A few years ago, one of my friends embarked on what he deemed an ambitious, yet simple plan: Write a New York Times Best Seller.
“Ed” had reason to be optimistic: His first two books had sold well and he had successfully leveraged them to launch a burgeoning consulting practice. Ed also had a nationally known book publisher to handle distribution for this book, and he had developed a comprehensive marketing and promotions plan for the launch.
Ed felt all the pieces were in place and was sure he would succeed. His goals were two-fold: break out from the pack and grow his business, and hit the New York Times Best Seller’s list. While his head told him the first goal was more realistic, his heart was set on the second — publicly claiming it was his only true benchmark of success.
Needless to say, Ed’s book didn’t make the list. Few books do. That doesn’t mean Ed’s book was a failure. Quite the contrary, it was a huge success.
As a result of Ed’s book, he landed numerous speaking engagements with organizations and companies around the world. He began to command four- and five-figure speaking fees from those engagements, and his book was purchased and distributed to every attendee.
Further, Ed’s speaking engagements lead to dozens of private companies hiring him to provide one- and two-day seminars, where he taught executive teams how to implement the ideas he espoused in the book. Ed was also presented with numerous business opportunities for new and existing clients to tackle initiatives beyond the book’s subject matter that he had not previously considered but were related to his expertise.
Finally, Ed did sell thousands upon thousands of copies of his book in bookstores nationwide and online through booksellers like Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. His book was in the hands of the right people — and lots of them — and he had established a national profile.
Viewed through this lens, there is little doubt that Ed’s book was wildly successful — even if it wasn’t a New York Times Best Seller and even if it didn’t stack up to his primary benchmark.
This is the reality of book publishing. Each month, I speak with dozens of entrepreneurs and CEOs about their nascent book ideas and the possibility of having Smart Business Books handle development and publication of their stories and manuscripts. I begin every conversation the exact same way: “If your goal is to have a New York Times Best Seller, we’re not the right option for you.”
That’s because you should write books for the right reasons. If your only goal is getting on a best-seller’s list, then your ambitions are off the mark. Writing and publishing a book is not like a professional sports team’s season — there isn’t one winner who takes the championship and a bunch of losers who fall short. Publishing a book is not an all-or-nothing proposition.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t aim high with your goals, and having your book become a best-seller is certainly one way to measure success. Setting reasonable expectations, however, is essential.
So why write a book?
One of the most important questions you should be able to answer when thinking about writing a book is, “Who is going to read it and why?”
As Ed’s story demonstrates, a book is a very useful business development tool. It is an immediate conversation starter, an excellent credibility builder and one heck of a leave-behind. If you’re engaged in marketing, why not capture your expertise through a book?
Another reason is to celebrate a milestone or establish a legacy piece. It could be for a 50th or 100th anniversary, or to recognize the history of an organization upon the founder’s retirement or death.
And, if you are interested in helping others succeed, a book is a great way to share your expertise or what makes you and your organization special. For example, if you’ve built an amazing corporate culture where productivity blossoms and innovation flourishes, the “how” and “why” are good subjects for a book. And if you’ve been involved with several mergers and acquisitions, consider sharing what worked and what didn’t, and the lessons learned along the way.
Whatever your story, the key is having a reason to share it with others. The bottom line: It’s your story. Make it count.
It’s an unfortunate fact of business — over the last 20 years, lawsuits brought on by a company’s employees are up 400 percent. Businesses are constantly striving to stay ahead of the game as it relates to employer-employee relations, seeking information and tools to protect the business from getting into long, expensive legal battles with employees.
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce is answering the needs of the Ohio business community through the expanded HR Academy. Launched last year by providing HR Academy webinars, the program has expanded this year to provide even more human resource services. Businesses often don’t have the means to employ an HR professional or navigate the complicated HR laws themselves. So the Ohio Chamber’s HR Academy gives employers the tools to help them stay compliant.
Knowing your rights as an employer is essential to protecting your business. Business owners need someone on the inside with a broad understanding of the legal issues that can affect employer-employee relations. The HR Academy is the perfect tool for business owners to make sure their HR staff is well-informed.
In addition, the HR Academy helps human resource professionals and employment lawyers stay up-to-date on the issues that can affect employer-employee relations. The HR Academy curriculum is accredited by the Society of Human Resource Management and is delivered through a series of online webinars and in-person symposiums. Participants of the program receive HR Certification Institute credits (for human resource professionals) and Continuing Legal Education credits (for lawyers).
Other products offered through the HR Academy include the following:
HR Symposiums: Held in cooperation with local chambers throughout the state, these monthly symposiums offer a variety of topics from social media in the workplace to the latest in employment law. The symposiums are presented by sponsoring HR Academy law firms.
Ohio HR Manual: Produced in conjunction with Squire Sanders, an Ohio-based law firm with employment law expertise, we now offer a comprehensive HR Manual packed with information about employment law and human resource-related matters, all presented in an easy-to-understand manner.
Employment Law Posters: Ohio law says that every employer must have its NLRA Employment posters displayed in an easily accessible area in a place of business. Failure to do so can result in a fine by the state. Business owners can make sure they are in compliance by purchasing posters from us.
Also, for the first time, we will be offering businesses an opportunity to brand the NLRA posters. A perfect “thank you” gift for anyone you do business with — clients, vendors, distributors, etc. — the posters can be branded with your company name and logo.
The HR Academy can be purchased as a yearly subscription for $1,200 that can be billed monthly and includes webinars, human resource symposiums, employment law posters, HR Books and access to HR legal experts. Items can also be purchased individually by visiting www.hracademyohio.com.
The HR Academy webinars and symposiums are presented by sponsoring law firms with employment law expertise from around the state. The current HR Academy sponsors include Squire Sanders (Presenting Sponsor) and Baker Hostetler (Cornerstone Sponsor). Innovator Sponsors include Dinsmore & Shohl, Eastman & Smith, Jones Day, Roetzel & Andress, and Steptoe & Johnson. Fishel, Hass, Kim and Albrecht is a Partner Sponsor.
Beau Euton is vice president of membership for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. For more information on the Ohio Chamber’s HR Academy, contact Michelle Donovan at email@example.com.
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.
Earlier this year, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg set off a renewed debate on an old question: Why aren’t more women in executive positions? The answer you get depends on whom you ask. Some say it’s outright discrimination, while others argue that it’s an aggressive, inflexible culture that limits women’s advancement or drives them to opt out.
Who is the CEO?
For anyone who questions that there is a problem, the evidence is quite clear. While research shows a correlation between a company’s financial performance and the number of women in its governing body, women held just 14.4 percent of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies in 2010.
More than a quarter of companies had no women in an executive officer position. And 48 percent of Fortune 1000 companies had one or no women on their boards in 2012.
As an entrepreneur and business owner for 30 years, I know firsthand many of the challenges that women face in the workplace. One of the most pervasive issues is this: a deeply entrenched belief that productivity and effectiveness are defined by the number of hours you spend at the office.
Any executive today knows that working at least 60 hours a week is standard. While technology has simplified our lives in many ways, it has also complicated it. We’re now expected to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ready to respond to requests at any hour of the day or night.
At most companies, the rewards go to those who are willing to put work above everything else, and to do it over the long haul. Those expectations are coupled with a complex and ever-changing global environment that make us — women and men — more fearful and stressed out than ever before.
With that kind of prevailing climate in many companies, it’s no surprise that people looking for a sense of equilibrium choose to leave.
Gender representation needs
Until productivity and effectiveness are redefined to allow and encourage contributions of varying levels, we’ll never achieve fair gender representation. Even worse yet, we’ll never get the best we can from each person. We need to redefine successful leaders not as those who work through the night, but as those who are empathic and balanced, those who cultivate productive and healthy people and work environments.
Eventually companies will have to heed the call to re-examine their work cultures, asking themselves hard questions about who is best served by maintaining the status quo. Finding a balance between work and life is gaining increasing importance and can’t be ignored.
Find the right balance
In a global study conducted this year by LinkedIn, entitled “What Women Want @Work,” 63 percent of respondents defined success at work as “finding the right balance between work and personal life.” To the question, “Would you like a more flexible work environment,” 65 percent answered that flexible working would better enable them to manage career and family.
If you’re wondering how to get started, open-mindedness and creativity are essential. You have to be willing to throw out the old to bring in the new. That means a willingness to redefine roles and responsibilities, focusing on what needs to get done rather than how it gets done.
People don’t need to work overtime or full time to be productive, and responsibilities can be divided in innumerable ways.
We must begin by deeply examining our prevailing notions of work and being willing to consider that people can be more productive and effective if we create more flexible, empathic work environments. Only then will we create truly productive, efficient, profitable businesses that add value to the well-being of individuals, families and communities.
Donna Rae Smith is a guest blogger and columnist for Smart Business. She is the founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc.®, a transformational change catalyst company that has partnered with more than 250 of the world’s most influential companies. For more information, visit www.bright-side.com or contact Donna Rae Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org
Understanding the critical role that compliance plays within a firm is a fundamental cornerstone for successful leadership. The changes in government regulations over the past several years affect all businesses and require a higher level of compliance and oversight.
Regulations governing the management of staff, reporting of financial information, environmental impact, stock transactions, and adherence to regulatory authorities must be complied with or the business could face legal charges.
Following the steps below will aid in the creation of your firm’s compliance framework:
Identify requirements first
Make a list of each of the compliance areas for your entire company. This should be a collaborative project so meet with each of your managers and ask them to compile requirements for their area.
Document compliance deadlines and data
Once requirements have been identified, make sure you document them in one place. List the compliance requirement, timelines and dates for reporting data, and the person responsible for reporting.
Listing the information in a spreadsheet allows for rapid sorting of upcoming due dates.
Assess compliance status
Now that you have a comprehensive spreadsheet, ask your team to assess whether or not the processes or tools you currently have in place are adequate to assess the areas where you have gaps. Develop a plan to address the gaps that need to be fixed.
Establish compliance risk/escalation policy
Identify thresholds for compliance ranges and establish a policy for personnel to notify management when thresholds are out of range.
Assign oversight responsibility
Have an individual in your firm oversee managing the compliance document. This person should be familiar with the compliance timelines in the document and check in with responsible parties to ensure that compliance requirements and reporting activities are on target. The person can also be the point of contact for personnel to notify when escalating compliance risks.
Establish compliance audit programs
Once your compliance structure has been developed, establish an audit program. This can be internal as well as external and is usually conducted on an annual basis.
For internal programs, set a time for senior management or experts within the firm to perform a “mock audit” to review various areas of the firm that fall under the compliance program. These internal programs may suffice, however, when there are times that business leaders want outside opinions.
At that point, consult with a firm that has expertise in the compliance area and ask them to conduct an informal audit.
Create a continuous improvement process
Establish a process for analyzing the results of each internal or external audit. Determine whether or not the firm will invest time and energy to fix the gaps found during the audit.
Evaluate the compliance plan yearly
Review your compliance plan on an annual basis. This review should be conducted with the staff involved in the compliance areas. The annual review should include another assessment to identify areas where gaps or inefficiencies exist for compliance areas.
Business leaders have a responsibility to ensure that their firms comply with requirements. Establishing and implementing a structured compliance framework to assure that requirements are adhered to is a sign of proactive, responsible leadership.
In my management consulting practice, I am frequently asked, “What is the key to business success?” I invariably tell clients that the answer is simple: employee buy-in.
If most of a business’s employees believe in the company, its leadership and its prospects, success is significantly easier to attain. Examine companies that have outperformed the competition in their industries, such as Southwest, Starbucks, Facebook and Google, and you will discover that they invest significant resources to generate employee buy-in and have subsequently benefitted handsomely from it.
Competitors frequently are able to replicate the business practices of these market leaders but are seldom able to achieve the same level of employee buy-in — the key to generating a powerful, intangible competitive advantage for businesses.
Employees who buy in are invariably passionate, energized, committed, dedicated and creative. With this frame of mind, they are far more valuable than those working to earn a paycheck by going through the motions of the job, let alone going the extra mile. They may even go out of their way to frustrate or sabotage the company’s success.
Getting the necessary conditions
While the concept of buy-in is relatively simple, achieving it takes a serious commitment. Buy-in is neither difficult nor costly to achieve, but several conditions must exist to generate that highly valuable disposition.
• Employees need to understand the vision and direction of the business and recognize that they are realistic, attainable and motivating. To accomplish this, a business must have a comprehensive, up-to-date vision and strategic plan that is shared with employees in a manner they can understand and embrace.
SS&G Parkland’s research indicates that fewer than 10 percent of businesses have a comprehensive and up-to-date vision and strategic plan. And for those that do, only a tiny fraction of them share the plans with a significant number of employees. Employees who are not presented with a vision and plan that clearly communicate the path to success cannot be expected to buy-in.
• Employee involvement and empowerment are key catalysts to buy-in. Those who are invited in and trusted to participate in determining the company’s direction invariably feel good about their role and their employer. Involvement and empowerment unleash pride, ownership, energy, and creativity — the key ingredients for buy-in.
• While fair, respectful, consistent and honest interactions with employees will not by themselves generate buy-in, the absence of these qualities can critically undermine buy-in. Employees who are not treated well are not likely to feel good about the organization or its future.
Change in management style is needed
None of the conditions described above are particularly difficult to implement or likely to require any significant financial investment. They will, however, require a change in the management style and approach, including the following:
• Management accepts the responsibility for developing a comprehensive vision and strategic plan, which is likely to lead the company to success. This is management’s most important role in a business. Instead, unfortunately, many managers are more comfortable focusing on day-to-day issues, challenges and opportunities.
• Sharing plans and information with employees. Many managers prefer to keep employees somewhat in the dark, expecting them to keep their heads down and just do their jobs.
• Changing from command and control management to coaches and cheerleaders.
These changes might be uncomfortable for some leaders at first. For them, successfully embracing and accomplishing these changes may take training and coaching. Conversely, employees invariably love the changes and adapt easily. Employees may be skeptical about managements’ commitment to the changes — requiring management to demonstrate its commitment to this new approach.
Without buy-in, most employees function as a pair of hands. With buy-in, employees throw in their heads, hearts and souls into creating a very compelling and powerful force. Buy-in is the simple trade secret that offers any company a huge competitive advantage.
Larry Goddard is managing director of SS&G Parkland Consulting LLC, the management consulting affiliate of SS&G Inc., the 41st largest accounting firm in the U.S. Goddard has been providing management services for more than 25 years. Contact him at www.ssandg.com.