time with recovery from the economic cycle and will fail from the structural changes that are also in play now. Walter Wise • I don't think that I can go so far as to agree with Mr. Rollan however. I just don't see it that way. I think you see a lot of consultants and 1099'ers now because of the economy. Companies need staff but don't necessarily want to take on full time employees and the expense that goes with it. I guess the risk of taking part timers is worth taking. Jack Gates • Walter: Time will tell on that point. A different view is the shift to individuals providing for needs, instead of only by companies, and the wide availability of the tools and resources to do so. Look are the user-written apps for the Android smartphone as an illustration.
Jack Gates said...
James Vaughn • Normal is a static concept. I do not see it as applicable to the dynamic nature of economic systems. There are certainly stability points in our economy but they are both shifting a fleeting. I think this belief in "Normal" economy leads to general misunderstanding and bad economic policy. If you treat a dynamic system as though it were static, your actions will always be reactive rather than proactive. Jack Gates • James: Thanks for your views. We are truly speaking about changes in the economic systems - transactional and structural. How we react and adapt will determine the new reality.
Jack Gates said...
Reposting comments and my replies: Jacek Marczyk • Jack, I believe this time it won't happen. Italy's minisiter of finance said that this crisis is the" end of the beginning"! I couldn't agree more. This crisis has sparked some irreversible processes, so getting back to normal won't be easy. Besides, what is "normal"? Jack Gates • Jacek: Thanks for your comment. 'Business as usual' or a 'Field of Dreams' (build it and they will come) does not seem viable foundation for planning today. The visible economic situation is cyclical - so it is logical to assume recovery at some point. The underlying structural change on the other hand is permanent and will not 'recover' but will continue to evolve. I interpret comment by your minister of finance as recognition that the transition from the Industrial Age is coming to an end and the marketplace is now on a world-wide stage. To illustrate, 'back in the old days' the market boundary was the town where you lived - the consumer would compare the value proposition (quality-value-price-availability-etc) among town merchants without regard to offerings in other towns. As accessibility and communications improved, the market expanded to the locality. Through many iterations this has blossomed to a world market. In general I can sit at my kitchen table and be a consumer in this world-wide market or, from the same table I can be a manufacturer, service provider, or vendor to this same market. This is but a glimpse of the structural evolution and it is challenging not just where business is done, but also how it occurs. Nellie Scott • THIS is the "new" Normal. Jack Gates • And we need to plan accordingly! Thanks for your comment, Nellie. Kurt Robohm • I think the bigger question behind what is normal, is what is valued? Is what is really valued that which is cheaper and faster, regardless of the final cost? We've seen the global economy re-orient priorities towards cutting cost as the be all end all, but is that the outcome that provides the most benefit in the end? in the Global economy the old "normal" has been given away to someone on the other end of world, where, by they way they are enjoying boom times (comparatively). Who has benefited? I submit that the new Normal is a manifestation not of how things need to be, but a manipulation of outcomes. We don't have to accept this. Jack Gates • Kurt: Thanks for your comments. We are truly in a world economy and many companies are trimming their cost structure by shopping for components and services in the world market. However, the underlying structure of commence is changing. With broad ranging communications and the ease of purchase and delivery in this broader market, there is an emergence of the individual as a primary manufacturer, service provider, or vendor. It can be done from the kitchen table with a computer, printer and phone. Without recognition of the structural changes afoot, business calamity will result; with recognition and ingenuity, opportunity is possible. There in lies the choice.
Jack Gates said...
Reposting comments and my replies:: Jeff Kincaid • I'm afraid this is the new normal Jack. Jack Gates • Jeff: Thanks for confirming that. More changes are afoot, however, in how we will be doing work from here on. Those are the permanent changes in the underlying structure. Linda Richey • I can't be too deep this morning as I have been up for hours. I will need to think more before answering to make sense. What I can say off the top of my head is that I had a feeling 20 years ago. It was to create my own future, because the norm was quickly fading away. The new norm, for lack of better words, is constant, fairly fast paced change. I have two choices, if we go strictly black and white with no grays. To live on the grid or get off it. Not sure which is best. That would depend on the person. I have yet to feel like giving up so I stay in the game. I still have to believe I can make a difference through design. Capitalism will always be capitalism. It always comes back in some form. I don't really care for how nasty some are getting with it, but all I can do is my part. My thought is to design your own day or ole' days as much as possible. Give your self something, even if small, and do it everyday. Jack Gates • Linda: Thanks for sharing your 'before coffee' thoughts. You've captured the spirit of how the role of the individual is changing in the underlying structural shift. More independence for individuals to help fulfill the needs and wants in the market in new and different ways from the 'old days'. The tools are here now to use when the opportunities are identified.
Jack Gates said...
Reporting comments and my replies: Pino Villa • What is `Normal`, what it was ? Then there is good probability that we will not return to the previous economic wave caused by easy money, easy loans. The economy will move along as it is doing going up and down in small peaks fueled by the simple economic laws of supply and demand. American and European unemployment will remain high even with good GDP growth for the simple reason that organizations have become efficient (lean and mean). They can do more with current resources without employing additional. What will make a difference will be a major economic wave. If we look at the past we had some major waves such as year 2000 IT spending, then the E-com and finally the easy money from banks. The next wave could be a focused investment in green economy, focused means that economies like USA and Europe agree and concentrate effort. There must be stringent targets , this is the only way to make a big wave rather than small ripples. Jack Gates • Pino: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The structural adjustment underway is changing (dramatically) our markets and the way we do business - it is logical that the outcome of this evolution will also require new approaches and different development tools. The evolution may take the form of a massive initiative, such as a world-wide green project, or it could take the form of many, many small, independent projects by individuals or small confederations of independents fulfilling the wants and needs of the marketplace - a world marketplace, rather than local or regional one. It may even take a form similar to individuals crafting functional, sophisticated devices from used and excess parts as in "Makers" by Corey Doctorow. One thing is certain - it is NOT business as usual.
Jack Gates said...
Reposting comments and my replies: Tom Abeles • Pino asks "What is "Normal"..."? I ask what are the metrics so that we can know what is normal. There is the old story about the drunk looking for the keys under the street lamp because that is where the light is, even though they were lost around the corner in the alley. We use econometrics because science tells us that we can "measure" and predict (physical phenomena). Neoclassical economics tells us that we can define and predict "normal" with computer models. Yet, as the economists in France, during the "post autistic economics revolt, were forced to admit before the French legislature, the models are far from perfect, euphemistically speaking. Should economic models, neo-classical or otherwise, define or measure the quality of life on this planet and set the standards for "Normal" because Enlightenment philosophers are enamored with 17th century scientific models and econometric models have thus become the defacto measure of "Normal" because we have no others that yield quantitative, though questionable measure when we look at the planet and all life forms, including "Gaia"? Think of, for example, Europe and North America as open, complex, systems where input of resources from the developing world and output of wastes to the developing world allowed the systems to grow and evolve. Now that, as Friedman postulates, the world is "flat", there are no external sources and sinks other than the sun and the universe. Perhaps the models for "Normal" need real re-definition. This can be seen on a micro-scale where certain populations thrive on the backs of others but the crude econometric measures for such elements as GDP mask this imbalance in resource flows. Curing air pollution adds to the GDP, medical devices for compensating for health effects of air pollution add to the economy. Maybe "Normal" implicit in this thread is a false god and the rituals, econometric modeling, may be saying, as in The Wizard of Oz, ignore that man behind the curtain Jack Gates • Tom: Very thoughtful comments. Normal can be as simple as a mere idiom - a figure of speech; or it can be a fundamental measure - the general view by the majority; or as complex as a precise measurement requiring sophisticated modeling. Whatever the case, the structural changes in how we do business have shifted and continue to transform. A quick glance back three or four years ago is quite different than today when viewing the elements of commerce. Even the economic cycle we are in is 'not typical' of those in the recent past - as evidenced by the huge worker displacement world-wide. We are bubbling along with a structural change that engages the individual more actively (whether within an organization or as an independent) - with a computer, the internet, a printer and phone (this may be optional as a separate instrument shortly), I can enter the world market as a manufacturer, service provider, vendor or consumer...all from the kitchen table. By finding others like me, my table-based organization becomes scalable and, in theory, I can take on tasks well beyond a sole practitioner. More and more examples of this model are appearing all the time now - with successful results. This is but a small illustration of the underlying changes afoot - it seems quite clear that rapid growth and 'Field of Dreams' planning (build it and they will come) is not the preferable planning model now.
Jack Gates said...
Reposting comment and my reply: Mathew Cherian • Reality is there was a bifurcation from the 'normal'. Phenomena are 'cyclical'. Emerging behavior whether it is 'chaos' most likely and when it will revert back to the full blown cycle, most likely, which is going to be the 'nromal'. Jack Gates • Mathew: Thanks for your comments. Let me see if I have it right: Reality is what IS; Normal is what is PERCEIVED by most; Phenomena are the cyclical CHANGES.
Jack Gates said...
Reposting comments and my replies: Brian Empey • Jack, there's an ancient Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times." We're in very interesting times, and its going to get more interesting. There will be a slight re-bound to some areas of the country. But, to a large extent, what we are suffering with now IS the new normal. The jobs that are gone are not coming back. The markets that are gone are not coming back. The people who have lost their homes are not getting them back (and their numbers will grow dramatically over the next year). Big questions about the near future of US society is: will social collapse come before, or after, the financial collapse? What can be done now to lessen the impact on people and their families? The American people are strong and resourceful. I'd like to think that they will pull through, with or without the support of their government. And for us up north, where the economy is much better, but dependent on our allies to our south, the question is: can Canada survive a collapse in the US? And that leads to a big certainty: there will be a lot more questions and uncertainty in the future. Interesting times indeed! Jack Gates • Brian: Great Quote!!! So right on target for what's happening. It's scary and fascinating at the same time. As jobs go away, other jobs will appear to address unfulfilled needs - perhaps not in equal numbers, same locale, or for the same skills...but there will be new jobs. Same for products and services - needs will be recognized and solutions will be developed, produced and sold (on a world-wide stage, however). The structural changes underway will require greater participation by individuals in delivering the solutions and production (whether within an organization or as an independent). Since not everyone is wired to be an entrepreneur, we must presume that there is a role for the journeymen and 'doers' in this process. Picture a pond full of water (as in our former economy) - all looks tranquil and beautiful; after a period without rain the water level drops in the pond and some rocks appear - we may even think that are an interesting addition to the picture, but do represent something not visible during the 'good times'; in a serious drought situation, more jagged rocks are evident, along with discarded bicycles, car parts, and muck - the beauty is long gone and we know with certainty there is a huge problem with our pond. The pond is an analogy of what we are seeing in many businesses - process, procedure, and incomplete planning are showing up with the lack of sales. The organizations that will be successful going forward will put aside ego, tradition, inertia, and procrastination to make plans for today - as it is right now - and execute the changes necessary to function efficiently in this environment. Governments have a role as well - which is to bolster up the citizens in transition with meaningful programs which help them remain viable while retooling and relocating as needed. Collectively we have been doing the Whimpy routine (I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger received today) - well Whimpy, IT"S TUESDAY. Yep, it IS interesting times. Greg Franco • So what to do? Maybe get together with friends/family and buy some land, chickens and cows? Have we come full circle back to the beginning? Jack Gates • Greg: Yours is certainly one approach, assuming the cow and chickens fit into the apartment. Thanks for the comment.
Jack Gates said...
Reposting comments and my replies: Karen Schmidt • A friend of mine likes to remind me that Carl Marx predicted the end of capitalism and that is potentially what we are experiencing now. Normal is a constantly changing thing and what is normal for one person is abnormal for others. It's time we moved past the industrial model of work and education anyway. Just listen to Sir Ken Robinson if you need convincing! Jack Gates • Karen: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. With structural change, the relationships and elements change, they do not vanish. We are experiencing an underlying change in how we do business and what the marketplace is. It is disruptive to status quo and the current systems in place. However, there is a demand for goods and services, and they are being supplied - just not necessarily from the traditional sources. Individuals are innovative, resourceful and adaptive - so it is logical to believe that they will discover and fill needs and wants under a revised structure. Business as usual may be a thing in the past, but business to fulfill demand - even if it looks different - is not obsolete. the individual will certainly play a stronger role in the new reality - whether inside and organization or as an independent. Anita Oas • Yes Greg. That's exactly what I have. We raise our own vegetables, and fruit. My kids harvest fresh eggs every morning from our free ranging chickens. We compost our fruit peals, leaves, grasses and rabbit droppings. Self sufficiency is empowering. As far as normal is concerned. This is for me and my kids. It's what you make of it. Jack Gates • Anita: Thanks for confirming that self-sufficiency is an option. As you point out, you and your family are creating your own reality. This is a great live example of the evolving expectation for the role of the individual in commerce. As an active participant, regardless of the business structure around them. Tom Abeles • Hi Mathew Is that what one dinosaur said to the other when the meteor struck? I am not even sure what is "normal". I am in Guatemala, currently and have been in many developing countries. Their expectations and view of "normal" is not what mine are in the US. The recent formation of the South American development bank to break from the neo-liberal policies of the WB and IMF are saying that "normal" is not their normal. BRIC countries, particularly China and India and those at the bottom of the economic pile? What are they thinking as "normal" Jack Gates • Tom: Your comments show that there is a regional nature of the perception of normal. Makes sense - this falls into the category: 'of course I see it Now That I See It'.
Michael Montante said...
5 yo 8 years for this deep recession reovery. Back to normal as to 2003 through 2008? or Back to normal as to a time earlier. The late 90s were based on unrealistic zeal of projections of the Internet and eCommerce. March 2000 the bubble burst. Then we got on a real estate craze and making new investments out of nothing. The banks and real estate took a beating. That will never be normal. I think our back to normal will be back to the early 90s or so when people were diligent about what they invested in. Lived more in their means. I also hope we keep the higher savings rates that have come back in, like back in the 50s, but we are too eager to spend to every get back there.. I do not think we get back to that for awhile as we have to clear out the bad real estate and reestablish our work force and reduce the debt burdens. But before the workforce will come, the states and the Federal Gov't will have to start living in their means. My guesstimate is that this takes 5 to 8 years to A) consumers and banks get through the bad real estate and debt B) get the gov't to be more lean C) raise enough tax revenue to pay off debt through a combination of spending savings and tax rate increase back to the more normal but histocially low ones of the 1990s. D) develop a plan to reestablish a new infrastructure plan that makes sense. E) workforce gets paid fairly both on the low and high end. Until then, everyone needs to live in their micro economy, their household or business budget. Don't borrow money for consumer purchases. No credit cards. Budget and spend what you can afford. Food, Shelter, Educations first, then treat yourself afterwards. Make that your normal and it does not matter as much as to what the Macro Normal will be. The party was great, but this hangover will take more than 2 aspirin and some sleep. It will take sacrifice to get over this one.

For a lively discussion thread, click on: http://blog.saleslabdc.com/2010/10/when-will-we-get-back-to-normal.html

Friday, October 8, 2010

Your 75 Accomplishments

This is all about YOU! You are an accomplished person. You have done some pretty amazing things in your life. There are individuals who know and respect you. Others who have benefited from your wisdom and/or labor.

You are a valuable member of the community and of society. AND you are in transition. The latter does NOT change the former! However, at times you may lose sight of what you have accomplished – so having a list helps to remind you.

Here's the task: write up a list of 75 of your accomplishments – the things that you are proud of, that are hard-won, that mean something to YOU. And start it NOW! Keep at it – if you are struggling, put the list aside for a while, then come back and add more.

What makes the list? Things you have done professionally, personal accomplishments and even private achievements that may not mean a thing to anyone else -but are meaningful to you.

Why make this list? When you dig deep you learn more about yourself and by writing it down have it at hand when writing resumes, cover letters and preparing for interviews.

When you are feeling blue, pull out your list and review it – reflect on the things that you have achieved – it can change dark gray clouds into bright blue sky in a heartbeat..

When you complete the task, you will have a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and pride – there's your item #76!

Your comments and experiences will help others – please share them below.

Come to How To Get More Value From Your Existing Resources Tuesday, October 19th, Intelligent Office, Rockville www.SalesLabDC.com/leadership.
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Defenders – Leadership Training?

Last night I watched a new show - “The Defenders” - about a couple of Las Vegas attorneys who are part Robin Hood and part con artist. The show was quite entertaining, but led me to think about its role as a leadership lab for us viewers to learn from.

Here's the four themes running through the first episode:

Nick & Pete interacting – two rather cynical guys practicing law together. Informal leadership bounces between them freely, although Nick is the senior partner. They freely debate what to do but back the other's play once an action is decided. There's a mixture of unimpressive and wiz-bang – transportation is an old classic auto – like a Chevy II convertible however they advertise the firm (and the two of them) on a huge billboard using a vinyl sign (new technology).

Nick and his wife – they are separated but it is clear - they would both like to be back together AND they can't figure out how...and make things worse. This bitter-sweet relationship is entertaining only because you can quickly see how the conversation will turn out even in its early stages.

Pete and the junior associate – he bamboozles the new junior associate into covering an arraignment, and then abandons her to do it. Later they talk (she was yelling) and he shares a story of his first day and how he was thrown to the lions – but also was victorious. While she was skeptical, he continued with how this proved to be a strong foundation for a successful practice and pointed out that she was successful in her first assignment and cataloged how far she had come. Was he sincere or was he 'spinning a tale'? The new associate came away with confidence in her ability and led her to suggest what became a break in their case.

Gutsy approach to case resolution – the two of them pull all the stops to get the outcome they want. Their client was in a jury trial for murder and the jury asked for guidance from the judge, who was going to give instruction on a lesser charge, but Nick got the judge so mad at him that he ended up refusing to give the instruction and their client was found not guilty.

Each of these themes is pretty simple but should give rich material for the season. After all, the Star Trek programs in the different iterations and movies went on for 30+ years on a very simple premise: Gene Roddenberry had a social conscience and incorporated various issues in the programs around the constant tension between the need for humans to meddle and the Prime Directive which prohibited meddling.

Both shows are useful for leadership labs to see how situations develop and what we can learn from them, And with The Defenders, some entertainment for Wednesday evenings.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beacon or Gadabout - What's the Board Done This Time?

Have you ever watched ants?  Industrious little creatures in reaching their goal (how can they get into that sealed container?), the 'ant-path' to arrive there is fascinating.  As singles and in small groups, the ant-path is halting and confused - sometime this way, sometimes that way, sometimes back the way they came ... helter skelter with no clear path or rationale.  When in a group, the ant-path is never a straight line to the goal, but a march in a wavering column - meandering single file in a general direction.  No shortest distance from A to B for these guys.

This week Alan Weiss wrote his thoughts about Hewlett-Packard’s Board being human - excusing them for serial mistakes which have taken the firm, known for innovative and superior products, such as calculators (still have my 12C bought in early 1980's) and printers, on a confusing get & purge spree that has driven the stock price to almost nothing.

To me this is a good reminder that boards have a group dynamic going on which can make them drift from the vision and mission into some pretty rough turf for no apparent gain.  The HP Board is mimicking an 'ant-path' approach to moving the company forward, which puts HP in play and can allow Oracle to swoop in to get EDS for a song and finance it by selling off the other HP units to eager buyers. Of course there are plenty of examples of boardroom miscalculations which have crippled or sunk organizations. 

We as leaders, whether in a board capacity or as a key player in our firm, can learn from such examples and determine how an action (and its inherent risks) supports the vision and mission - or why the vision and mission needs an update or overhaul to support it.  A beacon sheds light and offers direction, while a gadabout is founded on whimsey and offers confusion - which leads to a brighter future?

Have you been faced with the question: 'What's the Board Done This Time?'

Our next programs are
Wednesday, September 15th, Noon How To Get More Value From Your Existing Resources, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce, http://valuefromresources.eventbrite.com and Thursday, September 16th, 7:15am to 8:30,Championship Leadership in Resource Constrained Markets,  Intelligent Office, Rockville, http://championshipleadership.eventbrite.com

Thursday, August 26, 2010

CUSTOMERS - What Do They Want????!!!

Have customers changed since the downturn in our economy? You bet!

What's different? Plenty but mostly it comes back to lack of confidence in what's ahead (as in predicting what will happen during the next 90 days or so) and hunkering down in response to recent events (like investment loss and non-availability of funds).

The organizations that are successful are the ones which are asking their customers and clients what they want and need, then providing it. Others are doing 'business as usual' in these unusual times - seems like an oxymoron to me - and wondering why sales are lagging (or missing).

'What can I do to help' is a productive start to a conversation that can end in a sale - sure is better than 'we're here when you are ready to buy.'

So as leaders, what how do we proceed?

  • Realize it is NOT business as usual, but that the fundamentals continue to be valid;
  • Initiate conversation about what is wanted and what is needed (may be different);
  • Be open and flexible and adaptive to new approaches and ideas, BUT also take counsel from your 'gut' and experience;
  • Keep in clear focus that the desired outcome is a successful result -- do not let ego or saving face frustrate achieving it; and
  • Know that in a service business, you are providing service - and its effectiveness is in the eyes of the recipient, not in the energy or activity expended. 
If we apply these elements to addressing our customer's needed, will we be overwhelmed with success and business lined up at the door?  Well, there is no magic here, but it will yield far better results than pretending that the world and its markets are the same as they were.

What can you add to the discussion?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Recommendations – Honor & Obligation

The other day a long-time friend and professional colleague ask if I would arrange an introduction to one of my clients and give a recommendation of him as well. Two assignments easily done, as I know and respect the skills and abilities of the individual.

With this fresh in mind, I did some thinking about recommendations – they carry both honor and obligation for both parties.

For the person asked to offer the recommendation, it is an honor to be considered someone whose opinion carries weight and credibility with others; a person recognized as accomplished, knowledgeable, and trustworthy to speak in real terms about the subject person. For the requester, the honor is a notable person stands up for you and speak to the accomplishments and skills you possess.

There is also a dual obligation associated with a recommendation. For the requester follow-through is very important – if a recommendation has been offered you must follow-up promptly – sounds obvious doesn't it?. To ignore the individual, perhaps changing your mind about their relevance after being recommended to them, does damage at some level to the relationship between your recommender and the individual – 'you said that Sam is a good guy and wanted to speak with me about an idea – what happened?' No follow-through is likely to have a negative effect on your relations with your champion as well – after all, she had to expend some effort and time to offer up the recommendation and lack of action simply negates that time investment.

There is a concept in Eastern philosophy that if you save someone's life you are then responsible for them. There is a similar axiom in business and human relations – if I stand up for someone, my reputation and credibility are on the line, based on the actions of that individual. Obviously, you are not a surrogate in her place, but if you said 'Nancy is a wiz with spreadsheets and analysis' and she can't boot a computer, you appear foolish! Once you have offered a recommendation you retain some responsibility for the actions of that individual – at least initially AND your reputation is on the line too.

As the recommender, give some thought to who you recommend and the scope of your comments. Keep in mind that at least some of the goodwill and credibility you've earned is in play when you offer a recommendation – do not take it lightly. When writing a letter to an individual, you are thinking about how the reader will receive the information and how they will view you for recommending the person. However, who you recommend is also a consideration when writing a Linked In recommendation as well – while this may seem more indirect, like a passing nod to the individual (or a shout-out at a rally), IT IS NOT. These recommendations will be seen by many people, not just one, and will hang around forever. Give it the same care as you would a letter to a specific individual.

Harvey Mackay (I like him a lot and have followed him for decades) tells a story in his book We Got Fired about a referral/recommendation this father made for him when he was a teenager and Harvey got a summer job at a men's store. Shortly after he started to make sales, he would 'trim' time from the day by coming in late, leaving early – and quickly developed a reputation as unreliable (and unlikable by employees covering for his absences). When he asked for a day off to play golf, the owner called his father saying Harvey had to go! As he tells the story, Mr. Mackay had a discussion at top volume with Harvey that evening and the wayward son learned an important life lesson – he had failed to live up to the recommendation to the store owner and both Harvey's and his Dad's reputations suffered as a result!

Recommendations are an honor and an obligation for both parties – however discretion and diligence are required.

Any life lessons about recommendations and referrals you'd like to share?

Our next programs are Wednesday, September 15th, How To Get More Value From Your Existing Resources, Mount Vernon – Lee Chamber of Commerce - Alexandria, Virginia, and Thursday September 16th, Championship Leadership in Resource Constrained Markets, Intelligent Office - Rockville, Maryland. Details and reservations at http://www.saleslabdc.com/leadership