Nothing builds and sustains credibility better for a business professional than when he or she can lead by example.Whether you take the time to chat with new colleagues before a meeting, help out with a difficult project, or are the first to ask the hard questions, you alone are responsible for setting standards and expectations.

As a father, husband and business intermediary, people count on me for advice, leadership and guidance. I found the best way to earn their trust is by setting a good example.

Actions speak louder than words, particularly when your attitude and behavior motivate people to do their best work. Doing otherwise only confuses the people who look up to you.

By incorporating the following practices into your life, you will not only improve the way others perceive you, but you will also feel better about the way you are presenting yourself as a person that others will follow and emulate — the very definition of leading by example.

 

Get involved

While working your “day job” may already be taking up too much of your time, getting involved in industry organizations may be just the thing you need to advance your career and set a positive example for others. I am involved professional organizations such as the Georgia Association of Business Brokers, the International Business Brokers Association, Rotary International and Street Grace.

I have found that getting out from behind my computer can be a challenge.  But meeting new people and talking big-picture about my industry has been crucial to my professional advancement.

Joining professional organizations in my field has given me a chance to do just that. Best of all, most organizations have local chapters so I did not even have to travel very far to get involved.

 

Put family first

Putting family first is something that we all strive to do, but in today’s busy world, most of us have jobs that do not allow for much free time to spend with our family.

I know that trying to put family first above everything else may seem like a mission and not knowing how to do this can make things even harder. Jobs can be a huge part of our lives and sometimes our jobs can get out of hand and make us spend less and less time with our families.

I make it a point to be involved in my children and wife’s lives as much as possible. Taking interest in their hobbies and being an active participant is a great way to spend time with your family.

I am a lacrosse coach and Cub Scout den leader. In these roles I have the opportunity to shape lives and demonstrate to other parents how they can become involved in youth organizations to point kids in the right direction.

 

Look to your community

The best way to stay involved in your community is through maintaining a commitment to make a positive impact in the environment in which you work, live and play. You can gain respect, friendship and pride through community involvement.

One of the most satisfying, fun, and productive ways to lead by example and get involved in your community is through volunteerism.  When you commit your time and effort to an organization or a cause you feel strongly about, the feeling of fulfillment can be endless.

Your peers, colleagues and family members are always watching you and taking notice to what you do. They will see the benefits of being involved in professional organizations, putting family first and being involved their communities.

Owner of the North Atlanta office of Murphy Business & Financial Corp., Reed has been serving clients for more than 20 years in the Atlanta, Ga., area as well as across the country. He is an accredited business intermediary, a licensed real estate broker and has owned and managed his own limited liability company. Reach him (678) 383-4781 or k.reed@murphybusiness.com

 

Published in Columnist

I drop off my clothes at the dry cleaner weekly and the staff is always friendly. A hello, good bye is always said but there are a few things that are missing.

1. A few weeks earlier, I dropped off some clothes and picked up and paid for the clothes that I had dropped off the week earlier. As I was getting out of the car I asked my son to bring in my dry cleaning. He said, “Dad — these clothes don’t look like yours.”

As I took a quick look, he was 100 percent right and two minutes later we were back at the dry cleaners exchanging the wrong clothes…. I hoped. Thankfully after 15 minutes they found my clothes and life was back to normal and my shirts were back with me.

The interesting thing was what the owner said or actually didn’t say. The only thing he said was, “Thanks for bringing back the clothes,” which I thought was very odd. There was no sorry for the mix up… no sorry for any inconvenience… in fact, no sorry at all.

Lesson No. 1: Say I’m sorry. It isn’t a sign of weakness; it isn’t a sign of embarrassment. Frankly it is a sign of honesty and sincerity, and it shows the customer you really, really care about them and their business.

2. In the past few months I have also noticed that my dry cleaner will give me a date/time when my clothes will be ready. Lo and behold when I show up, they aren’t. I understand that you can miss a deadline but when you know you have missed a deadline, say something. they have my phone number and email. Make a call or send a text/email.

Lesson No. 2: Everyone will miss a deadline. Doing nothing, sweeping it under the rug and not communicating is a huge mistake and can only cost your business in the long run!

3. This next one was actually very funny or at least I thought it was funny. I lost one of my buttons on my shirt and asked my dry cleaner to sew it back on. They said, “No problem at all and it will be ready when the rest of your clothes are ready.”

A few weeks later I wore the shirt that the dry cleaner had fixed and noticed the button (on my sleeve) was actually a different color than the one next to it. My dress shirts have two buttons on the sleeve so it is very easy for me to notice. I looked at the bottom of my shirt where there is always extra buttons sewn in and lo and behold, all of the extra buttons are still there. Ok, I will admit I did chuckle a little bit.

Lesson No. 3: Pay attention to details. It is the smallest of details that can and will affect your business the most. Rest assured if you pay attention to details your enterprise has a much better chance to be successful.

Merrill Dubrow is president and CEO, M/A/R/C Research, located in Dallas, one of the top 25 market research companies in the U.S. Merrill is a sought after speaker and has been writing a blog for over six years. He can be reached at merrill.dubrow@marcresearch.com or at (972) 983-0416.

 

Published in Columnist

If a manufacturer, distributor or merchant incurs a loss from your product, you need product liability insurance to protect your business. Product liability is generally considered a “strict liability offense” — if your product has a defect, you’re liable.

“Like most things, the devil is in the details. From an insurance perspective, it’s important to look at all of the terms and conditions of your general liability policy,” says Shane Moran, vice president at ECBM.

 

Smart Business spoke with Moran about the facts of product liability insurance.

What are some product liability claims?

Product claims typically fall into three categories, claims arising from:

 

 

  • The manufacturing or production process — opening a can of soup and finding a piece of metal in it.

 

 

 

 

  • A design failure or hazard — a chair designed with one of its legs significantly shorter than the others.

 

 

 

 

  • A product that is not adequately labeled as to the potential hazard of the product — the label on a cigarette pack or a warning label on prescription medicine.

 

 

Who should have product liability coverage?

Manufacturers are not the only companies with product liability exposure — every company from the manufacturer of the components down to the retailer can be brought into a suit, and potentially has an exposure. A retailer may have an exposure if it assembled or installed the product and didn’t follow the manufacturer’s instructions properly. The retailer also would have a duty to the buyer to test the product for safety.

What possible damages could be awarded?

Your company can be legally obligated for damages to a third party that your product causes. These damages range from bodily injury to property and economic damage, with punitive damages potentially awarded.

You also can sustain loses in terms of recall cost, further product testing, advertising cost to prevent damage to your reputation, and business income and extra expense loss.

Why do some policies cover economic damages, but not punitive or statutory damages?  

When policies cover economic damages, they mean compensation for a verifiable monetary loss, which can include loss of future earnings, loss of business opportunities, loss of use of the property, cost of repair or replacement, loss of employment and even medical expenses.

Punitive damages are awarded for the purpose of punishment, or to deter a reckless decision or action. Typically, they are used when compensatory damages are deemed inadequate. Punitive damage is a tricky area for insurance, as most jurisdictions have ruled that it is uninsurable. You need to examine your commercial general liability policy’s terms and conditions to see whether you have coverage. In most cases, you will find a punitive damages exclusion included.

Why is it a bad idea to underreport sales volume to lower your premium costs?

Most general liability policies are auditable. While an owner may want to use a lower exposure base to keep upfront premiums low, at the end of the day that same owner runs the risk of a large additional premium payment with the audited exposure.

Right after the policy expires, the audit occurs, which coincides with when the deposit premiums are paid. Deposit premiums are usually 25 percent of the total premium, so without using the proper exposure base at the beginning, a company could be looking at a very large outlay of cash in a short time period. This cash flow crunch could cause the cancellation of a company’s insurance for nonpayment.

Most carriers also lower their rates as the exposure base increases. So, by understating your exposure, you could be causing your company to have a higher rate and premium.

What other mistakes do companies make in this arena?

Many business owners think their insurance covers everything. But, for example, you may or may not have a product recall exclusion. The cost associated with recalling a product can be enormous, and you don’t want to find out that you have no coverage when faced with a claim.

If you’re unsure of your coverage, contact your insurance broker and/or risk manager to review the language.

Shane Moran is a vice president at ECBM. Reach him at (610) 668-7100, ext. 1237, or smoran@ecbm.com.

For more information about risk management, see ECBM's blog.

 

Insights Risk Management is brought to you by ECBM

Published in Philadelphia

In nearly every marketing conversation, I am asked how to measure return on investment. It is a fair question, but the answer is not always simple to address. 

ROI, and equally important return on opportunity, are measured differently for most companies and are calculated on factors that are specific to each organization.

Here are some considerations for formulating ROI and ROO:

Establishing marketing goals — Know the marketing outcomes you desire. Are you trying to generate leads, build exposure, get the phone to ring, grow market share or retain customers?

Also keep in mind that marketing goals and sales goals are different. If direct human interaction is not a factor in the sale, they could be the same. For most, this is not the case. Marketing creates the opportunity and sales books the order. They are different disciplines.

Make your marketing goals measurable — in other words, be specific by stating percentage of growth, number of leads, degree of increase in market recognition, increase in market share and percentage of retention.

Understanding tracking — Determine tracking methods for what you want to measure. If you want a hard measurement of increase in market recognition, you can establish a benchmark by implementing before and after research surveys of how well-known your company, product or brand is in the marketplace.

Sometimes tracking can be easy, such as the number of leads generated from Internet advertising or an email campaign. Other times, unless we train customer service and sales representatives to ask how that prospect heard of us, we may never know where that opportunity came from.

Tracking percentage of growth and increase of market share require that we understand current measures as well as the sales team’s impact on the overall result. We need to understand what result we are looking for so the marketing campaign can direct prospects to do what we want to measure.

Calculating investment costs — Determining the cost of advertising, creative development, printing, postage and so on is easy. The more difficult factors are what else you are including in that calculation such as technology costs, staff cost and sales cost including sales tools such as brochures and websites.

Understanding all that you want a return on is a big factor in measuring and managing the expectation for return. Typically the more you factor in, the longer it takes to anticipate a return.

Determining profitability — Cost of goods sold is the typical calculation for understanding what it costs you to produce a product or deliver a service to a customer. How quickly a company will see a return is based on how much gross profit is derived from the sale.

Another consideration is the lifetime value of new customer. If the sale of your product has the potential to generate future maintenance or service work, add-on components, replacement parts, reoccurring revenue and the like, then your return can more readily be met by factoring the lifetime profit your company realizes from acquiring a new customer.

Factoring the sales cycle — What is the typical time frame from when a lead is generated to when a sale is booked (signed, sealed and delivered)?

How quickly you will get a return on investment is largely based on how quickly you can book the new business. If it is a long sales cycle, you may want to engage interim measurements or milestones to ensure your return is on track.

So, what should you be measuring? There are numerous ROI and ROO measurements — I could easily name 25 off the top of my head. You need to determine which are most important to your organization. Choose no more than a handful so that your team can easily manage the tracking and measurement.

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 22-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into market leaders. She has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, kborth@greencrest.com, @brandpro or for more information www.greencrest.com.

 

 

 

Published in Columnist

Many owners of small and midsize businesses are aware of cloud technology and software as a service, but don’t understand its radical cost transformation. It’s no longer a technical curiosity but a competitive necessity.

“The cloud brings a tsunami of cost-effective IT to the small business’s front door,” says Kevin O’Toole, senior vice president and general manager of Business Solutions at Comcast Business Services. “But it does bring two challenges with it. You have to pick the right partners, adopt the right technology and have good support. And your competition is going to embrace these technologies, so if you don’t figure out how to embrace this your business will be at a competitive disadvantage.”

Smart Business spoke with O’Toole on what to know about software as a service.

Why are small and midsize businesses buying software in the cloud?

IT for small and midsize businesses used to be about scarcity. They couldn’t afford expensive servers and staff to maintain them. Now, the cloud allows everyone to buy applications and services on demand, as they need it. Instead of having a server that may or may not get backed up or upgraded, everything is housed in an industrial data center with strong security and software that is regularly patched.

Also, when you buy a server, you’re buying capacity for the future. But when you buy software from the cloud, you can get it on a per user basis, adding or taking off users as your company changes.

Overall, software as a service allows you to focus on your core business. The cloud can help you get customers and serve them more efficiently, help your back office run more productively and help keep your costs down.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Dq-vhqCxHKo#!

What kind of software applications are businesses getting from the cloud?

Pretty much anything can be managed out of the cloud at this point. Business owners are getting messaging through a hosted email exchange service. They are buying data backup services and file sharing services. With conference services, literally a couple of minutes later you can be doing a conference from six different locations with video and screen sharing. Other applications being adopted are financial and human resources services.

What do businesses need to know upfront?

The biggest things to know are:

 

 

  • There are a lot of providers out there, but you want to buy from providers you can trust. It’s actually not that hard to start a cloud company, but it is hard to run one well. Sorting through the clutter and having someone vet providers for you is very valuable. Make sure when you put your business information into someone’s hands, it’s someone you trust.

 

 

  • Have insight on what you intend to do with the system, so you don’t implement one system only to find out you really wanted additional features in a larger system.  Also, even though your overall financial costs are lower with the cloud, there are also adoption efforts to consider, such as training your employees.

 

 

  • Try to buy services in an environment with great user management and support. For example, if you’re using five different cloud applications, you don’t want each employee to need five logins and passwords. From a support perspective, make sure you have a partner on the other end to help with any troubleshooting.

 

 

  • While a Google search of any cloud-based application or service will give you many listings, it is important to work with someone who can sort through it all. Find someone to ask hard questions of the cloud provider and set the bar high on quality.

 

 

What do companies do if they have technical questions about cloud-based software?

Like any technology project, you will have support questions — things do go wrong and there is confusion. It goes back to how you bought your cloud service. You can go to the source and work directly with a software vendor to purchase, onboard and maintain business applications via the cloud. You may get great support, or your provider may not always answer the phone leaving you with a major problem that you can’t solve right away. By going through a cloud expert that has the technical know-how to answer questions and troubleshoot when necessary, you can maintain that focus on your core business while also making your business more effective with the cloud.

Kevin O’Toole is a senior vice president and general manager of Business Solutions at Comcast Business Services. Reach him at (855) 867-5010 or upware_clouddesk@cable.comcast.com.

Learn more about Comcast’s new online marketplace of business-grade cloud solutions with simple access and account management.

 

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Comcast Business

Published in Philadelphia

Every year, your company conference creeps up. So, who’s going to plan it? Who needs to go? What does the agenda look like, and what is it we want people to take away from the experience? Set the stage from the beginning with a cross-functional planning committee, determine the key members of your team who need to attend and ensure at the end they have key takeaways.

Planning a meeting is no small task, especially when it involves hundreds, potentially thousands, of people. While meeting planning often is the job function of one person, a cross-functional planning team can have positive effects.

First, it ensures all your departments are represented and that the topics from each discipline will be discussed. Second, it brings perspectives from different people, and with that, new ideas. It also allows employees to get involved and develop new skills they may otherwise not have been exposed to.

Conferences can get expensive, and when you add in the fact that they are often in different states and last for several days, a company has to be strategic about who can attend. It’s important your senior leadership team attends, as those leaders will likely be the ones presenting the strategy and reporting on the team’s accomplishments.

While not all associates need to attend, be sure to include those who lead teams, those who interact with vendors and those who have a purpose for being there. For employees who don’t attend year after year, it could be a nice surprise to invite one or two a year that don’t typically make the list.

Vendors are vital to a company’s success, whether they are partners of record or help on a project basis. It’s important they are invited, have a seat at the table, and hear the same messages your team does, because they are an extension of your team.

So now you’re at the conference and your team is attending the general sessions. They go to the break-outs. They listen to a guest speaker. They visit the vendor fair. Conferences are so much more than just following the agenda. I challenge you and your teams at the next conference to do the following:

Make a friend — There are always people you don’t know at conferences; many people attend just to network. Take the time to meet new people and get to know what they do and how they contribute to your company’s success. Keep in touch with the people you meet.

Develop existing relationships — If you have acquaintances at conferences, think about how you can take your business relationship with them to the next level, whether it’s learning something new about them or their business.

Learn something new — Lots of new information and ideas are shared at conferences. Attend with an open mind and be ready to learn. Take two or three new learnings and put together an action plan around them.

Recognize accomplishments — Conferences are a great opportunity to publicly recognize both employees and vendors who contributed to your company’s success.

In addition to celebrating accomplishments, it’s a good time to inspire attendees about the future. Conference themes that are reflective of the company’s long-term objectives will help ensure associates and vendors at all levels leave with a common understanding of the company’s strategies and what it is counting on them to accomplish.

Paul Damico is president of Atlanta based Moe’s Southwest Grill, a fast-casual restaurant franchise with over 490 locations nationwide. Paul has been a leader in the foodservice industry for more than 20 years with companies such as SSP America, FoodBrand, LLC; and Host Marriott. He can be reached at pdamico@moes.com. 

Published in Columnist

Consumers expect two-way communication with brands that is timely, relevant, human and most importantly, accurate.

Companies and brands that have embraced this reality are in a much better position to engage customers, build relationships with these customers and create advocacy. Those with phobias about technology and customer engagement will find growth and creating customer loyalty increasingly difficult.

Shift from one expert to many. One industry that is highly affected by the growth of this trend is health care. For health care systems, doctors have traditionally been the experts and patients took direction solely from their family physician.

That no longer happens in many cases as consumers seek information from search engines, websites and health care ratings organizations that are all perceived as “experts.” And in light of health care reform, the amount of misinformation that is accessible and shared is enormous.

These information shifts, however, are not exclusive to the health care industry. We have seen this in virtually every industry we represent, from automotive to health care to home and building products. The categories and industries may be different, but the shift in consumer behavior as a direct result of digital technology is similar.

Brands no longer have complete control of their message, and the best thing to do is take advantage of that by embracing digital influencers and developing strategies that leverage influencers rather than trying to ignore their presence.

Brand advocates. Every brand has the power to create advocacy. This is what leads to the influence-the-influencer approach to marketing. By embracing technology, brands can engage consumers to the following:

 

 

  • Gain additional perspective on your brand, products and services. Give them online venues to write about positive experiences.

 

 

  • Acknowledge their feedback through Facebook posts, forums, comments and tweets. Answer their questions, address their concerns and correct any information that is incorrect. Take them offline so you do not offend them or create a negative perception for you.

 

 

  • Delight and enlighten them: Content is king. Photos, videos, infographics … any way you can engage your audience, do it! Create content that is relevant, timely and focused on what consumers want and need. Optimize content for search engines. Create blogs with relevant and fresh content. Drive consumers to your website and ensure proper analytics are set up so that you can track their behavior.

 

 

  • Lastly, track and measure! Determine what your goals are and what your key performance indicators will be prior to any endeavor.

 

 

Relationship building. To be authentic, brands must focus on helping consumers and not selling them. Brands do this by ensuring messaging is targeted and relevant at every touchpoint in the customer’s journey.

Advocacy building. The best way to build authentic advocacy with consumers is to understand their concerns and mindset. This can be accomplished by incorporating a digital listening and responding strategy that includes a specific and timely process for consumer support, to acknowledge their feedback through social media and other means. The goal is to create mutually beneficial relationships with consumers.

Future Team. A team of this type helps keep us ahead of cultural shifts. Their insights help us create and implement metrics to support a brand through all touchpoints and help offset competing brands’ efforts. You should do this too.

Embrace digital technology now to capitalize on this important way your target consumes information.

Maggie Harris is vice president of account services at Hitchcock Fleming & Associates (hfa). Reach her at www.teamhfa.com.

Published in Columnist

Many executives do not view the content they distribute as intertwined with their organization’s unique product or service. However, the two are interchangeable. Your product or service has differentiators that cause your clients to select you instead of the competition. Those same factors apply in content marketing.

If your goal is to engage prospects and ultimately lead them to conversion, you must create content that keeps them engaged. Success comes from creating consumable pieces of content that together form a singular thought leadership message and distributing those pieces across multiple channels. You never know through what channel someone will engage with your brand (or branded content), so the message needs to be consistent.

There are a few simple rules to doing this. Your content and what you’re selling should meet four criteria. It must be:

 

 

  • Useful

 

 

  • Relevant

 

 

  • Differentiated

 

 

  • Available

 

 

Useful means the content, as well as your product or service, has a defined use for a target audience. It addresses:

 

 

  • How do I use this?

 

 

  • How does this help me?

 

 

  • What problem does this solve for me?

 

 

Here’s an example: According to a recent IDC Research report, 49 percent of the entire U.S. population currently uses a smartphone. By 2017, that number is expected to reach 68 percent. That means that within four years, more than two out of every three Americans — regardless of age — will be connected via smartphone. Therefore, a useful product a company might offer could be a solar-operated phone charger. And useful content to distribute to a target audience may include “How to make your daily life easier with these top five iPhone apps.”

To be Relevant, the product, service or content must be new and interesting, and mean something to the market or industry. Your audience will ask:

 

 

  • What does this mean to me?

 

 

  • Do I need this?

 

 

Let’s say your organization provides a website portal that connects insurance companies. New and interesting content that means something might be, “How your health care plan will be affected by reform . . . and what you can do to prepare for it.”

In a world filled with noise, you must demonstrate how what you do is Differentiated from competitors and explain:

 

 

  • How does your content, product and service compare to the competition?

 

 

  • Is it unique?

 

 

Let’s go back to the smartphone example. If you sell or service iPhones and Android-platform models, think about creating engaging content that examines the needs of today’s smartphone user, and then go beyond the basic functionality.

It’s also imperative to understand your target audience and the target audience for each product. Android-based smartphones are primarily aimed at businesspeople. iPhones, for all their bells and whistles, are not. This differentiation has led to a lot of confusion in the marketplace when consumers compare one against the other. Understanding this allows smart marketers to create engaging content such as “The top 10 needs of businesspeople: A comparison of Android phones vs. iPhones.”

Finally, your product, service and content must be Available and easily obtained in any channel.

If you run a benefits company that works with employers, for example, health care reform provides a timely opportunity to help clients make sense of the landscape. This might entail delivering a variety of consumable content that’s available to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through any channel.

This could include a video that explains the difference in options available to employers. It could be a social media campaign that outlines the top five differences between the health care insurance exchanges and employer-sponsored health care. Or, it may be a series of print mailers or webinars, or even a dedicated microsite that’s filled with content that details what employers need to know.

When your goal is creating engaging content, your ability to consider — and address — each of these factors may be what’s required to transform engagement into measurable conversion.

Published in National

This is no fish story. Instead, this column is about one of the most important roles an owner or CEO must fulfill on an ongoing basis.

Leaders spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with the issues du jour. These range from managing people, wooing and cajoling customers, creating strategies, searching for elusive answers and just about everything in between. These are all good and necessary tasks and undertakings. Too frequently, however, these same leaders delegate this effort to others or ignore it altogether. To be “in the game,” you have to know when to fish or cut bait.

Successful fishermen know that to catch a fish they have to sometimes cast their lines dozens of times just to get a nibble or bite. The first bite might not result in reeling in that big fish. Frequently, a nibble is just a tipoff as to where the fish are swimming.

The same applies to reaching out — casting a line, if you will, to explore new, many times unorthodox, opportunities for your organization. These opportunities can be finding a competitor to buy, discovering an unlikely yet complementary business to partner with or snagging a new customer from an industry that had heretofore gone undiscovered.

All of this takes setting a portion of your time to investigate unique situations, as well as a healthy dose of creativity and the ability to think well beyond the most obvious.

Too many times even the most accomplished executives lack the motivation to look for ideas in unlikely places. Some would believe that it’s unproductive to spend a significant amount of time on untested “what ifs.” Just like sage fishermen, executives can also cultivate their own places to troll.

Of course, networking is a good starting point, particularly with people unrelated to your business, where sometimes one may fortuitously stumble onto a new idea that leads to a payoff.

Other times, a hot lead might come from simply reading trade papers, general media reports and just surfing the Internet. The creative twist is reading material that doesn’t necessarily apply to your own industry or to anything even close to what you do. New ideas come disguised in many forms and are frequently hidden in a variety of nooks and crannies. This means training yourself to read between the lines.

Once something piques your imagination, the next step is to follow through and call the other company or send an inquiry by email to state that it might be worth a short conversation to explore potential mutually beneficial arrangements. This can at times be a bit frustrating and futile. That's when you cut bait and start anew.

However, reaching out to someone today could materialize into something of substance tomorrow. The often skipped but critical next step, even after hitting a seemingly dead end, is to always close the loop with whomever you made contact. Even if there is no apparent fit or interest at the moment, it’s easy and polite to send a short note of thanks and attach your one-paragraph “elevator” pitch.

That same person just might be casting him or herself, be it in a month or even a year later, and make contact with a different organization that’s not a fit for him or her, but recall you because you followed through and created awareness about your story.

This just might lead the person with whom you first spoke to call you because you had had the courtesy to send that note. Bingo — you just got a bite all because of continuing to cast your line.

Good CEOs and honest fishermen also have one other important characteristic in common: humility. They know that when a line is cast it won’t result in a catch every time. But if nothing is ventured, it’s guaranteed there will be nothing gained. Don’t let that big one get away. Just keep casting.

Published in National

As an organization grows, changes are inevitable.

New employees are added, promotions are made and job responsibilities shift.

But any time you have change, you have the potential for conflict. Few people are comfortable with change, and each person will react differently in making the adjustments necessary to move forward with the company.

The most important thing a CEO can do is to be active in confronting potential conflict. Conflict goes hand-in-hand with change. Employees begin to question management, co-workers and even themselves as they are forced outside of their comfort zones. Those questions can lead to misunderstandings that can lead to conflict, and that will ultimately slow your growth.

Don’t passively avoid potential conflict. Instead, actively engage members of your organization by providing the necessary forums both for you to communicate your strategy and vision and for them to communicate their concerns back to you. An active conversation will help drive your vision for the company through the organization and will also help foster your next generation of leaders as they take a more active role.

Only when employees are challenged to think — and to challenge you — will you maximize your organization’s potential. Do you want employees who don’t speak up when they recognize what may be a fatal flaw in your grand strategy? Or would you rather have employees who are actively thinking about the big-picture goals of the company and doing their part to contribute?

Regardless of what size company you run, it comes down to a simple choice.

It’s a choice between having employees acting like robots or acting like people. If you choose robots, you will have to have all the answers. If you choose people, you only have to have some of the answers because the employees will help you find the rest.

Engaging employees in conversations, meetings and decision-making helps them take ownership and helps you create a happier work force. If they are not allowed to speak, gossip and rumors will drag down your productivity.

Actively provide two-way communication. Let employees do the talking and hear what they have to say. The results may surprise you. Those closest to the customer often know best what needs to be done to improve sales, service or efficiency.

Too many CEOs lament the lack of good people to help take them to the next level. Maybe the problem is more CEOs need to create good people rather than driving them off with a work environment that’s better suited to a good robot.

Published in Cleveland
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