Mobile shopping is going to be big this month - are you ready?
Source: Marketing Mag, 06 December 2013
While more large retailers in the US opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day this year and, by all accounts, did rather well, the Thursday sales appear to have been made at the expense of America’s biggest shopping day, Black Friday.
According to ShopperTrak, sales on Thursday and Friday collectively were up 2.3% in brick-and-mortar stores over the same two days last year. However, foot traffic on Black Friday was down more than 11% on 2012 numbers, with sales down by 13.2%. Many Friday shoppers reported that far from frenzied, shopping malls were at times eerily quiet. That said, the cash registers were on overdrive at Walmart. The company reported it sold two million TVs, 1.4 million tablets, 1.9 million dolls, and 2.8 million towels. People were even fighting over the towels.
Online sales surge
Looking online over the same two days, sales surged. According to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark which tracks about 800 retail websites in the United States, online sales on Thursday Day were up by nearly 20% over last year, and by almost 19% on Black Friday.
Mobile sales soar
Mobile traffic also soared and accounted for 39.7% of all online traffic on Black Friday which represents an increase of 34% over Black Friday in 2012. The increase in mobile traffic played out in the form of mobile accounting for 21.8% of online sales, an increase just short of 43% over last year.
Interesting, accordingly to IBM, about 25% of all online traffic came from a smartphone on Black Friday as opposed to tablets which drove just over 14%. However, tablets accounted for 14.4% of all online sales which was double that of smartphones, which accounted for 7.2%. This data confirms the idea that people use their smartphones to research items, while they prefer to larger format of the tablet to shop and make the purchases. The data shows that on average, tablet users spent $132.75 per order compared to smartphone users who spent $115.63. Those using an iOS devise spent an average of $127.92 per order, while those using an Android device averaged $105.20. Sales from iOS based phones climbed to more than 18% of all online sales, while sales from Android based devices accounted for 3.5%.
Over here, according to the CEO of Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA), Margy Osmond, the biggest weeks of spending are still to come. This week ANRA is expecting to see sales totalling $6.6 billion, of which about $4.2 billion going to bricks and mortar stores, $1.2 billion to online Australian retailers and the remainder going to online retailers overseas.
Indeed, according to the Adobe Digital Index which is based on a global survey of online shoppers that included 400 Australians, ecommerce spending in Australia is expected to rise by 6% year on year in the lead-up to Christmas.
In Australia, Green Monday, which this year falls on Monday 9 December is expected to be the nation’s biggest day for online shopping. Online sales are predicted to increase more than two and a half times usual levels.
And like the US, mobile devices are expected to play a greater role in Christmas shopping in Australia this year. Whether this means shoppers using them to research prices while in physical stores to find the best deal, or avoiding the shops altogether to shop online from the comfort of their couches depends to a large degree on whether the shopper is driven by price, availability or convenience. Consumers are shopping online and offline at the same time. Retailers who can deliver seamless experiences to consumers wherever, whenever and however they choose to shop will be the big winners.
As Forrester’s points out in its top technology trends for 2014 and beyond: "A great digital experience is no longer a nice to have - it’s now a make-or-break point for your business."
I'm Gen-Y: do retailers get me?
Source: The Age
, 27 November 2013
Without doubt, I'm a shopaholic. While clothes and shoes are my greatest weaknesses in terms of purchases, there is basically no limit when it comes to my obsessive browsing. I'll price pretty much anything, from holidays to headphones; scuba diving to photography lessons. And I do it all in bed at midnight.
I had computer lessons since before I could tie my shoelaces, so I can navigate around the 'net at lightening speed. This bodes well (or badly, depending how you look at it) for my buying addiction. Born in 1992, I'm your quintessential Gen-Yer, a generation frequently described as 'tech-savy’, 'impatient’, 'self-indulgent’ and with the attention span of a goldfish.
Australia’s youth market (those aged 16 to 30) accounts for a staggering $62 billion of our population’s total household expenditure, with more than two-thirds of this amount spent on hedonistic items such as entertainment, clothing, technology and travel, according to the latest data from Lifelounge Urban Market Research.
Given we make up more than one quarter of Australia’s population, it is more important than ever that retailers pay attention to our purchasing habits.
What do you think? Do businesses understand Gen-Y?
One of the most obvious changes not only in terms of expenditure behaviour by young people - but in fact the spending behaviour of all Australians - over the last five years is that we are increasingly shopping online. According to Roy Morgan Research, despite total retail sales increasing only slightly, Australians aged 14 years and up spent $24.3 billion online between March 2012 and March 2013 - a year-on-year increase of 11.9 per cent.
Considering many of today’s under-fives began surfing on their parents' iPhones before they could even string a sentence together, it's fair to assume our hunger for everything online and instantaneous will only increase.
So much mindless online product browsing has been made infinitely more enticing thanks to the trend of email newsletter subscriptions. Retailers like Asos, Shopbob and The Iconic use our digital dependence to their advantage by sending out a constant flow of electronic updates. Just the other day, one of my girlfriends complained about the "stupid amount" of retailers she subscribes to, whose emails not only clog up her inbox, but constantly tempt her to their sites with the bait of a 10 per cent 'email-exclusive’ discount code.
But it’s the unstoppable rise of social media - and my generation’s infatuation with it - that will shape the future of marketing and retail.
These days, a company website is a must, an email subscription option is ideal, but for a business to achieve effective exposure with Gen-Y audiences, a strong social media presence is crucial. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the bare essentials, advises business strategist and technology investment analyst Mark Gustowski. But businesses also have to make sure they keep up with the new social media kids on the block.
Despite being a relative latecomer, Instagram has garnered more than 150 million users since its 2010 launch. To give you an idea of the level of reach possible, I follow 500 Instagram pages. Now consider that lingerie titan Victoria’s Secret has more than three million followers (one of whom is me).
Having easy, instant access to brands through a range of social media platforms has benefits for consumers and retailers, including a critical aspect a mass website alone can't offer: a personal, spontaneous experience of the product.
Peer review and comment is an important part of social media experience. This yearning for human interaction and real-life experiences via products and services has led to an exponential increase in popularity for other peer-review sites like TripAdvisor, YELP and FourSquare over the last two to three years, says Gustowksi.
With peer-review being one of the fastest growing areas when it comes to purchasing products and services, he maintains companies should seek ways in which customers can easily and quickly be directed to leave reviews across various platforms.
I can personally thank TripAdvisor for helping me avoid many a pungent smelling, cockroach ridden hostel dorm (of which there are plenty such reviews) in favour of air-conditioned, freshly serviced suites when booking my trips abroad.
But there are still some things that us tablet-yielding youngsters prefer not to buy online. And they’re usually the more expensive purchases we get our parents to help us choose, with airfares, cars and expensive clothes being the most frequently mentioned among my peers.
Although we are unlikely to see a reversal in the online trend anytime soon, bricks-and-mortar retailers can take solace in the fact many millennials still value a tactile, humanised shopping experience some of the time.
But just to be safe, retailers should probably maintain a regular flow of delectable photos on Instagram, just to keep us baited.
How poorly handled employee performance reviews damage an organisation 'almost every time’
, 21 November 2013
When the marketing executive, a seasoned professional with 20 years’ experience, came back from her lunch break 15 minutes late, she was stunned to find herself being rebuked by her manager in front of her colleagues. When she countered that she had worked an extra two hours earlier in the week, she was ordered into her boss’s office where she was told there was nothing special about her working late - all her colleagues did it - and that her "outburst" was typical of someone who had never been a team player.
The relationship between the executive and her boss, never close, soured until finally she was informed, in the presence of the company’s human resources director, that she was to be "performance-managed" and was issued with a set of performance indicators by which she would be appraised. As well as having to endure the overbearing scrutiny of her manager, the marketing executive was humiliated when her colleagues were asked to contribute to a "360 degree" assessment of their co-worker.
The besieged executive was horrified to learn that her colleagues believed her to be arrogant, aloof and not a team player. She now surmises that her fair-weather colleagues could see who the winner and loser of this bitter ordeal was going to be, and they nailed their colours to the mast accordingly.
This was the last straw for the executive, who resigned before the performance-management process had run its course. "This was a tight-knit group and I was new to the team, and I wasn’t one for long nights at the pub after work because I had a family to get home to, but it never occurred to me that I was on the outer to that extent," she says. "Suddenly my behaviour, my loyalty and even the quality of my work was being questioned."
Culture shift on its way
Performance management is a one-on-one process between manager and staff member to overcome poor performance, non-compliance with workplace policies or unacceptable behaviour in the workplace. Employees are monitored as they work towards agreed goals and indicators, including regular "performance discussions", but critics argue that the process amounts to "glorified bullying".
Funny they should say that. From January 1, amendments to the Fair Work Act will include provisions against workplace bullying,but not before employers successfully lobbied the previous government to ensure that "reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner", including performance management, was excluded from the definition.
What constitutes "reasonable" remains to be tested, but workplace lawyers and consultants agree that poorly conducted performance-management relationships can resemble workplace bullying, the definition of which hinges on "unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker, or a group of workers, that creates a risk to their health and safety". The Fair Work Ombudsman has even thought it prudent to issue a "best practice guide [for] managing underperformance" to ensure that lines aren’t blurred.
Question your motives
Most companies have at least one performance-management horror story. Peter Holland, associate professor of human resources management at Monash University in Melbourne, has heard many of them - and happy endings are rare. "If you want to damage an organisation, performance management will do it almost every time," he says. "Managers seem to think it’s a disciplinary process; they see it as an opportunity to attack or undermine an employee. It’s a vindictive, targeting measure which managers use as a way to beat an employee over the head and they don’t quite appreciate the damage that it does to the rest of the organisation."
In the example above, the manager and his team members used the process to gang up on an unpopular colleague, but Holland says poorly handled performance management usually alienates employees who feel threatened when a colleague is singled out. Performance management is ostensibly a process aimed at rehabilitating a team member whose performance or behaviour has slipped, but a skittish workplace, feeling the pressure of cutbacks and demands for greater productivity, may fail to see such interventions as positive.
According to a report by the Australian Psychological Society, Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 2013, 47 per cent of working Australians cited workplace issues as a source of stress.
"Performance appraisals and performance management are often handled badly and the casualty is trust," Holland says. "Employees feel that managers don’t trust them, don’t value them, and that’s when morale and motivation go through the floor."
Holland says managers who resort to performance management need to ask themselves how the situation was allowed to deteriorate to such an extent. In many cases, he says, managers confine themselves to annual performance reviews rather than regular informal chats with employees in which emerging performance issues and employee concerns can be picked up and acted upon well before performance management is considered necessary. "It only takes a five-minute chat over a cup of coffee to get a sense of the climate in the workplace and the issues you’re dealing with at an individual level," he says.
Annual cycle is not a feedback loop
Adelaide-based organisational psychologist and management consultant Graham Winter, director of team-building consultant Think One Team International, laments that performance systems, including performance management, will remain in vogue despite providing so few obvious benefits. "The annual performance review is one of the most talked about, least changed human resources practices in business. It’s an absolute sacred cow," says Winter, three-time chief psychologist for the Australian Olympic team. "The annual cycle doesn’t make sense: something done annually doesn’t constitute feedback, but the performance review remains unchallenged."
Winter argues that managers, many of whom are promoted on the basis of their technical proficiency, lack the communication skills to have the conversations with staff that would identify problem areas, set expectations and reduce the need for performance management. He urges corporate clients to institute monthly, or at least quarterly, formal conversations between managers and staff.
He says it’s "cowardly" for managers to "hide behind" annual reviews to raise issues of underperformance, "but it’s an easy technical solution to have a mandated process that you can follow". Performance management is typically the final step in a flawed system. "By the time you get to the performance management stage, it’s too late. At this stage, it’s largely about compliance; it’s a process to go through," Winter says.
"If you’ve reached the point where someone is being performance-managed, eight times out of 10 what will be in the manager’s mind is that if at some point they have to front the industrial tribunal [for unfair dismissal] they will have a documented process to fall back on." Winter hopes that as the imperative to increase productivity continues, corporate leaders will come to understand that the relationship between managers and their reports is critical to achieving greater productivity. "The imperative for organisations at the moment is to be adaptive, to be able to change their business. That’s an opportunity to put the performance conversation at the absolute centre of that."
Good intentions buried
Performance management has a "negative connotation", Adelaide performance coach Jo Saies agrees, but she believes that in most cases this is due to a failure of process.
Saies and her firm PB Performance Coaching provide training in performance management skills, and advise companies on setting up processes that will ensure confrontational and stressful performance management scenarios are avoided. Bad experiences, she says, can usually be attributed to the fact that managers lack the skills and the confidence to have productive conversations with staff.
"Managers are expected to manage performance so it’s important that they are provided with the skills and support to fulfil that role.
"My personal interest is in coaching managers to have conversations with staff individually and frequently, and to be comfortable having those conversations.
"Bringing up an inappropriate outburst that occurred nine months ago in a once-a-year appraisal is not fair on the employee and it certainly isn’t effective."
The director of Melbourne-based leadership consulting firm Ampersand Advisory, Norah Breekveldt, says "performance feedback" is critical to managing and improving performance, but good intentions are often buried in HR red tape. Breekveldt, who has worked as a corporate head of HR in the financial services, supply chain and manufacturing sectors, says poorly designed performance systems are the bane of management.
"When I was in corporate HR, the single biggest HR issue for managers and executives was the performance appraisal system; they pretty well universally loathed it because it was bureaucratic, time-consuming and a real pain to administer," she says.
Skills shortage can create lasting harm
One of her first priorities when joining a new company as head of HR was simplifying existing performance appraisal systems and very often designing new systems from the ground up - a specialty that has served her well in her role as a consultant.
"HR people often over-engineer performance appraisal systems which causes resentment. Poorly designed, overly bureaucratic systems can be demotivating and cause employee disengagement, so simplifying these systems is critical," Breekveldt says.
"Well-designed performance systems, including regular informal feedback conversations, can be a very powerful way to align executives and employees to the business’s objectives."
But Breekveldt echoes the common sentiment that managers typically avoid informal performance conversations because they lack the skills - or because they fear the risk of litigation - and rely on the safety of predictable annual performance appraisals.
Performance management is the last resort in correcting an employee’s performance or behaviour, she says, "but by this time a lot of damage has been done". Breekveldt recommends weekly or fortnightly "catch-ups" between managers and their reports. "All it takes is a 15-minute informal conversation and you have the basis of a trusting relationship," she says. "It’s not that difficult."
Ten things great brands do
Source: Marketing Mag
, 12 November 2013
What do great brands do? Great things! But in this instalment of Karl Treacher’s Brand Talk, you won’t only get that contrived answer, he’ll let you in on the principles that define great brands.
I’m in a tall building in Melbourne talking with a group of senior leaders about their brand. Outside rain pelts the windows, as we sit comfortably ordering a variety of coffees from an in-house waiter. A scene from a medieval king’s court fleetingly pops into my head and I await the predictable command, 'Off with his head!’. At that moment I feel a strong hand on my neck and turn to see the CMO excited to share their latest brand plans and social media strategy. Returning to reality, I make a mental note to stop watching Game of Thrones.
Within a matter of seconds, I am asked a familiar question: 'What makes a great brand?’ The answer to this question is simple: Great brands do great things. Great things for their customers, great things for employees and, as a result, great things for their shareholders. As contrived as that sounds, it is the simple truth. This is the basic strategic objective of all great brands, and there are a series of observable traits that hang off these goals. Some obvious, some less so, and all poorly attended to by the majority of large Australian organisations. Yes, Australian organisations in particular.
The definition of a 'great brand’ is a contentious point, and one that I won’t be tackling in this article. Let’s assume, however, I mean category leaders. Brands that in some way consistently and exponentially benefit humanity, lifestyles and society as a whole.
So what are the common actions and behaviours of the great brands of our time? There are many observable traits. Humans are attracted to lists, however, so here are the Top 10 Secrets of Great Brands (humans also love 'secrets’). [Ed’s note: Karl, if this brand thing doesn’t work out, there’s a job for you writing headlines for Marketingmag.com.au.]
1. Great brands know you
Great brands don’t shirk research and behavioural insights. In fact, they usually invest above the market average in research, monitoring and customer insights. Understanding the human condition and customer behaviour helps brands find valuable opportunities to be useful and relevant to their markets. In a world filled with brands competing for market consideration and preference, it’s the brands that know how to stay relevant that end up on top. A good example is Amazon, which built a formidable customer-centric brand experience piloted in publishing and then turned up the gas to, 'build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online’. (Amazon’s mission statement).
2. They know who they are and why they exist
It is well-known that we now live in an 'experience economy’. Today, leading brands are demonstrating their purpose and value through experiences, with a high degree of authenticity. As recently as 10 years ago it was very common for a brand’s identity to comfortably live on pages in a brand or guidelines book. Many incomplete or outdated. Consumers today are more brand loyal than ever, and expect to see 'under the hood’ in order to best understand a brand’s value and how it aligns with their values, lifestyle and ambitions. Energy, investment and integration of a brand’s identity is now a business performance must.
3. Great brands are meaningfully different
Great brands develop tangible differentiation through deep customer and market insights, not simple creative ideas. We all know brands that have been so determined to be different (no pun), that they either deviated from their core brand image or went places they had no permission going. For instance.
Exhibit A: Adidas 'Shackles’. A basketball boot with plastic shackles that attach to the wearer’s ankles. Purpose? None. Market? Basketball players in the US. See any problems? Reverend Jesse Jackson did, stating, "The attempt to commercialise and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation, where blacks were considered three-fifths human by our Constitution is offensive, appalling and insensitive." Aside from the reference to slavery, the concept did nothing to bring 'meaning’ to the Adidas product or brand experience.
Exhibit B: The i.Beat Blaxx music player from German company TrekStor. No commentary required. Exhibit C: Panasonic’s mascot choice. On launch into the competitive consumer PC market, Panasonic selected Woody Woodpecker as its primary visual asset. In line with the image, it named a flagship touchscreen product 'The Woody’, with the tagline 'Touch Woody’... and a web browsing feature, 'The Internet Pecker’. Different? Yes. Porno? Also yes.
4. Great brands operate end-to-end, inside-out and outside-in
Great brands invest and work tirelessly to make sure the brand is understood and lived inside and out. Making it on the inside is the only way brands 'make it’ on the outside. As the former CEO of IBM, Louis V Gerstner Jr, said, "The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything." Employee and customer touch-point engineering may sound like jargon, but it’s one of the most important ways great brands build advocates. Omni-channel marketing is one thing - great brands aspire to be omnipresent.
5. Great brands are driven and hold their course
Ford, Nike, McDonald’s and Apple are all examples of companies that stand behind their brands. Branding is the marathon of business activity. It is the long game and, as such, requires tenacity. Great brands understand 'brand image creep’, meaning how far the brand can flex, adapt and morph before it becomes off-brand, irrelevant or perhaps even worse, a commodity. The key to holding course is understanding the primary or core market and not being romanced by trends or short- term growth opportunities that interfere with brand relationships. Holding market position means broadening value for market segments, not being the brand for all.
6. Great brands put brand at the heart of their business
Business leaders that learned their trade in the 80s and 90s are at risk of underestimating the return on brand investment. The 80s are recognised as a commodity era where many brands focused heavily on their bottom line at the expense of committed brand differentiation. This led to a 'greying’ around market positioning and consequent commoditisation. Some 30 years on, we still see leaders demanding strategy that is short-term, purely product-led or, in some instances, entirely off-brand.
7. Great brands have a great story, and employees that are well - cast characters
Every great brand has a story, and often a great story. this point) and left, setting up a rival business across the local river. Adi renamed his brand Adidas and in 1948 Rudolf registered his new company, Puma. (I’m relatively sure Adi, like the rest of the world, would have been horrified by the 2012 Adidas Shackles.)
People like to know why and where brands began and who created them. It satisfies our judgement habit, and helps us assess how well a brand meets our values and self-image. Employees that work for brands are in essence 'organic billboards’ for their employer brand. Intentionally or not, employees (particularly customer-facing employees) personify the brands they represent, almost as 'characters’ in a brand production. More studies than I care to reference indicate that an experience with an employee from a service brand is the most significant influencer of brand loyalty... and don’t even start me on business productivity as a result of brand-aligned employee engagement.
* Did you spot that there were only seven points in my top 10 list? What do you think should be the last three? Email - email@example.com
- and he will publish the three most popular suggestions in next issue’s article. (Hint: 'Great brands make and own great promises’.)
Marketing spend out of touch with consumer channel preferences: report
Source: Marketing Magazine
, 6 November 2013
Australian marketers are mis-assigning marketing budgets by chasing measurability instead of actual effectiveness, according to a nation-wide survey conducted by Australia Post.
The researched asked Australian consumers which communications channels they engage with across a variety of industries and customer type scenarios such as switching, existing or new customers, detailing which channels are best for different objectives.
Overall, the top five preferred communications channels were found to be consistent across the demographic groups, but, worryingly, it was found that three of the top five most effective advertising channels have seen a drop in marketing spend over the past several years. The top five were:
Catalogues and flyers,
newspapers and magazines,
radio advertising, and
personalised direct mail.
There was greater variation further down the list of preferred channels for each demographic, the report suggesting this is where marketers can target with a multichannel mix more effectively:
The 10 key findings of the report are:
1. Six out of 10 Australians are receptive to advertising messages,
2. The top five channels consumers consider to be most effective for advertising messages are: catalogues and flyers, TV advertising, press (newspapers and magazines), radio advertising and personalised direct mail,
3. Consumers’ top channel preferences are remarkably consistent across demographics. However, variations further down the rankings can help marketers target a multichannel mix most effectively.
4. Current marketing spend doesn’t match the consumer channel preferences reported. Three of the top five most effective channels experienced a drop in advertising spend in the past year.
5. For industries such as banking and finance and utilities, when consumers are evaluating options, they consider websites and TV advertising to be the most useful channels.
6. For the fashion and supermarket sectors, catalogues and flyers are considered the most useful channel for considering new purchases.
7. For industries such as superannuation, utilities and telecommunications, websites, TV advertising and direct mail are considered the three most useful options when making a final purchase decision.
8. For cross-sell, consumers consider websites and direct mail the two most useful channels.
9. As existing customers, consumers view direct mail and email marketing as the two most useful channels through which to be kept informed.
10. When considering their options for switching and making a final decision, consumers consider websites and direct mail as the most useful channels.
Link to report: http://auspost.com.au/research-oct13-brands.html
Security tips to protect your business
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
, 30 October, 2013
As a small business owner, it is easy to fall into the mindset that cyber criminals target large, wealthy organisations. But small businesses are just as likely to fall victim to increasingly sophisticated targeted attacks as large enterprises. Unfortunately this common mindset can make them an easier target.
Here are some tips to ensure your data is as safe as possible and you don’t become a victim of a security attack.
1. Common passwords are bad passwords
Passwords are your first line of defence when it comes to security. Cybercriminals trying to break into your network will start their attack by trying the most common passwords. Ensure your teams are using long (more than eight characters), complex (include lower case, upper case, numbers and non alpha characters) passwords.
2. Secure every entrance
All it takes is one open door to allow a cybercriminal to enter your network. Just like you secure your home by locking the front door, the back door and all the windows, think about protecting your network in the same way. Consider all the ways someone could enter your network, then ensure that only authorised users can do so. Use a firewall with threat prevention to protect access to your network. Secure your endpoints (laptops, desktops) with security software such as anti-virus, anti-SPAM and anti-phishing and instruct employees not to plug in unknown USB devices.
3. Segment your network
A way to protect your network is to separate it into zones and protect the zones appropriately. One zone may be for critical work only, where another may be a guest zone where customers can surf the internet, but not access your work network. Segment your network and place more rigid security requirements where needed. Public facing web servers should not be allowed to access your internal network. Consider separating your network according to various business functions (customer records, finance, general employees).
4. Define, educate and enforce policy
Have a security policy (many small businesses don’t) and use your threat prevention device to its full capacity. Spend some time thinking about what applications you want to allow in your network and what apps you don’t want to run in your network. Educate your employees on acceptable use of the company network. Make it official. Then enforce it where you can. Do not allow risky applications such as Bit Torrent or other peer-to-peer file sharing applications, which are common methods of distributing malicious software and think about social media while developing policy and excessive bandwidth use.
5. Be socially aware
Social media sites are a gold mind for cybercriminals looking to gain information on people, improving their success rate for attacks. Attacks such as phishing, spearphish or social engineering all start with collecting personal data on individuals. Educate employees to be cautious with sharing on social media sites, even in their personal accounts. Let users know that cybercriminals build profiles of company employees to make phishing and social engineering attacks more successful. Train employees on privacy settings on social media sites to protect their personal information. Users should be careful of what they share, since cybercriminals could guess security answers (such as your dog’s name) to reset passwords and gain access to accounts.
6. Encrypt everything
One data breach could be devastating to your company or your reputation. Protect your informaton by encrypting sensitive data. And make it easy for your employees to do so. Ensure encryption is part of your corporate policy. Sleep easy if laptops are lost or stolen by ensuring company-owned laptops have pre-boot encryption installed and buy hard drives and USB drives with encryption built in. Use strong encryption on your wireless network and protect your data from eavesdroppers by encrypting wireless communication using a virtual private network.
7. Maintain your network like your car
Your network, and all its connected components, should run like a well oiled machine. Regular maintenance will ensure it continues to roll along at peak performance and hits few speed bumps. Ensure operating systems of laptops and servers are updated and uninstall software that isn’t needed so you don’t have to check for regular updates. Update browser, flash, Adobe and applications on your servers and laptops and turn on automatic updates where available
8. Cloud caution
Cloud storage and applications are all the rage. But be cautious. Any content that is moved to the cloud is no longer in your control. And cybercriminals are taking advantage of weaker security of some cloud providers. When using the cloud, assume content sent is no longer private. Encrypt content before sending and check the security of your cloud provider.
9. Don’t let everyone administrate
Laptops can be accessed via user accounts or administrative accounts. Administrative access allows users much more freedom and power on their laptops, but that power moves to the cybercriminal if the administrator account is hacked. Don't allow employees to use a Windows account with administrator privileges for day-to-day activities. Limiting employees to user account access reduces the ability for malicious software (better known as malware) to do extensive damage at the "administrator" privileged level. Make it a habit to change default passwords on all devices, including laptops, servers, routers, gateways and network printers.
10. Address BYOD
Start with creating a bring-your-own-device policy. Many companies avoid the topic, but it’s a trend that will continue.
Consider allowing only guest access (internet only) for employee-owned devices and enforce password locks on user owned devices. Access sensitive information only through encrypted VPN and don’t allow storage of sensitive information on personal devices (such as customer contacts or credit card information). It’s also important to have a plan if your employee loses a device.
The top 50 searched-for local services of 2013
Source: Marketing Mag
, 24 October 2013
Removalists are now the top most-searched-for job category across Australia, moving up from second place to first in the second quarter of 2013.
The report, released today by local service search website Oneflare details the 50 top performing local businesses for the third quarter of 2013. Oneflare pulled data from over 35,000 Australian service providers to provide analysis of all job requests made during the period July to September this year.
The authors were not surprised by the finding that removalists are the most in-demand local service, putting their popularity down to mortgage-financing constraints that prevent some households from home purchase and towards the rental market. "This report reflects the changing trends in Australian business - even businesses operating on a smaller scale," says Marcus Lim, CEO and co-founder of Oneflare.
"Businesses that traditionally only advertised in newspapers are listing online and recognising the importance of online reviews at a phenomenal rate. It’s obvious that demand for these local business services are being met with enthusiasm by the Australian public who expect local businesses to be listed online now more than ever.
"Small businesses are the cornerstone of the economy and this report indicates an increasing propensity for local businesses in your suburb to recognise the power of the Internet and the increased opportunities it affords to generate leads and improve business growth."
Top trends for Q3 2013 identified by Oneflare include:
Removalists are Australia’s top performing home service category and have exhibited growth of over 40% since quarter two of this year. Cleaners are some of the most-searched-for businesses in Australia although job requests for the cleaning industry have slowed down by almost 28%, they still comprise almost 10% of job requests, indicating that the cleaning industry is a booming business.
Business is booming for builders: job requests for the building trade are experiencing steady growth, with a combined growth of over 360% in the number of job requests for builders, concreters, plasterers and glaziers.
More SMBs than ever before listing online: handymen are leading the way with an almost 240% increase in the amount of handymen listing their businesses online, followed closely by fencers (190%), removalists (160%) and landscapers (120%). Increase in outdoor services job requests: demand for outdoor services such as landscaping, gardening, tree lopping and pest control has jumped by over 190% since the second quarter of this year.
Decrease in demand for financial services: unsurprisingly perhaps given the EOFY rush is over, demand for accountants and auditing dropped by 175%.
The Oneflare top 50 jobs and growth by quarter are:
Do staff have more power than bosses?
Source: The Age
, 17 October 2013
Businesses are paying staff 'go away' money rather than go to court. Is this OK?
Employers are paying staff to walk away quietly or turning a blind eye to bad attitudes for fear of sparking unwarranted legal action, experts say. The legislative environment under the previous government that favoured employees has left business owners questioning whether pursuing staff in the courts is worth the hassle. Employers previous government. So what's going on? Richard Clancy, executive director of policy at the Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says that under the Labor government there were a number of legislative changes that "very much tilted the balance in favour of employees".
"The revamped unfair dismissal regime led to nearly 3600 claims against employers each quarter," Clancy says. "The vast majority of these are settled out of court and employers tend to pay 'go away' money rather than incur the expenses associated with defending a claim at a hearing, even if they believe they have not acted unlawfully," he says. "A new body of rights designed to protect employees from 'adverse action' at the hands of their employers has also been introduced, with employers facing a reverse onus of proof if required to defend a claim. In less than three years these claims have risen from 547 per quarter to 888 per quarter."
What's your experience? Who has the power in the workplace?
From January 2014, employers will be subject to a new anti-bullying jurisdiction with employees alleging workplace bullying able to bring a claim to the Fair Work Commission.
"The combination of these expanded rights for workers has meant that businesses are forced to spend more time and money defending allegations, with an ever increasing compliance burden."
Blame Gen Y...again
Trend forecaster Bernard Salt says different generations' expectations about the workplace is contributing to the problem. Salt, a partner at KPMG, says preceding generations had greater family and financial commitments at an earlier age and couldn't afford to be as choosy. "There was more at stake - more to lose." Today's young workers often have a support network by way of baby boomer parents. "There's certainly a sizeable number that would not have that advantage, but we're talking about the largest common denominators of a generation and their behaviour." "As a corporate speaker on generational issues, the hottest topic in 2005, '06, '07 and even 2008 was how to retain Generation Y in your workforce, to the point that Baby Boomers and Generation X were mightily resentful at the power Generation Y exercised in the workforce. If you didn't satisfy their every whim, then they'd toss in their job and head off to London," says Salt. "It's therefore not a reflection on any political party in power - it's a reflection of changing demographics and social behaviour."
Parenting or policy - what's caused people's changing attitudes?
It's probably a bit of both, says Simon Brown-Greaves, organisational psychologist from FBG Group. "We deal with employees and employers and it's a very hot topic," he says, adding that "the psychological contract between business and employee has noticeably shifted." Brown-Greaves said intergenerational differences play a part. "There are different expectations of people entering the workforce now. People's expectations of what a 'good employer' should look like and what they should offer has dramatically changed in the past 10 years," he says. "Employee benefits expectations have dramatically increased, which for small to medium-sized employers makes it extremely difficult. They come in and you think you're interviewing them, but they're actually interviewing you. "They want to know about the health plan, about the massages, about the time off for good behaviour etc ... it's a different type on conversation.
As a business owner himself, Brown-Greaves says he is finding it increasingly difficult to meet these needs. "You wonder whether there is any payoff in terms of productivity or return of value," he says. Brown-Greaves says people need to ask: "What is the difference between doing your job well and going above and beyond?" "The psychological contract has shifted whereby people deliver a bare minimum and 'if you want me to do more then you pay me more or provide additional reinforcements for my behaviour'. "In the past it was a back-end conversation, that is, 'you've done great work for five years so here's something for you', whereas these days it's a front-end conversation, like 'if I work between 9 and 4.30 instead of 9 and 4, what will I get? "I think there is an increasing mismatch between the expectations of employees and employers and the gap is widening."
Ken Roberts: Time to overhaul ad testing, informing creative and performance measurement
Source: Marketing Magazine
, 9 October 2013
Ken Roberts has pioneered the idea that if a communication is to bring about a business outcome then it should be executed based on both implicit and explicit drivers of consumption behaviour - a departure from the thinking that has persisted in the insight that informs the big idea and measures communications efficacy.
Roberts is the CEO and founder of Forethought Research, has over 20 years of experience in marketing research based brand and communications consulting, Roberts has amassed a reputation as a thought leader and innovator in insights and customer research.
Forethought recently earned the Gold David Ogilvy international award for the application of its 'Thoughts and Feelings’ methodology for Kmart Australia and the '1000 Mums’ campaign.
We quizzed Roberts on his view that advertising research needs a revolution.
Marketing: You’ve argued strongly that traditional advertising metrics are in serious need of an overhaul. Could you explain why they falter?
Brands and advertising have been using an out-dated model of communications testing that is heavily skewed towards high-attention and rational messages. What we’ve subsequently learnt is that these old metrics like 'awareness’ and 'recall’ only form a small part of the picture when we examine how consumers decide and how advertising messages are processed and accepted.
What we have failed to do is measure the implicit, or non-conscious, effect of communications and how this impacts on purchase behaviour. And this has arisen from a sizeable knowledge gap about how feeling and emotions do in fact have a significant contribution in how we decide. Cognitive measures and post-rationalised testing still persist; and it is this old line of thinking has failed to acknowledge the advances made in the science of decision making.
So emotion is where the focus needs to be?
Yes, but we need to be wary—the marketing fraternity has recently tuned into the importance of emotions in advertising and decision making. And that’s a positive sign. But it’s like they’ve shown up at the party and ultimately misinterpreted the dress code. The marketing pendulum, as it were, has swung too far in the direction of chasing emotion.
Have marketers leapt at the idea of activating emotions without really understanding it?
Well, it seems marketing has made a precipitated leap onto the emotions bandwagon. But just as advertising should not focus solely on the rational or explicit drivers of consumption, nor should it hoist emotions onto a higher pedestal and be dubbed the sole focus in crafting effective communications.
What implication does this have for creatives and marketers?
First of all, clients and researchers need to engage with what the creatives have believed for many years: that the old-world advertising testing metrics are an inadequate gauge of communications effectiveness. Where traditional research methods for pre-testing are used, implicit advertising is less likely to pass the pre-test measurement process. But the low-attention processing theories put forward by Robert Heath demonstrate that this is simply not the case. An ad doesn’t need to be attention grabbing or memorable in order to be effective.
The traditional metrics leave us with an absence of any real linkages to business outcomes. This is why Forethought has proposed the 'Consumption Drivers Principle’. When the objective of the communication is to drive business outcomes such as gaining market share, the insight underpinning the creative idea and its ensuing performance measurement needs to be informed by both the buyers’ rational and emotional drivers of consumption.
Both the reason to believe and the discrete emotions need to work in tandem to frame the basis for any creative brief.
Does imposing a framework on a brief have an impact on creativity?
I would argue that setting the framework actually validates the work of creatives. The Consumption Drivers Principle is not about policing creativity. It’s about identifying the rational and emotional territory in which to leverage creative ideas that will activate purchase behaviour.
It works to guide the direction of communications onto the right path and allows meaningful tracking of performance on the quantitatively modelled consumption drivers for the category, brand or communication, and most importantly, linkage to business and marketing objectives.
What sort of change does the industry need to undergo in order to adopt more effective inputs to and testing of marketing communication?
Marketers have worked hard over the past 20 to 30 years to educate their executive and board. This education has typically been anchored to 30-year-old, and now out-dated, performance metrics. It’s this knowledge that we must urgently move forward.
Today we can model the relative performance of the consumer’s derived rational and emotive choice drivers and accurately predict changes in market share. Let me say that again: accurately predict change in market share. This offers brands a powerful new source of advantage.
These insights should not only inform the big idea, but be the basis for measuring performance due to the accuracy of data in predicting economic benefit - change in market share (ie. consumption behaviour). We’ve seen Copernican revolutions happen before, and given this advance in research capabilities, I’d suggest we are due for the next revolution in informing creative and communications performance measurement.
Account planners and insights managers are probably best placed to lead the reformation, to educate the clients, the creatives and the wider industry about understanding the mix between the emotional and rational drivers and how they impact on purchase behaviour.
Brands that lead the content marketing charge: how they dominate
Source: Marketing Magazine
, 3 October 2013
'Content is king’ - it’s an annoyingly over-used phrase, yet it captures the essence of the present-day marketing scene.
Nine in 10 organizations market with content and 78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing. And, more than 95% of Australian marketers use content marketing, according to Content Marketing Institute.
Most businesses today invest in content marketing, but are they doing it right? There are no cut-and-dried rules for content strategy and marketing. But this creates open interpretation that can potentially boost or hurt a brand. Perhaps we can learn from those companies serving up best examples. Here are a few brands that are playing the content game right and how you can learn from their success.
American Express: Creating a library of brand-centric content
Applauded by marketers for their social and content initiatives, American Express is an international trailblazer of content marketing. The company has poured time, resources, and energy into inbound marketing channels. Look at American Express Open Forum with its thought-leadership driven resources for start-up founders, businessmen and women, and marketers. Here, one can find community-driven posts and thought-leadership articles on concepts that relate to the American Express card owner.
Check out American Express’ Australia Facebook page: a geo-specific page that serves as a library of information related to commerce, food and wine, pop culture, and other lifestyle content, rather than just having sales-driven updates.
Lesson: Interesting content is one of the top three reasons people follow brands on social media, according to Content Plus. Try to maintain a 10:1 ratio of informational content to promotional content.
Subaru: using traditional content media to drive lifestyle marketing
Subaru publishes a magazine called Drive: The Magazine From Subaru. In recent issues, Drive (not to be confused with Fairfax’s motoring section) offers content that extends past their fleet of Foresters to topics that relate to the Subaru driver: farm-to-table food movements, outdoor getaways and lifestyle topics for the prototypical Subaru owner. Even if they don’t own this particular car, consumers know that Subaru is synonymous with outdoorsy, dog-owning tree huggers. And, through Drive magazine’s content, they are playing to the interests and psychographics of their target audience.
Lessons: There are two primary takeaways for brands in the case of Subaru. One, let audience data drive every aspect of your content marketing. The marketers at Subaru touch upon their audience prototype in all forms of marketing: TVCs, printed ads, website, and Drive. Through Drive, Subaru marketers have created a unique market position by getting to the core of their buyer. Through this understanding, they are able to create brand loyalty through content that speaks to their audience.
The second thing to learn here is to maintain the organic nature of content marketing. Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing - so rather than shoving outbound messages down consumers’ throats, let your content marketing be rogue. EContent recently ran a story on Drive. The article’s author noted: "The best content marketing shouldn’t even be identifiable as content marketing. If you’re doing your job right, the content you produce should be virtually indistinguishable from any other type of content."
Ugg: images speak 1000 words
A picture speaks 1000 words in the case of Ugg (and a video even more). This retailer has a minimalistic website: white space that draws the customers in with highly-saturated product images. Rather than having text-rich posts on their blog, the content is driven by two to three professionally shot images of landscapes, style inspiration, culture, food, and behind-the-scenes footage. The white space provides a backdrop for visitors to zone in on the images, all of which capture the essence of the Ugg brand. Here’s what comes to my mind as I peruse these images: comfortable chic, down-home naturalist, effortless elegance.
Lesson: Never publish a piece of content without a visual. Understand that well-done images evoke emotion, etch a unique brand perception, and lengthen a visitor’s time on page. Content marketing can be highly visual - images, infographics, and video can replace or supplement content to provide a more resonating message. In fact, articles with images get 94% more views, while posts incorporating a video attract three times as many inbound links as blog posts without video.
Coca-Cola: focus on user-generated storytelling
Once upon a time, Coca-Cola invested millions into 30-second advertisements during prime-time TV events. Today, its marketing approach is to lead the charge through organically generated content. Take for instance Coca-Cola’s Australian website: an arena for community conversations, fun grassroots campaigns like the 'Happiness’ campaign, and easy access to the company’s links social media accounts. The company provides the channel to communicate, and its advocates populate the content with personal, unique stories.
Coke recently issued the 'Coca-Cola Content 2020′ plan, sharing how the company will own a disproportionate share of the conversations of popular culture by the year 2020. In the plan, the company affirms how brands must invest in generating great content. To become relevant in the ever-increasing noise of sales pitches and reused copy, you must obey your thirst and lead with dynamic storytelling.
Dynamic storytelling is the process of identifying incremental elements of the brand’s core story, and then dispersing those elements across multiple channels of conversation for purpose of creating a unified brand experience. Your company’s story is the essence of what made your business, not a sales pitch: it’s more about brand attributes and audience psychology. The 2020 plan asserts that you need to tell stories that add value and significance to people’s lives. Additionally, liquid content, as described in the video, are elements of content that move freely but have the same core message.
Lesson: what can you learn from Coca-Cola’s content marketing?
•Lead with content excellence,
•move from one-way storytelling to dynamic storytelling, and
•produce sharable ideas/stories/concepts that earn a disproportionate share of popular culture (own a topic).
Is your brand engaging in these tactics? Content marketing can be executed by just about anyone - but its success lies in the strategy. So here are some takeaways:
•Create a library of interactive content with long-tail, brand-oriented subjects,
•consider non-digital media for your content efforts,
•compliment content with imagery or video, and
•let your visitors/users drive the discussion.
The difference between a business coach and a business mentor
Source: My Business Magazine
, September 23 2013
People seem to freely interchange the titles 'business coach’ and 'business mentor’, but there is a difference, and business owners aren’t aware of what that difference is, explains Alex Pirouz.
Do you think you might need one but are really not sure whether a business coach or business mentor would suit or what the difference is? It is easy to become confused about the differences between coaching and mentoring when in fact there are some very specific distinctions.
Business coaches are far more action-oriented; they help you get things done. Their role is usually to teach a new skill or make changes that will improve a particular desired outcome. Coaches are usually regarded as equals to you but with a specific skill that you require developing.
Many coaches are affiliated to franchise groups with excellent tools and processes at their disposal. I know of many excellent coaches and indeed refer to them when I need their help with a particular skill. For example, you may have great people skills but be hopeless at selling. This is very common. An action-oriented business coach could teach successful selling techniques so that when the business coach is no longer needed the skills are left behind in your business.
Business mentors on the other hand are a totally different breed. They are often senior in experience, have led successful business lives and carved out careers building, running and owning businesses. They impart knowledge, gently guide and challenge the entrepreneur’s ideas based on years of experience. Mentors are best if you are looking for someone to turn to in a crisis, simply bounce ideas off, provide guidance or even inspire you. In most cases, mentoring programs are measured in confidence, less mistakes, better decisions and improved leadership ability. Coaching programs are usually measured in direct benefits such as more sales, less complaints, and lower costs.
The difference between coaching and mentoring isn’t clear-cut. A mentor may draw on a number of approaches: teaching, coaching, and counseling. Indeed it can be argued that these areas often occupy the same developmental space. There are three significant, clear cut differences between mentoring and coaching:
•Differentiator #1: Coaching is task-oriented. The focus is on concrete issues, such as managing more effectively, speaking more articulately, and learning how to think strategically. This requires a content expert (coach) who is capable of teaching the coachee how to develop these skills. Mentoring is relationship-oriented. It seeks to provide a safe environment where the mentoree shares whatever issues affect his or her professional and personal success. Although specific learning goals or competencies may be used as a basis for creating the relationship, its focus goes beyond these areas to include things, such as work/life balance, self-confidence, self-perception, and how the personal influences the professional.
•Differentiator #2: Coaching is short-term. A coach can successfully be involved with a coachee for a short period of time, maybe even just a few sessions. The coaching lasts for as long as is needed, depending on the purpose of the coaching relationship. Mentoring is always long-term. Mentoring, to be successful, requires time in which both partners can learn about one another and build a climate of trust that creates an environment in which the mentoree can feel secure in sharing the real issues that impact his or her success. Successful mentoring relationships last nine months to a year.
•Differentiator #3: Coaching is performance driven. The purpose of coaching is to improve the individual’s performance. This involves either enhancing current skills or acquiring new skills. Once the coachee successfully acquires the skills, the coach is no longer needed. Mentoring is development driven. Its purpose is to develop the individual not only for the current job, but also for the future. This distinction differentiates the role of the immediate manager and that of the mentor. It also reduces the possibility of creating conflict between the mentoree and the mentor.
There are a wealth of good and bad business mentors and business coaches. The best thing to do is contact a few or conduct research and try to establish their value to your business. A word of mouth referral would be the best guide or to look at references and testimony. My rule of thumb tip for choosing a business mentor or business coach is to decide if you need strategic help or tactical help. Business mentors are more strategically focused than business coaches. Business mentors are longer-term business partners. Or if you are lucky you will find a "Coator’, A Coach and Mentor all in one, someone who has skill sets in both these categories.
Beware of the Big New Idea
Source: Marketing Magazine,
17 September 2013
Recently I had the pleasure of competing in the 'Battle of the Big Thinkers’ at Circus - The Festival of Commercial Creativity in Sydney. Now, a long time ago I said to a mate, "If I wanted applause I would have joined the circus" - a statement that now seems prophetic, as that’s exactly what I received after winning my bout. The rules of the fight required us to deliver a knockout 15-minute Big New Idea presentation that was then voted on by an audience of creative professionals to determine a winner. Here’s what I said...
Beware of the Big New Idea
Big thinking. A big paradigm shift. A big idea about creativity’s role in business. That’s a formidable challenge. Well, first let me say...I’m sorry.
In the tradition of any Kiwi sportsman competing in Australia I might as well concede defeat before I start. I’m sorry as I have no big new idea. No profound insight that will shake the foundations of conventional wisdom. One week before attending the festival I thought I did have an idea. It was centred on the transformative role of design. Up until that time, I was convinced of the power of design thinking to transform business performance. I was going to be generous with our intellectual property - I was going to share our transformation process, peppered with illuminating case studies.
Cases such as how we’re working with New Zealand Post to revolutionise the experience of sending from confusion to clarity, an experience we co-created with customers.
How for Air New Zealand we’ve helped bust the drudgery of airport queues with a world-first express check-in experience. And transformed the nightmare of cattle class into the joy of 'cuddle class’.
And how we’ve shifted Telecom retail from selling handsets off the wall to selling with engaging learning environments designed around the user’s world.
All of which were aimed to demonstrate simply that 'design is a good idea’.
But it appears it isn’t so.
A week before the festival, disaster struck. I was checking my email and I clicked on a Fast Company link and there it was, to my horror! A blog by design commentator Bruce Nussbaum. The headline read:
'Design thinking is a failed experiment. So what’s next?’
The last 10 years of my life flashed by in an instant. All my professional endeavours had been for nothing. Design thinking, it appears, was making way for a new 'conceptual framework’, CQ, or creative intelligence. It was the worse news I could have received days before speaking at this conference.
I was in deep trouble. I needed a newer, bigger, brighter, better, 10%-less-fat idea and I needed it fast.
A very long shower failed to provide any revolutions, so I went to the Big New Idea trailblazers of our industry for inspiration.
I started with the godfather of ideas, Kevin Roberts - the first person to recognise that 'brand loyalty’ was an expired notion and whose 'love mark’ idea provided the answer to marketers around the word.
I consulted John Howkin’s 2001 bestseller, The Creative Economy, a brilliant book that became a user’s guide to making money from creativity.
And finally, Good to Great by the legendary Jim Collins, in which he concluded that the common secret of great companies was that they all had a single organising idea.
The list goes on. Just search 'design thinking’ on Goodreads.com and you get 459 titles.
A stark realisation was sinking in.
With so much already written on the subject, the obvious question arises: is there any room or, indeed, need for another Big New Idea in the lexicon of design?
Then it hit me like a left hook to the temple. Many of these Big New Ideas were just variations on the same theme, the same idea repackaged in a new form.
Why do people feel compelled to constantly reclassify the same basic concept with new terminology? Why do they try and validate their new idea by claiming that the previous big idea was a failure?
Perhaps because the reality is most game-changing ideas don’t start out big at all.
They come from humble beginnings and with any luck grow. But sadly they often wither on the vine because they fall into the 'too hard’, 'too expensive’, or 'are-you-crazy?’ baskets.
Invariably it’s not the idea that’s the issue. It’s the difficulty organisations have with embracing new thinking and driving the operational changes required to commercialise them successfully.
I believe we need to shift our focus from obsessing over the next Big New Idea to finding ways to help businesses successfully implement what we call 'everyday innovation’ - the many small ideas that cumulatively lead to transformational change.
When Steve Jobs was asked why the iPod was such a phenomenal success he didn’t claim it was a brilliant new idea - it wasn’t. He simply replied, "We got it into the shops." He understood that brilliant implementation was the key to its success.
So what’s the problem?
In my experience, many businesses are just not built to leverage creativity. While they embrace the concept, they’re too often governed by rational and risk averse people and processes.
Business choices are too heavily informed by category conventions, overseas best practice or traditional consumer research that, at best, give them a clear picture of what’s in the rear-vision mirror.
So what are the climatic conditions in businesses that do embrace design-led thinking and use it to drive successful innovation, or even reinvention?
I’ve looked back over my 30 years of experience with clients, at where we’ve been successful and where we’ve failed, and I’ve concluded that the difference between success and failure boils down to six vital ingredients. I’ve called these the 'ideal growing conditions’. Together they seem to create the right ecosystem for transformative thinking to become reality.
1. An impending crisis
Transformation is more likely to happen when a company is operating under an expired business model and there is open recognition that the status quo is no longer sustainable. When it’s unavoidably clear that the organisation can no longer just communicate its way out of the problem, the time has arrived for fundamental change.
2. A visionary leader
A business in crisis is a business in need of a visionary leader. These are individuals who enthusiastically embrace the need for change. People with absolute clarity about where they want to go and the ability to communicate it in a way that inspires others.
3. A new business strategy/model
Visionary leaders inspire new thinking and are able to facilitate agreement around setting a new direction. They ask the tough questions: what is our higher purpose? What business are we in? What market niche should we own? What shared values work for all stakeholders? And they invite participation in the process of finding a solution.
4. The mavericks inside
Visionary leaders need inspired followers. These are the true believers, the passionate champions of change inside an organisation. They are brave and energetic flag carriers for the cause. These are the people we seek out in our work. We love them - they get things done!
5. A pioneering spirit
Mavericks by nature are pioneers. They love going somewhere new. This may mean breaking some rules along the way - the rules of the 'old business’ and the rules of the category. A pioneering spirit takes us to the far side of a brand where we discover the new. Which brings me to the final but perhaps most important attribute...
Rule breaking means risk taking. The key is managing the risk and overcoming the fear of the unknown. It’s about being informed by research, not led by it. It means 'launching to test’ using the consumer as a designer. Co-creating, prototyping, live testing, improving and then perfecting. This all takes courage.
So there you have it. The six attributes I look for in a client when embarking on a transformation project. In conclusion, my proposition to you is this: beware of the Big New Idea. Don’t be paralysed by the pursuit of it. Don’t wait idly for the light-bulb moment. Get on and nurture the right growing conditions for everyday innovation to flourish. And focus on implementing brilliantly!
Lenovo research reveals key IT trends impacting SMEs
Source: My Business Magazine, September 12, 2013
New research by personal technology company Lonovo has revealed that only 30 per cent of Australian and New Zealand SME business owners have a BYOD policy, and that uncertainty still exists regarding the benefits of the cloud.
The research, commissioned by Lenovo and conducted by AMI Partners, provides a snapshot into the everyday pain points of SMEs and reveals the areas of business they are struggling with the most. It found that the number one challenge affecting more than half of SMEs surveyed (58 per cent) is how to increase and grow sales. This was closely followed by improving productivity, cost reduction and efficiencies (56 per cent) and having access to capital, loans and financing (54 per cent). From a talent and culture perspective, 54 per cent of SMEs grapple with improving employee productivity, while 51 per cent struggle with hiring and retaining a desired quality of staff.
According to the research, the concept of BYOD is becoming more pervasive amongst SMEs. More than half of respondents (53 per cent) have already instituted an IT buying policy for tablets and notebooks when buying them for employee use. Additionally, 30 per cent of SMEs allow employees to buy their own devices to bring to the office and are reimbursing for their usage for business.
When asked about mobility, SMEs feel that the introduction of tablets has increased the need for access and security of a business’ data. Amongst SMBs, tablets are viewed as an alternative to buying a new notebook or ultrabook and have fostered an after-market for keyboards and other add-on devices. Scalability, specific business focus, brand and cost are all top of mind issues when deploying tablets within a small business, and cloud technologies present a unique opportunity to address these concerns.
Currently SMBs are in a testing phase with cloud computing and users tend to integrate cloud solutions with on-premise ones or are deciding on a case-by-case basis. SMBs tend to be using the cloud for basic functions such as storage, however there is a growing appetite for more sophisticated solutions such as employee collaboration via IT; the automation of various business applications; and using remotely managed IT services and support to satisfy the requirement and greater usage of IP-based applications.
"The research demonstrates that SMEs are struggling with a number of business headaches," said Matt Codrington, Managing Director, Lenovo, Australia and New Zealand. "There is a huge opportunity for SMEs to use technology such as cloud computing, BYOD and mobility to accelerate business performance and eradicate some efficiency problems.
"While SMEs manage the business, the potential of technology sits a little on their periphery. They just don’t have the time to consider solutions such as convertible devices or cloud computing that can help them manage costs and grow. There is a huge opportunity for SMEs to run their businesses more efficiently using these technologies."
How to Take Risk Out of Your Company
Source: Inc Magazine, September 12, 2013
It's simple: High-risk companies sell for less. Low-risk companies sell for more. Here's how to convince a buyer that your company is low-risk.
Every day, thousands take small risks in hopes of getting a big reward. They are known as gamblers. They purchase lottery tickets, visit casinos, go to horse races, and place small bets. Most of these people do not risk much, but if they win, the reward can be huge. However, those huge casinos in Vegas were not built based upon what they paid out to winning gamblers. They were built on what they took from gamblers.
Risk versus. reward is the oldest game in investing and in life. Without risk, there is no reward. However, potential buyers of your business are not gamblers. As a business owner thinking about selling your business you need to mitigate the risk faced by potential buyers in order to maximize your own reward.
Buyers search for companies that offer low risk and high rewards. They want to purchase high-performing companies, but are not interested in assuming high risks. This is why buyers perform lengthy and detailed due diligence on any company they consider purchasing. If you want to sell your company for the maximum price, there are several things you can do to mitigate risk, maximize values, and assure the transaction closes.
Make due diligence easy
Potential buyers are going to dig deep into your financials. Make sure they are up-to-date and easy to understand. If you use an outside accounting firm or service, alert them so that they are prepared for the due diligence process.
Limit technology risks
Most successful businesses rely upon technology to operate efficiently. To minimize risk and maximize value, keep the technology your company uses up-to-date. You want to be able to demonstrate that your technology is current and has a long life span. This assures potential buyers they will not have to purchase new, expensive technology after the sale closes.
Reduce market risks
Nothing makes a buyer feel more secure than a big backlog of orders from a diverse customer base. Reduce your market risk by building long-term relationships with customers and ensuring that sales are generated from multiple customers, not just one. Geographic customer diversity also helps reassure buyers of future sales stability.
Minimize management risks
Potential buyers need the expertise and experience you and your team bring to the business. Your institutional knowledge is often priceless. Minimize management risk by building a strong management team. Add key personnel if necessary - especially in the financial management area. Many buyers do not want to run the business. They will depend upon you and your team to continue running and building the business after the sale. Minimize management risks and you will enhance company value.
Buyers do not calculate risk by looking at each factor independently. They multiply the factors together. You may have strong financials, amazing technology and a great team, but if the majority of your sales come from one customer, the entire value of the company can easily drop dramatically. Likewise, having a strong diversified customer base can be devalued by poor financials or old technology. Buyers measure risk and ascertain value by combining how well your company measures up on all factors.
Buyers do not commonly invest in high-risk deals. Even when the high risk could equate to a higher return, they normally seek safer ground. The high-risk companies sell for less, while low-risk companies sell for a premium.
The final sale and value of a company involves more than risk evaluation. It is also a question of reality versus perception. If a buyer perceives a risk, the seller must immediately address that perception. The ideal way to reduce the perception of risk is to address any questions: directly, thoughtfully, confidently, and candidly. The more you can reduce the perception of risk the more likely the deal will close and company value will be maximized.
Don’t roll the dice with the sale of your company. Reduce or eliminate risks that could jeopardize the sale. Be prepared, and consult with investment bankers, attorneys, financial advisers and others who specialize in selling businesses. Then, you can minimize risk and maximize value when you sell your business.
Developing a customer experience strategy
Source: Marketing Magazine, 5 September
Customer’s today are dealing with a complex array of digital channels and messages. Social media, websites, mobile apps, email and in-store digital displays are all playing a part in the brand experience - and on top of this is the different types of content each of these channels distribute like text, audio, interactivity and video.
From a brand’s perspective the communication space has become so fragmented and is evolving so fast that most digital strategies are out of date before they are signed off. For many businesses trying to deal with this complexity they have started to move beyond channel based strategies and towards more holistic multi-channel customer experience strategies.
Another factor influencing the need for businesses to focus on the entirety of the customer experience, from end to end, is that it’s reached a point in their development where customer acquisition is not the core measure of success. Obviously as a business scales up acquiring new customers is key to success, particularly for consumer-facing brands. But as a company matures, and the market they play in becomes more competitive, retention becomes as important - if not more so. Retaining and understanding current customers is the key to discovering new revenue opportunities and increasing the overall lifetime value of each customer.
This is where customer experience strategy and design becomes vital for the businesses continued growth and success. While a marketing focused digital strategy will focus mostly on the awareness raising aspect of the customer journey a customer experience strategy looks at whole process - and is designed around developing long term relationships.
As a business leader there are essentially two ideas to get your head around if you are about to start down the path of a customer experience, or customer-centric, strategy.
The first is learning to think like a customer. This is not as easy as it sounds. For example, your marketing and branding will have set expectations about how they will be treated and what the customer will receive. From there the customer will interact with your brand in some way. The result of this interaction will be the experience the customer has, and this well elicit and emotion, ranging from delighted to angry, which will determine how the relationship they have with your brand will evolve. They more you understand this journey the better you can manage the resulting relationship.
And this brings us to the second concept: that customer experience design needs a process. The customer journey discussed above is the first step. Then you need to do deeper discovery, build out some concepts, test and validate and finally implement. This is not something you design and push out to market as a finished product. You need to be agile. The end result is all about your customers so they need to be part of the process.
Digital technologies are disrupting many industries but for each there are also new revenue opportunities to be had. A customer experience strategy is a fast way of uncovering the untapped revenue in your business.
Millennial Managers Seen as 'Entitled’
Source: Entreprenuer.com, 5 September
Like your new, young, manager? If you said no, you've got lots of company.
Generation Y managers are widely perceived as entitled, and score significantly lower as hard-working team players in newly released research from EY, the global firm that includes Ernst & Young LLP.
That's especially striking since members of Gen Y, or the millennial generation, which EY defines as people aged 18 to 32, are moving into management at a rapid pace. Some 87 percent of Gen Y managers in the EY survey took on a new management role, between 2008 and 2013, compared with 38 percent of Gen X managers and just 19 percent of those aging baby boomer managers.
Gen Y workers, including managers, now make up about a third of the U.S. workforce, according to Karyn Twaronite, EY's Americas inclusiveness officer. And at EY itself, which hires thousands of young recruits every year, Twaronite says the workforce is almost two-thirds Gen Y.
So if 68 percent of that age cohort is perceived as "entitled and concerned primarily about individual promotion," as the EY survey found, that's an issue.
Entitled workers, those who feel they are owed things from their organization and that their excellence is a given, are less likely to lead teams effectively and advocate for subordinates.
A 2010 study by Paul Harvey, then an assistant professor of management at the University of New Hampshire, found that entitled employees are more likely to feel frustrated on the job and to lash out at colleagues.
"The frustration experienced by entitled workers appears to stem from perceived inequities in the rewards received by co-workers to whom psychologically entitled employees feel superior," Harvey said.
Part of Gen Y's management problem may just be inexperience. The next older cohort, Gen X, ages 33 to 48, were perceived as the strongest managers by 70 percent of survey respondents, Twaronite said.
"That's even more than boomers," Twaronite said. "Only 5 percent said Gen Y was prepared to lead." But if managers think this is something that will simply fix itself, they are mistaken, she said. "I would caution companies from thinking this is generational gibberish," Twaronite said. "There is a real shift."
She thinks companies need to be helping their Gen Y managers develop more positive management qualities.
Fewer than half of Gen Y members expect to be working standard office hours five to 10 years from now. The good news is that Gen Y members are perceived as tech savvy, and smart about ways to leverage social media. They are also seen as inclusive leaders who display what EY calls "'diversity" skills, or the ability to build culturally competent teams."
And they come across as enthusiastic and adaptable, qualities that may help them shift gears so that in a future survey, fewer than the current 36 percent of respondents may say they are hard to work with.
Gen Y members are also quite ambitious. Twaronite points out that they view promotions as a perk more highly than their older counterparts—and Gen Y women value them more than Gen Y men.
"It really demonstrates that the next generation of women leaders are really serious about their careers," she said.
Looking further ahead, there may be even more good news. "I have read in the research that the generation coming up behind Gen Y will tend to be much more conservative," Twaronite said. They appear to be less likely to change jobs as often, for example.
If they can get that entitlement thing under control, that will really be something to anticipate.
Eight myths about Gen Y that leaders must understand
Source: Business Review Weekly, 22 August 2013
Generation Y often gets a bad rap. The various adjectives used to describe this group of teens and 20-somethings are rarely complimentary: lazy, entitled, disrespectful, technology-addicted and high maintenance, to name a few.
Yet Generation Y is here to stay. By most definitions it runs from the early 1980s to the late 1990s, making it a larger generation than its predecessor Generation X.
Currently Generation Y makes up 15 per cent of the workforce, but social researcher Michael McQueen says this is forecast to reach 42 per cent within 15 years.
In many industries, such as technology, there is a race to attract younger employees, and that is raising the working conditions for all staff.
With that in mind, business leaders in older generations need to get to grips with how to manage and work with Gen Y. It’s time to bust a few myths and explain where the real challenges lie.
1. Gen Y is lazy - FALSE
McQueen says Generation Y is not lazy but they do have a different attitude to work than their parents.
"There’s a myth that Gen Y are lazy and don’t have any work ethic and that’s a view sometimes held by the baby boomers who wear their lack of work-life balance sometimes as a badge of honour," McQueen says. "The fact that Gen Y have grown up seeing the heart attacks, strokes, broken marriages in their parents, often because of a lack of balance, means they are starting their careers wanting that flexibility and balance."
2. To impress Gen Y, act like them - FALSE
McQueen says many managers have the idea that they need to act like Generation Y in order to impress them - but it is more likely to have the opposite effect.
"There’s an idea that Gen Y want older generations to be like them, and we hear the phrase "generational transvestite", where you see older generations trying to be like the younger generation they are dealing with, and that’s not effective," McQueen says. "You don’t have to be like them or dress like them or talk like them, just be yourself. For a lot of leaders that’s just a relief, because they can be themselves, and it is far more endearing for Gen Y if you’re authentic."
McQueen says this doesn’t mean that, for example, a tech-savvy Gen X leader needs to defer to their younger colleagues on technology. "They don’t have to shy away from that but they don’t have to put it on," he says.
3. Gen Y is disrespectful and not looking for leadership - FALSE
McQueen says it is a myth that Gen Y is disrespectful, but they don’t tend to bestow respect based on hierarchy, they tend to treat it as something that is earned.
And while many people believe that Gen Y is self-sufficient, they are actually yearning for leadership and mentoring. "It’s such a key driver for this group, wanting to connect with adult figures, particularly leaders," he says.
4. Gen Y is unreliable - TRUE
McQueen says there is truth to the notion that Gen Y is unreliable, at least from the perspective of older generations. But it comes down to a different way of looking at the world rather than an inherent character flaw. "They don’t think about and plan for the future in a linear way, they are far more responsive and reactive and don’t want to commit," he says.
5. Gen Y can’t cope with failure - TRUE
McQueen says that members of Generation Y are often not as resilient as older generations and they can take failure, and even little setbacks, very hard. "Often when life or work gets difficult, they see it as evidence that they’re on the wrong track and there’s something wrong with them," McQueen says. "If they don’t get the promotion or they lose their job or something happens personally that’s challenging, often the resilience skills aren’t there as it is with older generations who were raised being told that life is meant to be difficult so suck it up."
6. Gen Y is technology-addicted - TRUE
McQueen says Gen Y has a compulsion to use devices and stay connected to the internet that is much stronger than in previous generations, and this can cause challenges in the workforce.
"They are technology addicted and being switched off or disconnected is one of their greatest fears, and that can creep into the workplace, where the idea of not being able to check messages for more than two minutes is just inconceivable," he says.
EMC Australia and New Zealand managing director Alister Dias says good technology is a vital recruitment tool.
"In our customers’ businesses or even in our own business, when it comes to technology there’s no doubt in Australia there’s still a war for talent," Dias says. "Companies are scrambling to reskill themselves and reskill their people, but part of that is also embracing the next generation of employee.
McQueen adds that this is by no means a white-collar phenomenon.
"The blue-collar companies I work with are really striving to keep up with mobile technology too," McQueen says. "If you think of anyone from pest controllers to electrical contractors, the companies still using job sheets or paper-based invoicing are finding it harder to attract young people to work for them. The companies where, say, everything is done on a mobile app . . . they tend to be the ones attracting the Gen Ys. It seems to be across the board as far as I can see."
Certainly companies that use technology to enable flexible working practices such as mobility and remote working are the ones that usually score best in BRW’s Best Places to Work.
7. Gen Y is high-maintenance - TRUE
McQueen says there is truth to the notion that Generation Y is high-maintenance, needing constant affirmation. He cites a study in the US where Gen Y employees were surveyed about how often they want praise from their boss and 60 per cent said once a day would be great and 35 per cent said two to three times a day would be preferable.
"This generation can often be high maintenance," McQueen says. "There is a constant need for external validation and feedback and often a lack of ability to deal with negative feedback or constructive criticism that can be seen as a personal attack."
However, McQueen blames the baby-boomer parents for this one.
"Having grown up in the self-esteem era, being told their whole lives that they’re special, magnificent and wonderful, all the positive praise means that they crave that constantly," he says.
8. All of the above are generalisations - TRUE
"Anyone who draws a hard line and says 'this is how it is’ is wading into horoscope territory," McQueen says.
He explains that the research paints broad trends based on influences in the formative years, such as patterns of attitudes in society and trends in technology.
Every individual member of Gen Y is different and there are also broad differences between those born to baby-boomer parents and those raised by Generation X who tend to be less scheduled and give greater freedom.
Source: Marketing Mag, 19 August 2013
"If a word in the dictionary were misspelled, how would we know?" - Steven Wright
Sometimes your spell check just doesn’t do the trick. In a famous incident in 2007, American basketball team West Virginia had just won the NIT Championship. Like other championship winners, the team put on their celebratory T-shirts to mark the win. Problem was, the t-shirt designer left out an 'i’ when spelling their name.
For all and eternity, they are now known as the West Virgina NIT Champions. Not exactly the lasting legacy they had in mind.
It’s amazing how many times you see simple spelling oversights happen - on billboards, advertisements and packaging. A missing letter, poor punctuation or the wrong spelling can turn a serious campaign into a laughing stock. You end up with egg on your face and an unhappy client.
Now, I have to put my hand up and admit that I’ve been on the wrong side of the spelling fence. A few years ago, when describing how my client could alleviate the concerns of their customers, I stated with confidence that they would provide them added 'piece’ of mind. Giving their customers a piece of their mind was not exactly what I was trying to say. I certainly had to make 'peace’ with my client after that slip up.
No one wants to be in that situation. Not only is it incredibly embarrassing - especially if your job is to write copy - it can be very costly. Both for the project and the relationship with your client.
So, in the spirit of helping others avoid similar spelling shame, here’s my top five most common errors to look out for when writing or proofing your next headline, tagline or body copy. See if you can spot them.
When its wrong, its wrong
I’d be a millionaire if I could receive a dollar every time its or it’s appear incorrectly. The clear rules are that it’s is an abbreviation for it is - it’s going to be a great night. Its is the possessive of it - the club and its members. A simple double-check is to replace the apostrophe with an i - as in it is. If the sentence doesn’t make sense (the club and it is members), you know which version to use.
Not very accomodating
This is a perennial hall-of-famer. No matter how many times I’ve corrected accommodation over the years, it still keeps popping up. Most common form is to forget the second 'm’, as in accomodation, but acommodation also gets a run. And hotel chains are often the worst offenders!
Here’s another one that often slips through. Especially in headlines. Just remember that your is the possessive adjective relating to you - can I help with your spelling? And you’re is the contraction of you are, as in you’re looking good. It never hurts to always do the double-check.
Alot of problems
A lot comes up a lot as being misspelled. For some reason it’s a phrase that people are convinced is one word. Simple answer: it’s not. In fact it doesn’t exist. A lot is the opposite of a little. And allot means to give out.
The principal of it all
Having worked with a number of educational clients, I’ve had a lot of practice getting this right. But it’s amazing how many people get it wrong. To choose between principal and principle, the easiest way to remember is a principal usually refers to a person (as in a pal), such as the head of a school or organisation. The other principle refers to a rule. So, the principal was very strong in teaching the principle of leadership. You get the drift.
I’m sure there’s plenty more spelling goofs that spring to mind as you’re reading this. The important thing when writing is to proof, proof and proof again - and don’t rely on the spell check to get you through. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Also, if you have written the copy it’s always a good idea to have someone else proof it. The closer you are the greater chance your eye will gloss over any mistakes that were there from the start.
Make sure your copy is remembered for all the right reasons - not the wrong ones.
Seven steps to being Zen at work
August 14, 2013
SLOW down. Do less. You'll actually be more productive.That's the advice of cognitive psychologist Dr Stephen McKenzie, who said the way most of us spend our workdays amid a barrage of emails, tweets and meetings, while wolfing down lunch in front of a screen is leading to an "epidemic of mindlessness" that is ruining our ability to think. "We rush around often from one mistake to another. Mindfulness is about connecting with one thing at a time, rather than doing six things at once," he said. Dr Mckenzie advocates being mindful at work - a concept that involves giving your full attention to the task at hand before moving on to the next thing. "It's very simple. It's being able to give our full attention to what we want to give it to rather than being distracted by our thoughts .... It's being connected with reality," he said. Below are Dr McKenzie's seven tips (the optimum number for your brain to remember) which if practised daily, should have you shredding that to-do list in no time.
1. Know your limits - One of the main reasons people can get stressed at work is trying to be all things to all people. Instead, Dr Mckenzie said a great tip is to put a note on the fridge or somewhere prominent you will see each morning reminding yourself of who you are and want to be. "Knowing ourselves starts with our knowing what we're not. We're not just our miserable thoughts or our problematic body or our identification with our awful or wonderful job. What we really are is fully connected to whatever we're doing right here and right now," he said.
2. Treat each day as new Dr McKenzie said the first few seconds after you wake up each morning, before you smash your alarm clock and bury your head under the pillow, is the optimum state you should try and hold on to throughout the day. "Every morning when we wake up we all have a period of peace that lasts from about two microseconds - too short to notice - to all day. In this state we are just being - we're not being a particular individual identity with a whole lot of ideas about a whole lot of stuff such as what I have to do at work today and with whom." A good tip is to try and treat colleagues as if you're meeting them for the first time - without any preconceived ideas about who is difficult to work with or what might cause a problem. "That can be a powerful thing that can get in the way of working with someone. It gives us the opportunity to work effectively with people who we think we can't work effectively with," he said.
3. Think about what you're doing - Modern offices can often seem purpose built for maximum distraction with constant emails, messages, phone calls and an open-plan layout making it difficult to get things done. "We mistake busyness for productivity," Dr McKenzie said. "We think if we have all these things happening we'll be more productive but we're actually doing less. The multi-tasking that's become fashionable is about doing lots of things badly rather than one thing well." He said it's crucial to focus on the task in front of you, whether it's eating your breakfast or typing an email. "Give full attention and see what it tastes like, if it's better than when we're distracted," he said.
4. Take your time - Although it might seem like you're working slower, taking your time to pause between activities is the perfect chance to mentally switch gears and make things more productive in the long run. Dr McKenzie said when people are stressed they tend to have "a shallow way of perceiving things", which doesn't help when it comes to tasks that require creative thinking or deep thought. He said the best thing to do is break between jobs, whether it's to get a drink, take a walk or a few deep breaths to shake out the cobwebs.
"People do it naturally by having a cup of tea but be more deliberate about that," he said. "It's introducing a punctuation mark which makes sense of our day instead of just scrambling off."
5. Do something for someone else - "Service is almost as unfashionable these days as lard, but if we do things for others it means that we're expanding our personal lives," Dr McKenzie said. Listening to other people's ideas, rather than telling them what they want to hear can also be a great way to build better relationships with colleagues.
"We can start our working day practising our mindless misery - by resenting everything we do and everyone we do it with - or we can start our working day practising mindful happiness and productivity - by doing things for, rather than to other people."
6. Question your reasons for doing things - It's easy to get stuck in your ways about likes and dislikes, with stress and anxiety making it hard to think in the workplace. However it's a good idea every now and then to challenge your own beliefs in order to understand other perspectives. "Try starting the day practising being reasonable rather than reactive, and a great way to start this is by really tuning into the people or whomever who we start the day with - this will help us realise that life is more reasonable when we're mindful enough to realise that people have reasons for what they do."
7. Have a sense of wonder
While years working in a corporate environment is enough to kill the sense of childlike wonder in most workers, Dr McKenzie said remembering to smell the roses will help improve productivity. "Three-year-olds don't miss out on what's happening right here and now because they're worried about what the stock market might do today. Three-year-olds are naturally mindful because they aren't jaded by life, and we can all remember and therefore return to this state of full aliveness, simply by fully connecting with what is," he said.
The shy guy's guide to networking*
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, August 14, 2013
There's no backing out. You walk into the room, sign in and take your badge. You quickly scan for people you might know and find no one. The host is leaning into a group of people, deeply engaged in conversation. The function is half an hour old and the room is already a heaving mass of anecdotes, big bellies and 30-second job descriptions. Bored in advance, you only just manage to stifle a yawn. Your gaze shifts down to your feet, in the hope of seeing a hole in the floor that might just open up wide enough to swallow you whole. No such luck. Yes, it's another networking function, and no place for the faint-hearted. How do you work this room if you're not a 'people person'? First, recite to yourself a few lines from that wonderful self-help song from 1986 by The Smiths:
"Shyness is nice
Shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life
You'd like to"
Now, get a grip. You should have done some advance preparation. That includes getting a copy of the attendee list and identifying the people you want to target. You should also have prepared a couple of pertinent questions for them and some strong introductory lines.
A good opening line can really do wonders. If it flatters without being sycophantic then all the better. A friend of mine had an absolute ripper that he saved for the most high-powered executives.
Accompanied by a strong handshake and steady eye-contact it went something like the following: "Hi, I'm Tom Monaghan from Monaghan Consulting. So how does it feel to be in charge of the world's biggest company?" This almost invariably evoked a laugh and sparked an informal and friendly conversation.
Tom's style was relaxed and social, approaching each interaction as a way of exploring a personal relationship rather than looking for a professional connection. This takes pressure off both parties to find an immediate common business cause. You can warm to that later.
Many networkers use the opposite approach, which is to introduce themselves and their affiliation and then cut straight to the chase. This approach basically says: "There’s either potential for a business connection or there’s not so let’s not muck around."
Both of these strategies can be effective and you can choose the one that most suits your personality. Either way, though, don’t be too self-promoting. Culture dictates what is safe in this regard. For example, in America, talking about yourself is a national pastime but in Australia it can be considered improper. (In American business circles, not being self-promoting can suggest that you are a lightweight or, worse, that you are a weirdo with a hidden agenda.)
How do you gain access to people at a networking function? Should you arrive early or late or doesn’t it matter? There are two schools of thought on this. The first says you should arrive early because you are more likely to encounter people who have just arrived or are arriving and have not yet seized on to each other. The second says that early arrival sends a message you are not busy and don’t have anything better to do. Arriving late is a sign of worth and power.
For the entry-level networker it is probably better to err on the side of arriving early to give yourself a chance to warm up with a few easy one-on-ones. This may also afford the only opportunity you will get to spend some time with the host.
As the room becomes more congested you will need to get more creative and there are some rules you should follow to maximise your chances of a successful interaction.
First, identify and approach groups of three rather than two. In a group of three there is likely to be one person who is less engaged in the dialogue and open to a new conversation.
Second, always attach the nametag to your clothing on the right side of your body. People shake with their right hands so your nametag will be directly in the line of sight during the handshake.
Third, don’t let conversations go beyond about five minutes, ten at most. If they go longer you are being a burden to the other person and an obstacle to your own chances of making the most of the occasion. You need to practice a couple of inoffensive exit lines.
Fourth, do not let your eyes wander around the room during a conversation. Recently at a function in Sydney I was caught by the owner of a trade publication with whom I had crossed paths before. He launched into a treatise on a topic about which I was already well informed. Everything he said was so completely false it crossed my mind that he may be pulling my leg. Desperate for escape I started looking around. My body language must have been awful and I later reprimanded myself for being lured into the conversation in the first place.
Fifth, don't forget business cards. After you have a lot of experience and are well known in an industry you may be able to leave these at home. Some seasoned consultants I know do not own business cards at all. For now, keep them on you and be ready to hand one over on request. Make sure they have all your relevant contact information including your Skype address.
For an industry professional networking functions are mandatory, so get used to it. It takes practice to get good at it, so don’t feel bad about yourself if the first ones are painful.
*Guy being a gender non-specific term.
The missing link between social media and CRM
Social media has delivered incredible opportunities to marketers and advertisers over the past decade, particularly for brands, and especially in the retail sector. But for every new social media opportunity, there are new and interesting challenge for marketers.
Which is not to say that Social isn’t a communicator’s paradise, it is! But as we try to make sense of all that good stuff in social media and apply metrics to it - and create processes for extracting value from it - the challenges begin to mount.
When we look at Social Media as marketers and advertisers, we all strive to add context to content. Of course, context is not the Holy Grail in Social Media - but it is elusive and it is very valuable. After speaking with many marketers of brands both big and small, I’ve come to the conclusion that in Real Estate as in Social Media - location is king.
While social media and user-generated content platforms are a new phenomenon, the growth of sophisticated platforms like Facebook and Twitter has exploded with the arrival smartphone. For example, Twitter had 50 million users in 2011 but by the end of 2012, its user base increased ten-fold in part due to the proliferation of smartphones. As Australians continue to embrace smartphones at rapid speed - we currently have one of the world’s highest rates of smartphone penetration rates. Along with these smartphones come more and more powerful GPS devices which throw off interesting meta-data to the social platforms (obviously only when user’s have enabled location sharing and give apps their consent to use it).
Location-based data is now providing valuable insights that can add context to social media conversations, and enable bricks and mortar retailers to extract a data advantage similar to that enjoyed by successful online retailers. While there are many tools available to help marketers monitor the amount of Likes, Followers or Re-Tweets a brand might have on social media, it’s only one part of the puzzle. The missing piece is location data and its relation to social content.
We all know by now that consumers will let loose on social media about the services and products they purchase in a way they might never do in person. It only takes a review of any social media channel at any time to read a frank assessment of the goods and services in people’s lives. While many brands are familiar with listening and engaging with customers on social media, the reality is that the vast majority of conversations occur about a product or service in-store and do not mention the brand by name. This means that there are many conversations which aren’t being monitored or analysed by marketers. This is where geo-data (or location data) can add context.
Let’s look at the retail sector for example. Research from Altimeter tells us that more than three-quarters of smartphone users use their devices while they are in a store - and based on our experience at Local Measure, a large proportion of social media posts in store don’t mention the brand by name. However, by using a social analytics tool which captures location-based data, marketers can monitor and analyse social conversations that would typically go undetected.
Marketers who recognise and tap into the local pulse can quickly leverage fundamental insights about a brand or gain simple feedback which can help businesses adjust and improve their service at a store-level. By listening to social media conversations in real-time, marketers are also better equipped to mitigate risks and deal with any potential customer complaints. We have witnessed everything from complaints about dirty toilets to very inappropriate behaviour on premises by a business’s own employees. For retail chains or franchises especially, location data can help marketers compare and analyse what’s going on at a social level across various stores.
Harnessing local data also helps marketers fill in social media blanks, bridging the gap between social and offline behaviour. Too few businesses are able to match their CRM to social profiles, or to identify their champion customers. At Local Measure, we provide a location-based social analytics tool which can help brands identify these local influencers, and help measure ROI when social engagement leads to local transactions.
Ultimately, brands can use the online, real-time feedback mined from social media conversations to adjust 'offline’ strategies and customer service initiatives, and reclaim that personal customer service that can so often be lost in the business transaction.
At the end of the day, it is not complicated. It is about using location data to more accurately listen to and engage with customers who are talking about a brand on social media, regardless of whether the customer mentions the brand by name or not.
Small business: the forgotten portfolio
Source: The Age August 7, 2013
Pop quiz: how many small business owners can name the Federal minister for small business or his Opposition counterpart?
How many can name their relevant state minister for small business?
How many people no longer care which minister oversees small business at Federal or state level, given the dismal collective record of politicians and the seemingly permanent status of small business as a "junior" portfolio.
I bet you can’t name the six federal ministers for small business over the past three years or so without using Google. I struggle to remember the current minister, such has been the revolving door.
For all the blah, blah, blah from both political parties about the importance of small business, the portfolio always seems to go to a lower-profile minister, or be tagged on to several other ministries.
If ever there was a ministry needing a makeover, it is small business.
What’s your view?
• Who would you choose as Federal minister for small business after the election?
• What type of makeover does the portfolio need?
• What should be the new minister’s first priority for small business?
• Why is small business always a more junior portfolio?
It’s great the Coalition wants to cut $1 billion of green and red tape to help small business, double the number of start-ups, review competition laws, and repeal Labor’s tax hike on company cars.
Even better would be appointing one of its most senior, prominent ministers to the small business portfolio, assuming the Coalition wins the election, and elevating the ministry.
Somebody who regains the confidence of small business, genuinely champions the sector, and creates some much-need momentum and excitement. Somebody who devotes 100 per cent of his or her time to small business rather than be spread across three portfolios, and has a business background (rare in politics, I know).
Imagine having a high-profile Federal minister for small business who understands entrepreneurship and the incredible opportunities of a digital economy and the coming Asian century, which could see an extra 2.7 billion middle-class consumers in our region by 2030.
A minister who ensures small business has a bigger voice in policy making and the national business debate. We’ve barely heard from some Federal small business ministers in the past three years.
Perhaps we could have a Federal minister for small business and entrepreneurship, with an assisting minister focused on high-growth start-up ventures. Wishful thinking, I know, but the current dull approach to small business creates no confidence. We need a game-changer.
Appointing one of the Coalition’s biggest talents to the small business ministry would surely win more votes from the sector than talk about cutting red-tape and reviewing competition laws.
Both are much-needed reforms, but I’d argue having a high-profile minister overseeing small business - somebody the sector believes can actually implement reforms - would be a vote winner from the millions of Australians who work for themselves in one form or another, and the many more who will join them this decade, either as small business owners or contractors.
Tell me which politician is working overtime to ensure the next Google, Facebook, Twitter, ebay or Amazon is developed in Australia rather than the United States?
Which politician is ensuring more fast-growth Australian start-up ventures capitalise on incredible opportunities in Asia, rather than get left behind US and German companies in the region?
Which politician has the clout, intellectual nous and backbone to hold the big banks to account for their terrible small business lending practices and their constant squeezing of the sector, or take on the supermarket giants for market-power abuses against small suppliers?
Serious reform will lag if we have lower-profile Federal and state ministers oversee small business as part of their larger portfolio, or as a stepping stone to a bigger political role.
Recovering from information overload
McKinsey Quarterly, Derek Dean and Caroline Webb, January 2011
Always-on, multitasking work environments are killing productivity, dampening creativity, and making us unhappy. For all the benefits of the information technology and communications revolution, it has a well-known dark side: information overload and its close cousin, attention fragmentation. These scourges hit CEOs and their colleagues in the C-suite particularly hard because senior executives so badly need uninterrupted time to synthesize information from many different sources, reflect on its implications for the organization, apply judgment, make trade-offs, and arrive at good decisions.
The importance of reserving chunks of time for reflection, and the difficulty of doing so, have been themes in management writing for decades. Look no further than Peter Drucker’s 1967 classic, The Effective Executive,1 1. Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive, Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1967, pp. 28-29. which emphasized that "most of the tasks of the executive require, for minimum effectiveness, a fairly large quantum of time." Drucker’s solutions for fragmented executives—reserve large blocks of time on your calendar, don’t answer the phone, and return calls in short bursts once or twice a day—sound remarkably like the ones offered up by today’s time- and information-management experts.2 2. For example, compare Julie Morgenstern’s advice to "control the time nibblers," in her well-regarded book, Never Check E-mail in the Morning: And Other Unexpected Strategies for Making your Work Life Work (Fireside, 2005), with Drucker’s statement that "to be effective, every knowledge worker, and especially every executive, needs to be able to dispose of time in fairly large chunks."
Yet they are devilishly difficult to implement, and getting more so all the time. Every challenge recounted by Drucker in 1967 remains today: an unceasing rhythm of daily meetings, a relentless expectation of travel to connect with customers and far-flung reaches of the organization, an inordinate number of opportunities to represent the company at dinners and events. Add to these challenges a torrent of e-mail, huge volumes of other information, and an expanding variety of means—from the ever-present telephone to blogs, tweets, and social networks—through which executives can connect with their organizations and customers, and you have a recipe for exhaustion. Many senior executives literally have two overlapping workdays: the one that is formally programmed in their diaries and the one "before, after, and in-between," when they disjointedly attempt to grab spare moments with their laptops or smart phones, multitasking in a vain effort to keep pace with the information flowing toward them.
Better solutions exist, and they aren’t rocket science.3 3. For another view on today’s information challenge and some potential solutions, see Paul Hemp, "Death by information overload," Harvard Business Review, September 2009, Volume 87, Number 9, pp. 82-89. What we hope to do in this article is help executives, and their organizations, by reminding them of three simple things. First, multitasking is a terrible coping mechanism. A body of scientific evidence demonstrates fairly conclusively that multitasking makes human beings less productive, less creative, and less able to make good decisions. If we want to be effective leaders, we need to stop.
Second, addressing information overload requires enormous self-discipline. A little like recovering addicts, senior executives must labor each day to keep themselves on track by applying timeless yet powerful guidelines: find time to focus, filter out the unimportant, forget about work every now and then. The holy grail, of course, is to retain the benefits of connectivity without letting it distract us too much.
Third, since senior executives’ behavior sets the tone for the organization, they have a duty to set a better example. The widespread availability of powerful communications technologies means employees now share many of the time- and attention-management challenges of their leaders. The whole organization’s productivity can now be affected by information overload, and no single person or group can address it in isolation. Resetting the culture to healthier norms is a critical new responsibility for 21st-century executives.
The perils of multitasking
We tend to believe that by doing several things at the same time we can better handle the information rushing toward us and get more done. What’s more, multitasking—interrupting one task with another—can sometimes be fun. Each vibration of our favorite high-tech e-mail device carries the promise of potential rewards. Checking it may provide a welcome distraction from more difficult and challenging tasks. It helps us feel, at least briefly, that we’ve accomplished something—even if only pruning our e-mail in-boxes. Unfortunately, current research indicates the opposite: multitasking unequivocally damages productivity.
It slows us down
The root of the problem is that our brain is best designed to focus on one task at a time. When we switch between tasks, especially complex ones, we become startlingly less efficient: in a recent study, for example, participants who completed tasks in parallel took up to 30 percent longer and made twice as many errors as those who completed the same tasks in sequence. The delay comes from the fact that our brains can’t successfully tell us to perform two actions concurrently. When we switch tasks, our brains must choose to do so, turn off the cognitive rules for the old task, and turn on the rules for the new one. This takes time, which reduces productivity, particularly for heavy multitaskers—who, it seems, take even longer to switch between tasks than occasional multitaskers. In practice, most of us would probably acknowledge that multitasking lets us quickly cross some of the simpler items off our to-do lists. But it rarely helps us solve the toughest problems we’re working on. More often than not, it’s procrastination in disguise.
It hampers creativity
One might think that constant exposure to new information at least makes us more creative. Here again, the opposite seems to be true. Teresa Amabile and her colleagues at the Harvard Business School evaluated the daily work patterns of more than 9,000 individuals working on projects that required creativity and innovation. They found that the likelihood of creative thinking is higher when people focus on one activity for a significant part of the day and collaborate with just one other person. Conversely, when people have highly fragmented days—with many activities, meetings, and discussions in groups—their creative thinking decreases significantly. These findings also make intuitive sense. Creative problem solving typically requires us to hold several thoughts at once "in memory," so we can sense connections we hadn’t seen previously and forge new ideas. When we bounce around quickly from thought to thought, we know we’re less likely to make those crucial connections.
It makes us anxious and it’s addictive
In laboratory settings, researchers have found that subjects asked to multitask show higher levels of stress hormones. A survey of managers conducted by Reuters revealed that two-thirds of respondents believed that information overload had lessened job satisfaction and damaged their personal relationships. One-third even thought it had damaged their health. Nonetheless, evidence is emerging that humans can become quite addicted to multitasking. Edward Hallowell and John Ratey from Harvard, for instance, have written about people for whom feeling connected provides something like a "dopamine squirt"—the neural effects follow the same pathways used by addictive drugs. This effect is familiar too: who hasn’t struggled against the urge to check the smart phone when it vibrates, even when we’re in the middle of doing something else?
Coping with the deluge
So if multitasking isn’t the answer, what is? In our conversations with CEOs and other executives trying to cope, we heard repeatedly about some fairly basic strategies that aren’t very different in spirit from the ones Drucker described more than 40 years ago: some combination of focusing, filtering, and forgetting. The challenge for these executives, and all of us, is that executing such strategies in an always-on environment is harder than it was when Drucker was writing. It requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline, and we can’t do it alone: in our teams and across the whole organization, we need to establish a set of norms that support a more productive way of working.
The calendars of CEOs and other senior executives are often booked back-to-back all day, sometimes in 15-minute increments. Gary Loveman, CEO of Harrah’s Entertainment, describes the implication: "You have to guard against the danger of overeating at an interesting intellectual buffet. I often need to cover a lot of functional terrain over the course of a day, but I’m careful not to be too light on deserving topics and to make the time to get to meaningful depth on the most important ones."10 10. All unattributed quotes are taken from interviews conducted by the authors. Digital information overload compounds the peril of "overeating" by flooding leaders with a variety of questions and topics that frequently could be addressed by others, thereby distracting those leaders from the thorny, unpleasant, and high-stakes problems where they are most needed.
Many executives respond through the old strategy of creating "alone time." Applied Materials CEO Mike Splinter, for example, finds time between 6:30 and 8:00 AM; Dame Christine Beasley, England’s chief nursing officer, uses her traveling time; Brent Assink, executive director of the San Francisco Symphony, schedules any time he can find in the middle of the day. Bill Gross, chief investment officer at Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO), takes an extreme approach: "I don’t answer or look at any e-mails I don’t want to. I don’t have a cell phone; I don’t have a BlackBerry. My motto is, 'I don’t want to be connected; I want to be disconnected.’"11 11. Alex Taylor III et al., "How I work," Fortune, March 15, 2006.
None of this can work, says Assink, unless the management team knows it must keep moving throughout the day without rapid-fire input from the top. Assink has been explicit with his staff: "If they want an immediate response, it will have to be a phone call. If they send an e-mail they will get a response at the end of the day."
What about the relentless barrage of information that pours in? Managing it may be as simple—and difficult—as switching off the input. Shut down e-mail, close Web browsers, have phone calls go automatically to voice mail, and let your assistant and team know that you are in a focused working session. Christine Beasley says, "If you’re really addicted and can’t be trusted not to check the BlackBerry when it’s in your pocket or bag, you just have to leave it behind."
Of course, turning everything off just means that your inbox will be overflowing when you reconnect. And there’s a danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater: no one wants to lose the ability to stay in touch easily with the organization, customers, and other stakeholders or to "give a short and direct answer to quick questions," as Mike Splinter puts it, adding that "you don’t want to be the blockade in the business cycle."
A good filtering strategy, therefore, is critical. It starts with giving up the fiction that leaders need to be on top of everything, which has taken hold as information of all types has become more readily and continuously accessible. Rather, plain old delegation is as important with information as it always has been with tasks. As Gary Loveman says, "Keeping current on what is going on takes a lot of my time, but I only engage in depth personally on those issues that are best served by my involvement and are critical to the company’s performance, either now or in the future." Christine Beasley has a similar view: "You cannot read everything. The things that I do look at are the things that matter, the things I really need to make a decision on."
Some leaders now explicitly refuse to respond to any e-mail on which they are only cc’d, to filter out issues that others think require no action from them. You also may need to educate the people around you about what deserves to fill your limited time. Gary Loveman explains that "there is a substantial ante to get my time—you need to do some work, provide me with data and insight, let me read something in advance. That simple bar keeps a lot of the items of lesser importance off my calendar."
Winning respect for your in-box, though, won’t get you all the way there. Establishing an effective, day-to-day information-management support structure has become a critical success factor for senior executives. This structure may be elaborate, including a chief of staff for the CEO of a major organization, or as simple as a capable assistant who "is fantastic at managing some of my e-mail traffic, weeding out the things that I don’t really need to see," as Christine Beasley says.
It bears repeating that giving our brains downtime to process new intellectual input is a critical element of learning and thinking creatively—not just according to researchers, but also to corporate leaders. Bill Gross says, "Some of my best ideas literally come from standing on my head doing yoga. After about 15 minutes of yoga, all of a sudden some significant light bulbs seem to turn on."12 12. Alex Taylor III et al., "How I work," Fortune, March 15, 2006. Mike Splinter also sees value in physical exercise: "I find that just staying in shape helps me be more mentally crisp every day."
Getting outside helps—recent research has found that people learn significantly better after a walk in nature compared with a walk in the city.13 13. Matt Richtel, "Digital devices deprive brain of needed downtime," New York Times, August 24, 2010. And emotional interaction with other people can also divert attention from conscious intellectual processing, a good step toward engaging the unconscious. Sheri McCoy, chairman of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals Group, explains, "When I go home at night, I like to just say, 'OK, I’m not looking at my BlackBerry for two or three hours.’ I’m just relaxing. I feel like that lets me conserve my energy and focus later." Christine Beasley has rules that protect her personal time at weekends, reasoning that "people can always get hold of me if it’s urgent."
A responsibility to hit the 'reset button’
All this was easier back in Drucker’s day, when we couldn’t talk on the phone during the daily commute, we didn’t bring multiple connectivity-enabling devices with us on vacation, and planes didn’t have Wi-Fi. The strategies of focusing, filtering, and forgetting are also tougher to implement now because of the norms that have developed around 21st-century teamwork. Most leaders today would feel guilty if they didn’t respond to an e-mail within 24 hours. Few feel comfortable "hiding" from their teams during the day (or on the drive home or during the evening) in order to focus more intently on the most complex issues. And there is the personal satisfaction that comes from feeling needed.
But there is a business responsibility to reset these norms, given how markedly information overload decreases the quality of learning and decision making. Multitasking is not heroic; it’s counterproductive. As the technological capacity for the transmission and storage of information continues to expand and quicken, the cognitive pressures on us will only increase. We are at risk of moving toward an ever less thoughtful and creative professional reality unless we stop now to redesign our working norms.
First, we need to acknowledge and reevaluate the mind-sets that attach us to our current patterns of behavior. We have to admit, for example, that we do feel satisfied when we can respond quickly to requests and that doing so somewhat validates our desire to feel so necessary to the business that we rarely switch off. There’s nothing wrong with these feelings, but we need to consider them alongside their measurable cost to our long-term effectiveness. No one would argue that burning up all of a company’s resources is a good strategy for long-term success, and that is equally true of its leaders and their mental resources.
Second, leaders need to become more ruthless than ever about stepping back from all but the areas that they alone must address. There’s some effort involved in choosing which areas to delegate; it takes skill in coaching others to handle tasks effectively and clarity of expectations on both sides. But with those things in place, a more mindful division of labor creates more time for leaders’ focused reflections on the most critical issues and also develops a stronger bench of talent.
Finally, to truly make this approach work, leaders have to redesign working norms together with their teams. One person, even a CEO, cannot do that alone—who wants to be the sole person on the senior team who leaves the smart phone behind when he or she goes on vacation? Absent some explicit discussion, that kind of action could be taken as a lack of commitment to the business, not as a productive attempt to disconnect and recharge. So we encourage leaders and their teams to discuss openly how they choose to focus, filter, and forget; how they support each other in creating the necessary time and space to perform at their best; and how they enable others, throughout the organization, to do the same. This conversation can also be the right starting point for a deeper look at the information and technology needs of all the company’s knowledge workers. (For more on how to tackle this thorny problem, see "Rethinking knowledge work: A strategic approach.")
The benefits of lightening the burden of information overload—in productivity, creativity, morale, and business results—will more than justify the effort. And the more we appreciate the benefits, the easier it will be to make new habits stick.
About the authors
Derek Dean is an alumnus of McKinsey’s San Francisco office, where he was a director; Caroline Webb is a principal in the London office.
The authors would like to acknowledge the important contributions that Matthias Birk, a consultant in the Berlin office, made to this article through his research on cognitive sciences.
JIM’S TWELVE QUESTIONS
"Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline." - Jim Collins
Background on the 12 Questions—a note from Jim
In 1988, I had the great privilege to inherit teaching responsibility for a course on entrepreneurship and small business management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. As I was preparing for my first year of teaching, I began to revise the syllabus for the course. The opening line of the syllabus read something like, "this will be a course on the mechanics and
challenges of the entrepreneur and small business manager." For some reason, I impulsively changed the opening line to reframe the course around the question of what it would take to turn an entrepreneurial venture or small business into an enduring great company. I remember looking at that new opening sentence, and thinking to myself, "Wow, I don't know anything about that." And thus began what would become a passionate quest—a quarter century of research, writing, and thinking about the question of what it takes to build an enduring great company or social sector enterprise.
In 2012, I began to get a lot of questions from people who wanted to engage with the body of work, not just one book, so that they would have the best chance to build a great enterprise. The questions were along the lines of: "Where as a leadership team should we begin?" "Is there a best sequence to the reading, or to engaging with the concepts?" "What is the best way to challenge a team to engage with the full body of work?" After reflecting on these questions, I decided to construct a sequence of 12 Questions that would serve as a mechanism of disciplined thought for a leader and his or her team. The questions are designed to help you efficiently access the full body of work, in what I believe is a highly-effective sequence, along with readings corresponding to each question. I encourage you and your team to discuss one question per month, to fill out an entire year of disciplined thought. The most powerful results will come from repeating the cycle, rigorously hitting each question at least once per year. At the end of a year, you can further self-assess using the Good to Great® Diagnostic Tool, available at www.jimcollins.com
1. Do we want to build an enduring great company (or social sector enterprise), and are we willing to strive for Level 5 Leadership?
2. On what core values and enduring purpose will we build our culture for 100 years?
3. Do we have the right people on the bus, and are 95% of our key seats filled with the right people?
4. What are the brutal facts, and how can we better live the Stockdale Paradox?
5. What do we understand so far about our Hedgehog Concept—what we are fanatically passionate about, what we can be the best at (and cannot), and what drives our economic (or resource) engine?
6. How can we accelerate clicks on the Flywheel by committing to a 20 Mile March?
7. How can we better blend empirical creativity AND fanatic discipline, and thereby scale innovation?
8. What is our BHAG - our Big Hairy Audacious Goal?
9. What is the right 20% to change, so as to best Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress?
10. How can we increase our Return on Luck (ROL), adapting our strategy to both good luck and bad?
11. Do we show any signs of the Five Stages of Decline, and what should we do about them?
12. What should we Stop Doing?
Attracting the best and brightest
Source: The Age 19 July 2013
It’s well known small businesses are the biggest employers in Australia. Yet countless SMEs struggle to engage and retain the best employees. That’s because many workers prefer to work for large companies with the resources, money and time to spoil them. Here, then, are three of the most common challenges faced by SME owners and how to overcome them.
The leadership skills of entrepreneurs
Many entrepreneurs are excellent at the technical stuff. But as their businesses grow, they become less of an owner and more of a leader. Some of them embrace this additional responsibility with ease. Others remain stubbornly in the technical realm, neglecting what should be the priorities of communication, motivation and coaching - the fundamentals of effective leadership. As a result, their employee relations (and performance) suffer.
• Hire a general manager to whom you delegate employee-related issues, freeing you to focus on your talents.
• Become a student of leadership by attending a workshop a year, reading a book a month, subscribing to business magazines and seeking mentors.
• Consider undertaking 360-degree feedback, which provides you with an overall assessment of your leadership strengths and weaknesses.
Unlike large companies that shower employees with bonuses, discounts, Christmas gifts, monthly drinks, tertiary education and other truly awesome perks, many SME owners can’t do the same. They’re restricted by tighter margins and lower profits, with many even paying their workers more than they pay themselves. The consequence is high staff turnover (or difficulties in recruitment) as talented workers follow the money.
• Understand the power of intrinsic motivation. Three of the most powerful motivators are: (i) using employees’ talents; (ii) providing sincere recognition; and (iii) creating meaningful and autonomous jobs.
• Ask employees for suggestions on their preferred non-monetary rewards such as time off work, flexible hours and learning opportunities.
• During recruitment, promote the benefits of working in small business. These include less bureaucracy, greater job diversity and faster decisions.
Lack of a human resources department
Managers working in big organisations rely on HR to sort out payroll problems, dismissals, occupational safety and myriad matters dependent on complicated legislation. Most small businesses don’t have the same advantage. The notion of hiring a HR professional when you only have a handful of employees is unrealistic. But with regulations increasing in number and complexity, the potential pitfalls for SME owners are rising.
• Outsource your HR requirements to a specialist provider that caters for small business. Many in the marketplace are reasonably priced.
• Join your local chamber of commerce or business association. They can be great at supporting their members during tricky HR situations.
• Become familiar with reference guides put together by federal and state governments. In particular, check out the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website, which is thorough and easy to navigate.
So what are some other tips to keep in mind? In the NY Times bestseller EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey lists 12 components of successful small business recruitment. Number one on his list - number one - is prayer. He writes: "As a person of faith I ask God to send me who He wants ... I also ask God to keep the crazy people away."
Okay, moving right along. Something a little more reliable can be found in a study conducted by the University of Nebraska in 2006. They analysed the commitment, job satisfaction and happiness of employees who work in small business. What they discovered was that each of those factors was ramped up whenever one specific element was present: the owner was an authentic leader.
According to the researchers, authentic leaders are confident, hopeful, positive, resilient, transparent, ethical, optimistic, visionary, self-aware, motivational, caring, trusting, interactive, strong, visible, credible, dedicated, courageous, humble, respectful, brilliant communicators and fair.
Counting the Cost
Source: Business Review Weekly 18 July 2013
Most practitioners rightly regard themselves as experts at costing: counting time units and multiplying by time-based rates. But far too few understand costing is not pricing. There are seven questions to answer before you quote a fee to a client. Pricing is becoming a source of competitive advantage, so it’s high time for practitioners to invest in pricing knowledge and skill to be able to confidently answer these questions. They apply irrespective of your price structure, i.e. whether you charge on variable or fixed-fee basis.
1. What’s your client’s need and budget? Have you thought about your client’s need in economic, rather than technical professional, terms? Has your client thought about a budget for this job? What has your client historically allocated for this type of work? If you haven’t probed the economic value to your client and asked about their budget, then you can’t possibly manage their expectations of a fair fee for the work that’s involved. All clients rely on a frame of reference when considering a fee proposal. And naive clients can be just as tricky to manage as experienced ones when it comes to how they view your fee.
Clients with little or no experience of a particular practitioner’s services will use a frame of reference related to other professional services or to what they have heard from business associates and friends. This frame may lead them to regard any proposal as expensive.
On the other hand, an experienced client may go into the negotiation with you intending to beat your price down. Particularly if their frame of reference is "I have been ripped off before". You need to ask questions and get inside your client’s head to manage their expectations and secure their understanding of your fee structure and level.
2. What resources are required? Is the job routine or will extra effort be needed in the face of novelty to achieve a professional outcome? How busy will your practitioners be when the job needs to start? Does the client expect you to be personally involved in the job? Do you really need to be? If so, at what point? Will this job incur an opportunity cost for your firm? Unless you know the answers, you can’t accurately estimate the cost to your firm. Just saying "Yes, we’d be pleased to help you" isn’t good enough.
3. Will scope creep occur? How difficult will this job be to manage? Do you expect it to be a relatively simple task, or is it going to be complex? Complexity and novelty in a job call for extra care in managing your client’s expectations. Are you confident about where scope creep may occur? And how you will anticipate this, inform your client and ensure a revision of the price?
4. How time sensitive is the work? Is your client one of those who leaves things late? Or does your client phone on a Friday, expecting advice on Monday? Is it really urgent like a medical emergency, or simply a function of your client’s personality? Are you able to explain to clients that queue-jumping means paying more?
5. Will the job be profitable? How profitable is this job or client going to be for you? How willing are you to say no to work you know generates revenue, but not profit? Does being busy and profitless make sense to you? Regarding clients as strategically important only makes sense if their long-term value is proven.
6. How unique is your offering? Could another firm just as easily perform this particular work? The more specialised you are, the fewer competitors you will have. A useful measure of specialisation is from how far and wide do your clients come? If you work in regional Victoria and have a client base in Queensland, it indicates they value you over all the solicitors in between. Whereas if most of your clients are from the neighbourhood, chances are you are not much different to other firms in the neighbourhood. The more your clients regard your offering as unique, the greater the degree of price-setting discretion you have. In other words, a specialist is a price-maker; a generalist is a price-taker.
7. What’s needed to tune your final price? At what price would this job be too expensive for the client to consider using you? At what price would the job be considered expensive, but the client would still consider using you worth it? At what price would the job be seen as so inexpensive that the client would question the quality of your work? What factors would justify asking a premium price? Finally, how informed are you about your competitors’ prices?
In summary, there are three ingredients in your price: what’s the job worth to the client? What will it cost you to do the job? What choices do your competitors offer? The right spot for your price lies somewhere inside this triangle.
5 Things CEOs Shouldn't Delegate
Source: Inc.com, 11 July, 2013
There is such a push for leaders to delegate to their subordinates that it would be understandable for a business owner or CEO to think her job IS delegating. Maybe if you're Larry Ellison or Jeff Immelt it is, but for the rest of us mortals, the job of CEO has a lot less glamor and a lot more day-to-day operational involvement.
As you grow your business, you will hire great people and should delegate as much of the business as you can and still have confidence. Having said that, there are some things that I believe you cannot delegate until you are much larger in size.
1. Quality--Would you eat at a restaurant that the owner did not eat at regularly? Would you trust Steve Ballmer if he was using a Mac? The quality of your business, its products and services has to be inspected by you not just regularly, but daily. You also need to inspect it personally, not just through graphs and reports. The great CEOs I know check their quality personally and frequently. No one will have better eyes, ears, and intuitive knowledge of what quality means for the company than the founder, owner, and CEO.
2. Innovation--Recently I spoke with an innovation consultant about whether innovation can be delegated. She told me that her company can provide a great deal of the process for ensuring innovation occurs regularly and effectively. Her company can drive companies to new ideas. However, the company's CEO has to set the goal, direction and make the choices in which innovations the company will invest.
3. Financial Health--CFOs and controllers can be a huge help in understanding your financial condition. If you have a small business, maybe you are using a bookkeeper. Having your accounting and reporting tasks performed by trained professionals is smart. Trusting those people to make all of the decisions with the information is not. You are exclusively responsible for the financial health of your business. What the information means and the choices you make with it can not be delegated.
4. Brand Message-- If you hire a new marketing person or agency I can almost guarantee that you will be told that everything you have is wrong. Your website, logo, sales materials, tagline, tradeshow booth...the implication is that every choice you have made is wrong now or was always wrong. Sure, it can be useful to get a new perspective, but what your business stands for at its essence has to be defined by you, not delegated. The process of re-branding will create options; you have to make the choices.
5. Hiring-- I once was CEO of a company that hired 6,500 people in less than 4 years in 18 countries. I was not involved in every hiring decision to say the least. But I was the interviewer for the finalist candidates for my direct reports and their direct reports. In hiring the leadership of your company, you are determining the future success of the business and its culture. You must be involved when the stakes are that high.
Your most important resource is your own time, that's why delegation is such a great tool for leveraging that time for greater yield. Just make certain that you are careful in not delegating the wrong things.
Confidence, Excellence and Independence: Business Lessons from 4 Great Leaders
Source: Entrepreneur, 10 July, 2013
Great leaders often have great lessons to share. Their stories remind us -- in business especially -- that failure is not avoidable and that success in any endeavour is a choice.
While we cannot control all our circumstances, what we can control is our response. And that's what makes a leader great: his or her decision to take responsibility in the midst of chaos.
The following quotes are from four of the most influential people from the past and present. Below each quote is my feedback on how I've learned from these quotes in my own business, and how they can help you with yours.
1. Be confident in who you are.
"If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability." -- Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company
It can be easy to look at a successful entrepreneur and think to yourself, "I bet things come easy to them" or "They were just lucky." But after spending time with successful men and women I've learned that many of them were once broke, bankrupt and on the edge at one point in their life -- myself included.
What separates these people is their decision to not allow their financial situations to dictate their emotions, define their worth or give them a sense of superiority over others. These people know that money can be easily lost and easily made. The only thing that really matters is learning how to create and offer value.
Once you learn how to create value in your market, you can shift your feelings of security from what you have to who you are.
2. Think independently.
"If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel worn paths of accepted success." -- John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil Company
Read that quote again. It's the secret behind the biggest breakthroughs in innovation.
Innovation is not achieved by imitating the success of others. It's achieved by great leaders who choose to risk failure and ridicule in order to create something completely new.
The biggest turning point in my life happened when I declined the security of a 9 to 5 job and decided to build a digital business on the simple principal of adding value to the lives of others. I was scared, broke and alone, but the opportunity I saw drove me to push through all that.
Creating value is the driving force behind everything I do.
3. Know when to move on.
"Part of being a winner is knowing when enough is enough. Sometimes you have to give up the fight and walk away, and move on to something that's more productive." -- Donald Trump, entrepreneur, television personality and author.
As entrepreneurs we've learned to fight for what we want, and hate losing. But not every fight is worth your time. The trick is to always remember the big picture and to not allow your ego to get in the way of being productive.
I've learned that there's a big difference between perseverance and stubbornness. Stubbornness involves me forcing things to work, while perseverance requires me to work consistently with what's already working. Some of the best decisions I've made involved saying no to a potential partnership or pulling the plug on a product that wasn't working.
4. Pursue excellence, not fame.
"Having success for a year or two, that's called being hot. Being in demand. Excellence is being able to perform at a high level for a long period of time." -- Jay Z, music artist and entrepreneur
I know a number of people who have experienced overnight success with a product or start up, but allowed their success to fool them into thinking they were special. They neglected the critical business feedback they received from their partners and clients.
Once an entrepreneur stops growing, learning and being open to feedback, it can spell the end of his or her business.
Unfortunately, some entrepreneurs need to "lose it all" before they learn this lesson. My recent podcast with entrepreneur, hedge fund manager and author James Altucher illustrates this point.
So make it a point to pursue excellence, not fame. Excellence is who you are. Fame is who you once were.
New to social? Here’s how to promote your business without sounding 'salesy’
Source: Marketing Magazine 4 July 2013
As a marketing or PR professional how do you know where to draw the line between being overly promotional online and sending out enough information to influence target audiences?
Using social media successfully involves having a keen understanding of your audience and also being able to recognise that social media shouldn’t primarily be used as a direct sales tool.
Platforms such as Facebook are generally used by people looking for entertainment and interesting conversations, not necessarily ads and promotions. Most people on a company’s Facebook page are existing customers and the way you communicate with them should focus on developing a relationship. It is this relationship, not self-promotion, which will eventually lead to sales.
While you can and should share your experiences and the value of your products and services, balance your self-promotion by promoting and helping others. This will make your followers much more receptive to your promotional posts.
With this in mind here are some tips for promoting your brand in a genuine and customer-focused way.
One way to raise awareness about your brand without self-promoting is to link to useful content. You can also create content on your website that can be shared, such as a whitepaper or interesting research you have discovered about your industry.
Social media marketing is about creating and sharing content that’s valuable to the user. The best content is something that your potential customers can’t get anywhere else, whether that’s a unique piece of content, or a unique content curation plan.
Put your fans first
Always think about the interests of the follower first. For each self-promotional post, put up two or three non-promotional posts which are relevant to your business and audience. Try not to create obvious posts that ask the viewer to please like and share - it’s a sure way to turn people off. Have a conversation without begging for a response.
Tell your success stories
By posting information about success stories of how you have helped your clients or how they have benefited from what you have to offer can promote your business indirectly. Success stories make an interesting read and at the same time demonstrate the value you offer. This is where you can be proactive by seeking out your customers and asking them for feedback and testimonials.
Celebrating your clients is another way of building engagement and promoting your business through relationships. Many businesses are quite successful with 'fan of the week’ or 'fan of the month’ posts where they celebrate the fan who engaged with the page the most.
PR and media coverage
If you are promoting your business through PR, posting media coverage is another great indirect promotion strategy. For example, 'our general manager Tim recently spoke to The Daily Telegraph about HSC student options for study’ and include the link to the article. In this way you are providing people with an interesting read, which is also relevant to the business.
News and events updates
Posting news and events updates might seem obvious but it is important to use this type of content without overtly selling your business. When you share your news make sure you consider if your potential customers will be interested in reading it and what value they can extract - forget about what you need to say and focus on your customer base.
To ensure your content is informative and interesting as well as promotional, set clear goals and track every post to see that you have the right mix. A content calendar will be equally as important if you want to succeed in using social media to grow relationships and sell without selling.
11 Ways to De-Clutter Your Day
Source: Inc.com 4 July 2013
Do less and achieve more--starting today. Adopt some of these easy habits to make it happen.
Success tends to create clutter: more meetings, more projects, more decisions, more items on your to-do list. But often doing more can mean achieving less.
That's why subtraction can be the best addition, especially when you streamline your workday and, in the process, your professional life.
Instead of doing a total professional makeover, the easiest way is to start small. Try a few of these:
Eliminate one "permission."
You probably don't think of it this way, but everything you do "trains" the people around you how to treat you. Let employees interrupt your meetings or phone calls because of "emergencies" and they'll feel free to interrupt you any time. Drop what you're doing every time someone calls and they'll always expect immediate attention. Return emails immediately and people will expect an immediate response.
In short, your actions give other people permission to keep you from working the way you work best.
A friend created an "emergency" email account; he responds to those immediately. Otherwise his employees know he only checks his "standard" email a couple times a day and they act accordingly.
Figure out how you work best and "train" the people around you to let you be as productive as you possibly can.
Kill one report.
You're not reading most of them anyway. And neither are your employees.
Kill one sign-off.
I worked at a manufacturing plant where supervisors had to sign off on quality before a job could be run. Seemed strange to me--we trusted the operators to ensure jobs met standards throughout the run, so why couldn't we trust them to know if a job met quality standards before they started running?
You probably have at least one sign-off in place because somewhere along the way an employee made a major error and you don't want the same mistake to happen again. But in the process you reduce the amount of responsibility your employees feel for their own work because you've inserted your authority into the process.
Train, explain, trust--and remove yourself from processes where you don't belong.
Fire one customer.
You know the one: The high maintenance, low revenue, non-existent profits one.
Start charging more or providing less. If that's not possible, fire that customer.
Prune your to-do list.
A to-do list with 20 or 30 items is not only daunting, it's depressing. Why start when there's no way you can finish?
So you don't.
Try this instead. Create a wish list--use it to write down all the ideas, projects, tasks, etc. that occur to you. Make it your "would like to do" list.
Then pick three or four items off that list that will make the most difference. Pick the easiest tasks to accomplish, or the ones with the biggest payoff, or the ones that will eliminate the most pain.
Make that your to-do list. And then get it done.
Then go back and pick three or four more.
Cut one expense.
Right now you're spending money on something you don't use, don't need, or don't want. But since you buy it... you feel you have to use it. I subscribed to a number of magazines (because subscribing is really cheap compared to buying at the newsstand). Great--but then the magazines show up. Then I have to read them. If I don't, they sit around making me feel guilty.
So I dropped three or four. I don't miss them.
Often the biggest savings in cutting an expense isn't the actual cost; it's the time involved in doing or maintaining or consuming whatever the expense represents.
Pick one expense you can eliminate that will also free up time and effort: Your bottom line and your workday will thank you for it.
Drop one personal commitment.
We all do things simply because we feel we should. Maybe you volunteer because a friend asked you to but you feel no real connection to the cause you support. Maybe you have a weekly lunch with some old friends but it feels more like a chore than a treat. Or maybe you keep trying to learn French just because once you started you didn't want to feel like a quitter.
Think about one thing you do out of habit, or because you think you're supposed to, or simply because you don't know how to get out of it--and then get out of it. The momentary pain--or in some cases, confrontation--of stepping down, dropping out, or letting go will be replaced quickly by a huge sense relief.
Then you can use that time to do something you feel has real meaning.
Or just take a break.
Streamline your lunch.
You already make enough decisions. What to have for lunch shouldn't be one of them.
Pack tuna and a small salad. Pick something healthy, something simple, even something you can eat at your desk. Save the decision-making for what's really important.
As a bonus, you'll lose a little weight and feel a little better.
Create a window of reflection.
Most small business owners spend a lot more time reacting--to employee issues, customer requests, market conditions, etc.--than they do reflecting.
Eliminate 20 or 30 minutes of reacting time by creating a little quiet time. Close your door and think. Better yet, go for a walk. Exercise does more to bolster thinking than thinking does; walking just 40 minutes three days a week builds new brain cells and improves memory functions.
And don't worry that something bad will happen while you're gone--most of the time the issues you "avoid" will solve themselves.
Eliminate one willpower drain.
We all have a finite supply of willpower. Resisting temptation creates stress and eventually exhaustion.
And then you give in.
But if you don't have to exercise willpower, you don't drain your energy. Say you keep a bowl of candy for customers at the front desk. Every time you walk by you're tempted to grab a piece, but you stand firm. Resisting tires you out, though, and in time you'll be more susceptible to the candy's charms.
Get rid of the candy altogether. Then you don't have to use any willpower at all. Pick something you have to resist--food, wasting time, Web browsing, checking social media accounts--and eliminate the temptation.
Discipline depletes. Discipline is exhausting. Stay fresh by removing the need for discipline altogether.
Eliminate one category of decisions.
Instead of making serial decisions, try making just one: Decide who will decide.
Say you regularly need to decide whether to expedite shipping due to work-in-progress delays. Instead of being the go-to decision-maker, pick someone in the organization that will make those decisions. Provide guidance, parameters, and advice, and turn that person loose. Then check in periodically to see if they need more direction. That way you get to spend time figuring out how to eliminate the delays instead of dealing with the repercussions.
Almost every decision you currently make can be taken over by people you trust. How will you learn to trust them?
Teach, train, guide, verify. In time you'll give your employees the authority and responsibility they earn.
10 questions to help you understand a person more effectively
Source: BRW 4 July 2013
In business and in life, the most critical choices we make relate to people. Yet being a good judge of people is difficult. How do we get better at sizing up first impressions, avoiding hiring mistakes and correctly identifying (and not overlooking) rising stars?
The easy thing to do is focus on extrinsic markers like test scores, net worth, social status and job titles. Social media have given us new extrinsic metrics by which to assess candidates: how many friends do they have on Facebook? Who do we know in common through LinkedIn? How many Twitter followers do they have?
But these sorts of credentials and markers only tell one part of a person’s story. They are necessary, but not sufficient. What they can’t provide are the "softer" and more nuanced insights into a person’s character. You can teach skills; character and attitude are a different story.
Judging people on extrinsic and skill-based factors is relatively straightforward. Gauging softer traits such as will or attitude is much more challenging and requires one-on-one contact, attentive listening and careful observation. That’s why it’s important to approach a job interview more as an attitudinal audition than an opportunity simply to size up an applicant’s skill set.
Over the years, I’ve been collecting and reflecting upon questions that have helped me improve my people judgment, especially around personality and attitude. Here are 10 key questions to help you better understand the intrinsic "why" and "how" behind a person.
1. WHAT IS THE TALK-TO-LISTEN RATIO?
You want people who are self-confident and not afraid to express their views, but if the talk-to-listen ratio is anywhere north of 60 per cent, it’s worth asking why. Is it because this person is self-important and uninterested in learning from others, or just because he is nervous and rambling?
2. IS THIS PERSON AN ENERGY GIVER OR TAKER?
There are certain people who seem to emanate negative energy. Alternatively, there are those who consistently share positivity and a general optimism toward life. Energy givers are compassionate and generous, the type of people with whom you immediately want to spend time.
3. IS THIS PERSON LIKELY TO ACT OR REACT TO A TASK?
Some people immediately transition into a defensive, critical mode when given a new task. Others spring into action and begin problem-solving right away. For most jobs, it’s the second type of person you want.
4. DOES THIS PERSON FEEL AUTHENTIC OR OBSEQUIOUS?
There is nothing flattering about false praise. The kind of people you want won’t feel the need to "suck up". And besides, those who feel comfortable being themselves are almost always more pleasant to work with.
5. WHAT IS HIS/HER SPOUSE LIKE?
One of my business partners gave me a great tip for interviewing a super important hire: go out with his or her spouse, partner or closest friend. We are known by the company we keep.
6. HOW DOES THIS PERSON TREAT SOMEONE THEY DON’T KNOW?
At the other end of the spectrum, observe how a person treats someone he barely knows. This is what I call the "taxi driver test". Is the person open to having a real conversation with a waiter at a restaurant or a cab driver? Does he ignore them or treat them rudely?
7. IS THERE AN ELEMENT OF STRUGGLE IN THIS PERSON’S HISTORY?
History matters. In our research for the book Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck, my co-authors and I found that around two-thirds of people who were "guts-dominant" - those who had the desire to initiate and the ability to persevere, which are so crucial in entrepreneurial ventures - had either financial hardship or some other challenges in their formative years. Early failures and hardships shape one’s character just as much as - if not more than - early successes.
8. WHAT HAS THIS PERSON BEEN READING?
Reading puts one’s history in context, helps frame ideas, sparks new thoughts, lends nuance to existing perspectives and keeps you apprised of current events. It’s a generalisation, but the more interesting people I have met tend to read a lot - it’s a mark of intellectual curiosity.
9. COULD YOU GO ON A LONG CAR RIDE WITH THIS PERSON?
This is a variant of the "airport test". Years ago, at my first job, I was introduced to a thought experiment in which you ask yourself: if I were stuck at an airport with this candidate, how would I really feel? In a similar fashion, ask yourself: is this the type of person with whom I could imagine going on a cross-country drive?
10. DO YOU BELIEVE THIS PERSON IS SELF-AWARE?
My colleagues and I believe the most important prerequisite to great leadership is self-awareness. Does this person have an intellectual honesty about who he is and his strengths and weaknesses? Does he have a desire to learn and take appropriate actions based on that awareness? It’s usually a more difficult question to answer than the rest, but look for humility and congruence between what the person thinks, says and does.
Launching a Marketing Campaign? Ask these 3 Questions First
Source: Inc Magazine, 27 June, 2013
Before undergoing the time and expense of launching a marketing campaign, you need to do some self-examination first. Advertising expert Curt Hanke explains why
Ready for a secret? The three biggest marketing questions aren’t actually marketing questions. (Sorry to disappoint.) They’re actually business questions. And while they appear to be simple questions dressed in plain clothes, in my experience, they often are the hardest for organizations to truly answer in a consistent, meaningful way.
Question #1: What is your tolerance of risk versus reward?
Do you want certain incremental progress or uncertain breakthrough potential? How does this align with financial expectations based on the nature of your organization (i.e., commitments to owners or shareholders)? Is there one answer to this question as a whole, or multiple answers based on business unit, geography, or product line? (Note: Having multiple answers should be a deliberate decision, not an accidental strategy.)
To be clear, this isn’t just a business question--it can also be filed under "organizational behavior" and "management leadership," among others. Far too often, a single company will have over a dozen different approaches toward risk versus reward; at different levels, in different roles, for different reasons, with no cohesive thought or rationale. Inevitably, this leads to clumsy investment strategies and inefficient performance. Until an organization truly defines its risk tolerance, it is very difficult to architect a thoughtfully integrated marketing plan.
Question #2: Where is your business truly excellent?
What are we really marketing here? Does your company have the best product, the best cost, or the best solution? In other words, are you Apple, Walmart, or Amazon - and what does this mean for how you run your business (and market it as a result)? In our experience, it is very uncommon for a single organization to be good at more than one core competency.
To put a finer point on it, the best marketing initiatives are driven by strong business strategies leading to clearly defined targets, clearly defined objectives, and clearly defined strategic drivers. At the risk of being redundant, while these sound simple, it is astounding how infrequently organizations are able to marshal their resources behind a business platform where the dots all truly connect. (In all honesty, it’s even more astounding when we find a corporation where the whole of leadership is on the same page. More on that in a future column.)
Question #3: What do you really want to accomplish?
Ahh, an oldie but a goodie. The deeper and further you get into marketing planning, the deeper and further you get into priorities and trade-offs - it’s that simple. Obviously, everyone would love to have both sales and brand equity go up. And, with differentiated products, weak competitors, predictable supply chains and limitless budgets, this would be an easy task. But we all know this is not the reality of any business today.
Bottom line, this is about prioritization. At a macro level, where do you want to end up--and why? What are the most important drivers for the organization? At a micro level, how might the constituent parts of the plan individually and collectively add up to the whole? At the end of the day (and quarter, and year), what is most critical that you accomplish (or learn, as planned learning is often an essential component of marketing planning)? Answering this question effectively will drive everything from budget allocation and metrics definition to campaign design and optimization strategy.
Ernest Hemingway once said, "Never mistake motion for action." Unfortunately, many organizations do just that. Managed by inertia, they believe that they have a clearly defined "true north" in place guiding their decisions, when it’s really just the momentum of the past carrying them into whatever direction the wind blows. In order to truly create action--in this case, strong, smart, deliberate marketing action - an organization needs to answer three big business questions in order to set the table for marketing success.
How to get your employees to care about your company
Source: Dynamic Business Magazine, 26 June, 2013
If you’ve ever been an employee, you can probably recall a scenario where you showed up for work without giving too much thought as to how your performance affected the company overall.
Whether you can attribute that to being a careless youth or feeling a lack of recognition, being a company owner has probably helped you see things from a different angle, and part of running a successful company is making sure everyone on board is being thoughtful and intentional when it comes to the business’s future.
Luckily, to help make that ideal a reality, there are a few steps you can take to help your employees care just as much about your company as you do.
Sell Them the Bigger Picture
Oftentimes, it’s hard for those working on a lower level to see how their work contributes to the overall functioning of the company, and in turn, this causes employees to slack off simply because they don’t feel their work is that vital to the cause.
Take time often to explain to your employees how their individual efforts matter and make a difference; by seeing how their hard work and dedicated time contributes to the company’s success, they’ll become more motivated to give it their all.
Pay Well and Offer Employee Incentives
As an employer it’s important to remind yourself of why your employees are associated with your company in the first place; they might love the work they do, but it’s also in order to meet their financial needs.
Make sure to pay them a fair wage in exchange for the work they’re providing you with, and offer numerous opportunities for raises and employee benefits.
In the business world, you get what you pay for, and if you’re providing frequent raises and insurance packages, you’ll be a lot safer to assume your employees are putting thought and care into their daily responsibilities.
Give Performance Reviews
It’s hard for employees to care one way or another about the company they’re working for when they’re aimless as to how they’re actually doing.
Taking time to provide quality feedback on their performance, as well as listen to any thoughts, suggestions, or concerns they have, will help show that you acknowledge and care about each of their individual performances.
Not only will you be able to clear up any issues your employees are experiencing, but you’ll show that you recognise their strengths and weaknesses.
Performance reviews are a good way to remind your staff that singular efforts matter, and doing so frequently will motivate them to want to stand out for the quality of their efforts and not the lack thereof.
Show Enthusiasm and Company Pride
Whether you’re aware of it or not, you set the tone of the company, so make sure that the energy you’re giving off is enthusiastic and motivating to be around.
Send out weekly emails of goals you want to meet, express your company pride in staff meetings, and walk around the office with a positive attitude.
You’ll be surprised that the more effort you put into showing how much you care about your company will rub off on all your staff members.
Create an Open Dialogue
If you’re not willing to hear your employees’ thoughts and suggestions, don’t expect them to be too concerned with your company; in order for your line of business to matter to them, they need to feel as though they’re a part of it, so utilise every opportunity you can to engage your staff’s opinions on company matters.
That’s not to say you have to ask their advice on every decision the company makes, but set aside periods of time specified to address their ideas and suggestions.
Employees are able to bring a different perspective to the table, and the more you acknowledge and value that, the more they’ll start to care about making their services as worthwhile to the company as possible.
A solid team of dedicated employees is the key to any business’s success, and in order for your workers to engage with your company, you have to engage with your employees. If you can do that, you’ll have a strong foundation to build a strong, successful, and promising future for many years ahead.
The Courage to Move from Management to Leadership
Source: Business Solutions Magazine, 19 June, 2013
The journey from being a sound and solid business to an elite level of performance will only happen when an organisation has the motivation to break through the comfort zone by challenging its capable managers to become elite leaders.
What is the difference? Capable managers focus on the mechanics of the business almost exclusively. By this I mean that they develop and manage solid strategies. They have sensible and achievable KPIs, and providing there are not extenuating circumstances, deliver a healthy bottom line.
Some teams who have healthy mechanics in their business can be seduced into labelling this 'best practice’ or 'high performance’. We conduct about 20 per cent of our business in elite sport and this scenario would be a little like winning more games than you lose and laying claim to being high performing.
In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins says, "Being good is the enemy of being great".
Let us consider where elite leadership might take us and how.
Elite leaders have a balance in their focus between what we have titled the MECHANICS of the business and the DYNAMICS of the business. Put simply, we would define dynamics as the mood, vibe, values or culture of the business.
In particular, in tough times the elite leader would not be distracted into just fiddling with the mechanics, for example, cost-cutting exercises and reducing staff numbers; what I might term 'playing around at the edges’. He would focus more aggressively on the dynamics (behaviour) that are occurring within the team at that time. The reason why the focus on behaviour (culture) is important is that a mediocre performer (team or individual) in good times will be more likely to become a poor performer in tough times.
Elite leaders, in the first instance, create clarity in organisations. People are clear about the purpose of the organisation and every person knows and believes in the value of their individual role. I recall reading an article about President John F. Kennedy, on a tour of NASA, stopping to ask a cleaner what his job was. The cleaner replied, "I help put people on the moon". In organisations where people feel engaged, they talk more about what they are responsible for and less about "this is just my job".
Creating clarity also means every person is clear about what the organisation values in terms of behaviour (particularly around what is unacceptable to us). The extent to which these behaviours are congruent is the realm of elite leadership. If the behaviours have no real meaning and are not considered relevant to elite performance then tear down the signs. I saw this summarised many years ago when I attended a local football club. They had their values statement on the wall and it said in bold and brave letters: "ONE in, ALL in". However, someone else had added under the statement: "Until the s@#%
hits the fan and then it is every man for himself".
Imagine if an organisation let individuals write what they thought were the 'real’ values and accepted behaviours of the organisation on the wall. In an elite leadership environment, most staff would agree that what is said is done. That is the ultimate test.
So, how do we go from a meaningless sign on a wall to a behavioural framework that drives performance? In a word: relationships. An elite leader places high value on all staff having strong, professional relationships with stakeholders that affect their performance. The reasoning is that the combination of a clear behavioural framework and a strong professional relationship enables people to have the more difficult or genuine conversations around performance. The team (and the individuals within) develops a capacity to self manage.
We are working with a manufacturing group whose production staff have basic competencies from a technical viewpoint, but historically have had no 'soft’ skills training. The owner/leader wanted to move from comfortable to elite. His first step was to engage the staff in some genuine conversations about how they saw the business. He asked them to imagine if their house was mortgaged to the business, what would they change? This created the right context for the conversations to happen.
He started with the question: How would we describe our team now? (two or three descriptive words, considering both the internal and external view). This question raised some concerns that the staff had seen around complacency and mediocrity.
The next question he asked the staff to consider was: Is there a behaviour we accept in the team that we know we shouldn’t? This question helped the staff to make the link between the words used to describe the team and the underlying behaviour which created this perception. Behaviours which were identified by the group included:
- Turning a blind eye to faults
- Addressing issues/frustrations inappropriately (for example, aggression).
This enabled the group to focus efforts on eradicating some of the counter-productive behaviour of the team and increase their sense of ownership.
The leader/owner then asked the staff: How would you describe me as a leader and is there any behaviour I exhibit that negatively affects our performance? You can see that this part of the exercise tested the relationship he shares with his staff. If there is little or no trust then he would have received poor quality feedback (even dishonest). However, the team gave him two or three areas to work on as their leader - he did - and they appreciated his efforts.
- How would your staff describe you as a leader?
- Would you want to know?
The organisation has continued to review openly and some of the changes that have been observed include:
A preparedness from staff to suggest a better way. Workers used to have an attitude that you pay for our body not our mind.
Honesty around faults and performance. Previously poor workmanship would have been covered up and the faulty product sent out. Naturally enough, having all staff looking out for faults has had a significant impact on the number of faulty items being returned.
Improved customer service and relationships. Simply a flow on from having greater attention to detail. Customers now have a greater level of trust in the company.
Increased ability to challenge each other about the quality of work produced. In the past, workplace issues were handled via a pecking order. There tended to be either a fight or flight response to conflict. This staff group now have a commitment to resolving issues without bullying.
Importantly, the bottom line has also improved!
Some people try to over intellectualise elite leadership. In the end, it is still about galvanising and empowering people and action. Reading the book on leadership unfortunately does not make you a leader. You are required to move from the land of knowing something to the land of doing something!