Cincinnati (1116)

We hear about all types of learning, but there is really only one kind: The learning that drives the desired behavior changes and business results. Period. Anything else misses the point.

Learning has evolved and comes in many varieties from instructor-led to CBT, eLearning, vLearning and now mLearning, along with the systems that support them like LMS, LCMS, CMS and more. The bottom line is that learning doesn’t end when the formal class or session is over. And that is where mobile comes into play, says Josh Klarin, vice president of Business Development for the Consulting Division of Sequent.

“Mobile devices allow us to extend our learning environment and make critical information, performance support tools, refreshers and much more available to our workforce when and where it’s needed,” says Klarin. “The notion of ‘moment of need’ and ‘on the spot’ learning takes on a real meaning with real impact and results through mobile devices. There are even solutions that do not rely on being connected to the Internet and still provide measurement. So, the ‘no bars’ situation is not a factor.”

Smart Business spoke with Klarin about how to incorporate mobile into your corporate learning strategy.

How have mobile devices changed the game?

Mobile devices such as iPads change the learning game not only by their portability, but more important, by their capabilities. The use of high-quality HD video for simulations, role plays, improved learner interaction and engagement have demonstrated improved results in learning and retention.

How do you know which mix or blended approach is right for your organization?

Here are a few questions that can be asked when considering your strategy. Does it:

* Help you achieve your business objectives?

* Make learning more engaging and effective?

* Drive real change and create a learning culture?

* Extend the learning environment?

* Reach all users, at all levels at all times, when needed?

* Reduce classroom hours?

* Reduce/eliminate retraining?

* Provide immediate feedback?

* Identify areas needing attention?

If you answered no to any of these questions, you should consider what an extended learning environment can do for your program. Mobility is the solution. Associates are bringing their own devices to work (and everywhere else), extending the classroom to not only increase engagement, but add value to content, redefine performance support, improve access and enhance the user experience.

What else is on the horizon for the mobile market?

* Think of mobile as a distinct, standalone capability. It is part of the delivery options that are increasingly being requested and required by the learners and their leaders.

* Mobile learning is not a novelty. It is part of a newly defined solution that deals with shorter engagements, lean learning, and access. The key is finding its place on the learning continuum.

* As the Millennials continue to hit the market and move to higher positions, the way they are learning, and have learned at all levels of school, will become the norm and they will influence and drive these changes. They are now expecting to learn in a connected, collaborative, social and, in many ways, informal environment.

* It will also be easier to access shorter, video-based learning.  This will include gaming and simulations.

* The perspective here is that mobility drives the behavior. It’s the access to content when and where it’s needed that’s key.

* Instructor-led training will not disappear by any stretch of the imagination. But the tools they use in the classroom and the extended learning experience are changing.

* Consider what the LD and CLO teams are facing. Learning is coming back to the forefront. This is due in part to improved accessibility and better employee engagement through the devices.  Learning can be fun again. And effective  And measured. And prove its ROI.

* As employment turns positive, more will re-enter the market, and the need to train, refresh, and reinforce will increase.

It has always been a challenge to sustain learning and extend the learning experience beyond the initial classroom or course delivery.

Mobile changes the game and allows the CLO to reach all the learners, wherever they are, whenever they need it. It opens up access to critical information and allows the enterprise to reinforce learning, check knowledge and provide refreshers when needed.

Mobile is a wonderfully enabling solution and should be an integrated part of every learning strategy and plan. We should look at it as a true game changer that makes learning more accessible, effective and yes, even fun, while effectively improving business results and employee engagement.

Josh Klarin is vice president of Business Development for the Consulting Division of Sequent where he specializes in learning environment strategy and execution and leads the company’s mobile learning practice. He has more than 25 years of HR experience concentrating on learning to drive desirable results using learning technologies to address all aspects of employee development and engagement. These solutions help to build and retain workforce, improve leadership and development, and strengthen strategic partnerships with lines of business and partners across the enterprise. Reach him at (888) 456-3627 or jklarin@sequent.biz.

Insights HR Outsourcing is brought to you by Sequent

Digital phone technology lets you take advantage of all the benefits of Voice over Internet Protocol without having actual VoIP equipment installed.

“A gateway appliance is available that converts  VoIP to an interface that your existing phone system recognizes without having to replace the equipment  you already have,” says John Putnam, vice president of direct sales, PowerNet Global. “This type of system is very flexible. You only purchase what you need, so you’re not paying for capacity that you’ll never use. In many cases, you’ll also pay less for long distance.”

Smart Business spoke with Putnam about how to reap the benefits of adding digital capabilities to your business’s existing phone systems.

What key benefits does a company stand to gain by going digital?

A gateway appliance  enables you to keep your existing phone system and take advantage of new technology at the same time. These are very cost-effective solutions and, in many cases, you’ll save money.

For example, a traditional T1 line gives you 23 or 24 lines, no matter how many lines you actually need. With the gateway, you can get the exact number of lines that you need. So if you only need six, you get six. The gateway is flexible and accommodates for growth, so you can add lines as needed. It also has multiple T1 interfaces and can accommodate up to four T1s, or 96 lines.

Is the technology cumbersome, and is there a learning curve?

No. The installation is simple and takes place  in the background.  Your phones will function just as they did yesterday. You’ll have the same phone, the same phone number, the same dial tone and the same features — only now, you’re potentially saving money.

How long does it take to get the digital technology in place?

It’s a quick and painless process. There are no lost calls. The service provider installs, verifies and tests that the gateway is working and then moves your numbers to the box. If you’re adding capacity to your existing system, the provider can work quickly. If it’s a case of porting numbers from a different carrier, however, the provider is at the mercy of the other carrier in terms of time required to move the numbers over but typically less than 30 days.

Can digital phone service be used in tandem with a traditional T1 phone system?

Yes. Say you have a maxed out T1 and you need six more lines; instead of installing another T1 with 24 lines, you can order those six lines as digital lines over the Internet. Then if you need additional lines down the road, you can easily add them. If you need fewer lines, you can easily scale down.

This approach not only gives you redundancy but also allows you to test the digital technology and get comfortable with it. Once you’re comfortable, you’ll feel confident adding more lines over time.

What are the advantages of being able to add or subtract phone lines?

This is particularly useful for companies that experience seasonal fluctuations in their sales cycle. For example, say you’re a trucking company that handles a lot of shipping in the summer. In the summer, you need to crank up your capacity to 50 lines, and in the fall and winter, you only need 20 lines. With digital, you can go up or down with just a single phone call and a few clicks of the mouse.

Are there drawbacks?

When voice is  delivered over the Internet, a good connection becomes paramount. You need to make sure you have enough bandwidth and it must be a high-quality, reliable connection. If you frequently lose your Internet service, you’re going to lose your calls, as well.

Fiber, Internet T1s and other higher-quality Internet connections are preferred. It’s one thing if it takes awhile to receive your emails, or if web pages load slowly, but it’s quite another thing to lose your voice connection.

Are there any quality of service issues?

In the early days, providers would put cheap solutions in place that ran both voice and data on the same Internet connection, and the data side would negatively impact voice. Downloads of music, videos, etc., would chew up bandwidth at the expense of voice quality.

Today, we attack that in two ways. First, the newer gateways  have  quality of service built in that prioritizes voice traffic or carves out specific bandwidth for voice. Second, because the Internet is more affordable now, we can set up two separate connections — one dedicated for voice and one dedicated for data — and they can be sized according to need.

What would you say to companies that are hesitant to try digital?

There’s nothing to be uneasy about. There are companies using millions of minutes of VoIP per month with no problems whatsoever.

If you have traditional phone service,  chances are your carrier is  backhauling its traffic over IP anyway.

John Putnam is vice president of direct sales at PowerNet Global. Reach him at (866) 813-9455.

Insights Technology is brought to you by PowerNet Global

Tuesday, 01 May 2012 11:55

5 ways to be more persuasive

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Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin and Robert Cialdini are the authors of The New York Times bestselling “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.” Last summer, I met Martin on a trip to London, where he runs Influence at Work, and he shared these top five ways to increase your influence and persuasion.

1. Be the first to give. Studies show that we are persuaded more by people who have done something for us first. We give bigger tips to servers who give us a mint with the check. We’re more likely to help work colleagues with their projects if they have helped us with ours. Requests that are personalized are most persuasive of all. When researchers randomly sent out surveys, they were able to double responses if they personalized the request by placing a handwritten note on the survey.

2. Don’t offer too many choices. Whether it’s the number of products you offer or the number of retirement plans you allow your employees to choose from, too many choices often frustrate people. Companies offering a small number of retirement plans have far greater enrollment than companies that offer a large number of plans.

3. Argue against self-interest. Trust is a critical component to persuasion. The surest way to be perceived as honest is to admit to a small weakness in your argument, product or business immediately prior to communicating the strongest positive argument about your product or service.

4. Losses are more persuasive than gains. Instead of telling your audience what they stand to gain from taking your advice or buying your product, research shows that people are often more persuaded if you tell them what they stand to lose out on if they don’t take your advice or buy your product.

In 2003, the Oldsmobile far exceeded its sales projections despite the company reducing its advertising and product development budgets. Why? General Motors decided to discontinue the car because of slow sales. As a result, the car became something people would be losing out on, even though before the news, few people wanted one.

5. Make people feel as if they’ve already made progress toward a goal. A car wash offering a loyalty card nearly doubled customer retention by changing its offer from “Buy eight washes, get one free” to “Buy 10 washes, get one free — and we’ll start you off crediting you for two washes.”

Some people have the ability to capture an audience’s attention, convince the undecided and convert noncustomers into customers. Some do not, but there’s good news from social science. Persuasion is not just a skill gifted to a chosen few. It’s a science, and researchers who study it have formulated a series of rules for moving people in your direction.

Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the Web, and a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki is the author of 10 books including “Enchantment,” “Reality Check” and “The Art of the Start.” He appears courtesy of a partnership with HVACR Business, where this column was originally published. Reach Kawasaki through www.guykawasaki.com or at kawasaki@garage.com.

Unfortunately, when everything hits the fan, it won’t be at a time and place of your choosing, and most likely, it won’t be just one issue.

When you least expect it and when everything seems to be going OK for the first time in awhile, a severe lightning strike may occur, seemingly out of nowhere, even when the sun is shining brightly. Worse yet is that first bolt may be followed by multiple booms, bangs and claps in rapid succession.

It may start with a phone call informing you that the unspeakable has occurred. One of your top people encountered a personal problem that will shed a bad light on your company, or you get a FedEx letter from one of your biggest customers stating: “It’s been fun while it lasted; have a nice life. Sayonara.” As a wave of nausea sweeps over you, your chief accounting lieutenant barges into your office, holding your auditors’ notice and stammering, “earnings restatement.”

Trouble comes in many sizes and shapes, and as the boss, you must always be prepared to provide direction. While any one problem could be monumental, two or more are almost debilitating. What can you do; what must you do?

First, figuratively and literally take three deep breaths and count to 10. Pick up a legal pad and write out the key issues, crystallizing options and setting priorities of who on your team does what. Also write out some ideas of how to get started. Step two, clear your calendar and focus.

The trick in attacking multiple major problems simultaneously is to compartmentalize each of them, quickly determining the downside risks and coming up with temporary fixes to stop any bleeding, followed by long-term solutions. Let’s say another crisis hits when you receive a notice that your largest plant has become the target of a unionization drive. You quickly recognize that if this effort is successful, then your other facilities run the risk of a similar fate. The economic consequences could be enormous, and as equally disturbing is the fact that fighting this will be incredibly time-consuming, costly and will surely divert the attention of management away from sales and earnings goals.

Rather than bemoan your current state of affairs, gather your team together, contact your attorneys and find out what precipitated this situation. Was there an underlying morale problem in the plant, or did the union simply choose your company because it was an attractive target? Don’t always expect the worse, but plan for it. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find out that it was a simple misstep by a lower-level supervisor that antagonized a very small group of otherwise well-meaning employees, which can be more easily fixed.

If the earnings restatement is the biggest threat, then most likely you will take charge of the accounting issues and have your vice president of human resources tackle the union problem. Time can be your biggest enemy or your greatest ally. If you procrastinate and don’t swing into action, the situations will simply proliferate. If, however, you jump in with both feet immediately, you may be able to stem the tide in your favor much more quickly. One thing is for sure: The good fairy won’t solve these problems and your only choice is to take charge.

Of course, you’ll have more than a few restless nights; your calendar will become an instant nightmare as you deal with these problems du jour. Nevertheless, at least, you’ll have started the compartmentalizing issue process.

A few words of caution: Certainly delegate aspects of the problems to your best and brightest but also make sure you’re constantly kept in the loop. An effective leader is much akin to being a juggler and having the skills to keep all of the balls in the air simultaneously.

One consolation is that if being the boss was so easy, then everyone would do it. In fact, being a good leader takes a keen mind, often an incredible sense of urgency and a strong stomach.

Troubles come with the territory. However, there is one major consolation: When you’re at the top, the height can be a bit frightening at times, but the view is certainly spectacular.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

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Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.

Tuesday, 01 May 2012 11:37

The inner circle

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If you had the choice of growing at a 5.8 percent compound annual growth rate in a five-year period or declining 9.2 percent, which would you choose?

While the answer is obvious, the real question is, what does it take to end up on the positive side of the equation instead of the negative? Simple: some trusted friends.

The numbers above illustrate the difference in compound annual growth rates for members of Vistage, an organization for CEOs, and the average U.S. company. On average, just by belonging to Vistage, you are going to see much better growth. Why? Because you get insights about your business from CEOs who aren’t lost in the day-to-day issues.

Vistage, and other organizations like it (Young Presidents’ Organization, Entrpreneurs’ Organization — there are others as well) help you run your business better by putting you in contact with other CEOs.

Let’s face it; being in charge can be a lonely experience. At the end of the day, a lot of responsibility falls onto your lap, and if you fail, a lot of lives are affected. Some of us are blessed to have an inner circle of people we trust to bounce ideas off of and know that if an idea is bad, someone will speak up. But there are others out there that for whatever reason don’t have that trusted inner circle.

To be successful, you need to be willing to open up about problems before it’s too late to do anything about it. Telling someone you need help isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s the opposite. The increased success rates of companies that participate in peer groups bear that out.

You don’t have to have a giant network of other CEOs to be successful. Having two people that you trust and value their opinions is probably all you need. Two trusted friends can help you navigate through tough decisions and act as a sounding board for your ideas.

Working with your peers to review your ideas and goals is a great way to eliminate stress. They can provide the confirmation and validation you are looking for as you move your organization forward and can point out potential pitfalls you may have overlooked.

Sometimes, just having someone else say, “Yes, I think that will work,” can go a long way toward putting you at ease.

So what do you do if you don’t have a couple of people whom you trust? That’s where the professional organizations like Vistage come in. They can provide the same sort of feedback in a group setting and also offer a great way to network with other CEOs. As you build your network, you will most likely find a few people you are comfortable with and can build a closer relationship with them.

The most important aspect is to not try to go it alone. Whether you have a trusted inner circle of a few people or prefer a larger group setting, it’s important to have some sort of sounding board for your ideas. It’s also important to have people who understand what you are going through. Other CEOs can relate to the challenges of leadership and talk about what keeps them up at night. What you’re likely to find is that many of the same issues that bother you are also bothering others. Work together to find solutions or at least talk it through. You might discover a new approach to an old problem.

After all, two heads are better than one.

Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or fkoury@sbnonline.com.

Tom Overdeck doesn’t have a crystal ball or any kind of secret tricks that are helping him lead Kost USA Inc. into the future. What he does have is a mission and a vision for what he wants his company to become.

A manufacturer of more than 100 chemicals, coolants and lubricants that has sales of $80 million, the company is poised for some impressive growth and to be positioned as a leader in its industry. Over the next 10 years, Overdeck, CEO, expects Kost USA to become a $250 million company.

“My biggest job as CEO is work toward providing the environment, the climate and the culture to support this but also to provide the infrastructure to support all of this,” Overdeck says. “Providing the infrastructure is a key element in a growing company. That is an important aspect of my role besides providing a vision and giving the organization the capability of executing.”

The key to achieving successful company growth is following the vision and sticking to a path that allows the company to remain true to its heritage.

“We’re a customer-focused company, so we need to continue to reinvest in our technologies to bring the best and most functional products to our customer base,” Overdeck says. “We have to do that within our own heritage and expertise. The vision says that we’re going to be a $250 million sales company while doubling our percent of EBITDA as a percent of sales. The vision in itself is not that complicated, but the pieces of how you get there are where all the work is.”

Here is how Overdeck keeps his company’s growth aligned with the mission and vision.

Communicate your mission and vision

When your company is in a growth mode, there are very few elements more important than the company culture, mission and vision. These elements are the foundation to guide the growth of the company and its employees.

“You have to ask yourself what kind of culture you need to be successful in your vision,” Overdeck says. “You have to have good leadership and everyone has to understand what their job is. The vision can be established by top management, or it can be the result of collaboration by a management team, but it is important to have a vision. What’s very important is the mission and mission statement. Whether you have five employees or 500, employees really needs to understand how their job delivers some piece of that mission and they have to be able to relate to that and understand it.”

Every employee should be encouraged to offer information about how to improve the process. By doing that you allow employees to understand the mission and how their job is related to accomplishing the mission.

“In all of that, you find it becomes easier to empower people if you’ve got the right culture, the right people and they understand what the mission and vision are,” he says. “The watch out is that you have to make sure that you’re recognizing their contribution and rewarding them in some manner. Once you get on that flywheel, the momentum builds.”

Kost USA’s mission states: “We are trusted entrepreneurial partners with our customers, creating joint growth by providing preferred liquid technologies and passionate service. It has been critical to the company’s success that employees are aware how they can contribute.”

“From that mission statement our people need to take away what they’re doing on their jobs that affects that mission,” he says. “It ends up being a cultural thing. You have to have employees that understand the importance of it and are committed to it. You have to stay focused. You have to have a two-way flow of information and communication with the management team being the conduit between the vision and the employee population. No idea is a bad idea, so all your employees need to be active participants in ideas.”

Manage growth opportunities

When following a mission and vision for growth it is important to have a person or team in charge of monitoring progress toward those goals. Without that oversight it is easy to get sidetracked.

“The key to our success is that we first created a management team, and this team works together in a cross-functional mode allowing for advanced planning, support and execution of new and improved technical product innovations,” Overdeck says. “The management team determines which opportunities best fit the heritage and the vision. We have predetermined criteria as to what constitutes success in a particular project before we spend a lot of time, energy, money and resources on it. It becomes data-based decision-making, and it becomes apparent fairly quickly if your project is on track or not.

“If your project is on track, then you keep supporting it and putting more resources behind it. In the event it’s not meeting the predetermined criteria, you have to take a step back and ask what you’re doing wrong. Do we need to modify our thought process or is this just a bad project? It’s not flying by the seat of your pants.”

Managing growth is about customers, employees and partnerships you have with suppliers. Those are the biggest drivers of growth and you have to balance the opportunities.

“You always have more to do than you have available time and resources so you have to make decisions early on about how many projects you can handle simultaneously,” Overdeck says. “That’s where you rely on some of the data you hear from your customers, suppliers or employees to get you pointed in the proper direction and what the expectations are. You have to be realistic and gauge your success against that predetermined criteria. That becomes critical because otherwise you’re going to get yourself saddled in a particular project that might suck up a lot of resources and it’s less attractive in the long run.”

Overdeck and his team at Kost USA are constantly trying to find new chemistry within the framework of a particular chemical compound. However, they realize it’s important not to spread themselves too thin.

“It’s like branches on a tree,” he says. “You can’t be developing too many branches all at the same time. That’s where you start determining which seem to be the most logical fit for you at any one point in time in your business platform, and that’s always an ever-changing environment as time goes on. We’re always developing additional limbs off the main trunk of our chemistry.”

Constantly looking for new developments keeps the company’s products and services unique. You need to understand who you’re serving to be able to provide the best products.

“If you’re truly in touch with your customer base, you truly understand what you’re good at and what you want to be a leader in, then it becomes easier to understand when to increase the number of offerings, the best way to accomplish that, and why you’re expanding at all,” he says. “You need to understand the customer’s motivation, not only what they buy, but how they buy it and why they buy it. You also need to understand the competitive landscape and with these insights you can begin to define and develop products that meet your customer’s needs and move forward.”

Align your organization

To turn a vision for growth into actual results, it takes complete alignment around your customers, the marketplace and your product or service to make those plans fall into place.

“You must align the organizational capabilities to be successful,” Overdeck says. “Consideration regarding those capabilities differs based upon what your customers select as a market they want you to be good at.

“For instance, in some industries, great delivery may be very important, high level of customer service might be very important, low pricing may be very important or product features may be very important. You have to find one or two of those that drives the business. When you understand that, then you have to build your organizational capability to handle that.”

You can’t necessarily expand and overextend until you build the organizational capability to support it. That puts a check on unbounded expansion.

“Doing it by intuition and gut feel is where you get yourself into trouble,” Overdeck says. “You can end up making an investment in your facility or moving into a new product line without really thinking about how you’re most effectively going to deliver that and that’s where people get themselves into trouble. You might have a good idea, but the idea and the investment in the idea are ahead of your capabilities, and at that point you’re going to fail.”

In order to build your capabilities for the future, you have to have full understanding of what your core competency is.

“Once you understand what you’re really good at and what your competitors are not so good at, that’s what you focus on,” he says. “That’s an on-going process that you continue to build on. The key is you have to know what you’re good at. If you’re really not good at anything you’re wasting your time. Sometimes it’s not that easy to really understand what you’re good at. Sometimes you may think you know why you’re doing well, but that really may not be the answer.”

Overdeck makes sure he uses his resources to their full benefit. He utilizes his customers, employees and suppliers to better align the company with the direction he wants to go in.

“You have to be as informed as you can by getting as many sources of information coming back as you can enlist,” he says. “A common mistake is to think you know the answers as opposed to directing questions in a way that would foster additional ideas and thoughts as to why this company is good. It’s a function of how you handle yourself with your customers, your suppliers and your employees.

“There’s nothing that’s totally understood and on cruise control. You have to always try to make yourself better and in that process you have to keep your eyes wide open. If you stay focused on that, pretty soon you’re a leader in your industry and that’s where you want to be. That’s what you’re always trying to find — that niche where you can provide leadership, but importantly you have to make sure it’s a niche the marketplace wants.”

Alignment cannot just be internal. You have to make sure you have alignment with your customers needs and their needs align with your capabilities.

“There’s nothing more important than that,” he says. “From there, you can innovate your products and services to meet their needs. However, it’s not just a one-way street. A customer may have a need but you have to make sure that the need is aligned with your core competencies, your technical heritage and that it supports the company vision.

“A successful company wants to be a leader in the product and services that they select. From this foundation you can continue to grow complementary offerings. Once you’re on task it becomes easier to know directionally how to expand these products and services. This will help you maximize the value proposition to a customer. In my mind, it’s a pretty simple approach, but it’s very important that you stay on that path.”

Ultimately the path to growth and executing a successful vision is being able to build alignment around both internal and external operations and that means building relationships and partnerships.

“You put a fair amount of responsibility on the shoulders of your representatives to ask questions beyond the obvious to better understand your customer’s business,” Overdeck says.

“Then you become to that customer a resource and a partner. You’re not just a vendor. That’s how you begin to bridge this gap of knowledge so you can really understand where your offering is best suited relative to accomplishing your company vision. Being an entrepreneurial partner with your customer base is where you want to be perceived.”

HOW TO REACH: Kost USA Inc., (800) 661-9391 or www.kostusa.com

Takeaways

-          Make sure everyone understands the company mission and vision and how he or she fits into it.

-          Understand where opportunities are that help your company grow.

-          Be certain everything you do is aligned around your vision and your capabilities.

The Overdeck File

Tom Overdeck

CEO

Kost USA Inc.

Born: Gary, Ind.

Education: Attended Indiana University and earned a degree in marketing. I went to work with Dow Chemical and during that time earned my MBA in finance from St. Louis University.

What was your very first job and what did that experience teach you?

In my junior and senior years of high school, I would go back home during the summers and work in the steel mills in Gary, Ind., for U.S. Steel. The magnitude of that world had an impression upon me. It gave me an experience of what American industry was like. That’s where I began to think about process change. I was just an hourly labor guy, but I was still looking around and saying to myself, ‘There are better ways of doing this.’

Who is somebody that you admire in business?

My dad. He wasn’t a business person, he worked in the steel mills as a machinist, but he was a very bright guy. He had wonderful ideas and a number of patents that he applied for and got. I looked at his commitment and his desire to succeed even though he was handicapped by not having the proper education. He was always willing to stand up and find a better way to do something.

What Kost USA product are you most proud of?

We consider ourselves experts in heavy duty off-road engine coolant for large trucks used in mines and quarries. There’s a lot of technology involved in the additive systems to make the product work as well as they can work, and we’re very good at that. We’re not a household name, but within that particular subset of the industry we’re recognized as guys who know their stuff. Another area is stationary engine coolant for the drilling work being done in the Marcellus Shale Region.

Bill Giesler has had to endure more change at Pedco E&A Services Inc. in the past five years than the company has had in its 30-year history. The climate of the current economy, the moves necessary to adapt to it, clients’ changing needs, and the start of retiring baby boomers has given the company a wake up call.

Giesler, Pedco’s owner and president, knew that with all this happening around the 84-employee design and consulting firm, business operations and the way leadership looked at the company had to change.

“We said, ‘Wait a minute. We’ve got to really change how we look at this business, how we manage the business, and how we lead the business,’” Giesler says. “In the last five years, this company has made a right turn from wherever we were headed; we deviated significantly from that path and really took control of our destiny as opposed to just floating down the river and going wherever it was taking us.”

That revelation and the ongoing changes inside and outside the business led the company to explore strategic planning.

“Our clients are changing in the downturn and they’re getting leaner and meaner and looking for quicker, better, cheaper ways of doing business, and we’ve really got to stay in alignment with where they are and what they’re doing,” Giesler says. “It really boils down to managing change. A lot of changes have been occurring over the last couple of years and just trying to stay in alignment with our clients on one side and then on the internal piece, we’ve got a lot of transitions occurring internally.”

The company had run itself tactically over the years and needed help making the transition to more strategic business and processes

“Over the last five years we’ve really opened ourselves up to bringing in outside experts and we brought them in for marketing, business development, HR, strategic planning, project management training and not just local experts but national experts as well,” he says. “What we’ve done is really tried to learn what the best practices are nationally and those that apply to us that we can use we grasp those and implemented those into our processes and how we look at the business.”

Trying to problem solve challenges internally was no longer garnering the best results. Giesler needed to strategize about how the company could improve for the future.

“You have to start off with strategic planning. … Think strategically and be open to using outside advisers and experts to understand best practices industrywide and utilize that,” he says. “The process that we went through recently is we discovered to a deeper level who we are. We developed six critical success factors to our business and we had really never thought of our business in those terms. Once you kind of focus on that you understand what drives what.”

Strategic planning is a great way to make your company nimble and adaptable to change. To get the most out of it you have to involve a team.

“You need to involve a cross-functional team in that process,” he says. “When we started out revisiting our process we were just going to use three or four of the very senior people to develop the plan. To have success at that strategic planning process and really get buy-in and then be able to implement it you need to involve a whole lot more people and it needs to be cross-functional. You need to reach out into every part of the organization that has an important role and involve somebody at some level in the process.”

HOW TO REACH: Pedco E&A Services Inc., (513) 782-4920 or www.pedcoea.com  

Roll with the changes

As a result of a new strategic plan, Bill Gielser, president of Pedco E&A Services, kept pace with change by finding out more from the company’s clients.

“It’s really developing your critical success factors, action plans and priorities as a result of the strategic planning process,” he says. “You have to continue to have those high-level meetings on a periodic basis to make sure that you’re staying in alignment.”

Surveying and measuring customer satisfaction in some way shape or form is an important process.

“It really takes a lot of doubt out of how well you are doing,” Giesler says. “We also do an annual survey to understand what’s going right and what’s not and we look for themes. We’ve really implemented that strategy so that we stay close to them and that we’re looking at that and analyzing that and really setting goals based on that on an annual basis.”

Along with staying aligned with customers, it is critical that you continue to invest in your resources as much as possible.

“A lot of times the first thing to get cut in a recession is investing in training and development and I would really challenge people to do your utmost best to continue to invest in those things even though it’s a down economy,” he says. “That will pay dividends over and over and over as you move forward and as you come out of the down economy.”

Monday, 30 April 2012 20:04

Social media marketing; Krista Neher

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When it comes to social media, many businesses now have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs and YouTube channels, yet they are left wondering, “What’s it all worth?”

Measuring the return on investment from social media is as challenging if not more challenging than measuring traditional marketing for a number of reasons.

Brand impressions differ

First, let’s face it. Many aspects of marketing are difficult to measure. A common quote in advertising states, “I know that half of my marketing dollars are being wasted. I just don’t know which half.” Marketing and public relations, two of the most common functions involved in social media, are notoriously difficult to quantify.

Time-proven metrics for measuring marketing don’t work well in social media. In traditional media the success of a television ad is determined by multiplying a score of how effective the ad is by the reach or number of people who see the ad. 

This doesn’t work well in social media because brand impressions are not all the same. For example, there is a vast difference in the level of brand engagement of an individual who passively reads a tweet versus someone watching a two-minute video.

The true reach from social media is also elusive. A study from PageLever showed that only 3 percent to 7.5 percent of brand fans on Facebook actually see branded messages. So while many brands will claim to reach the 5,000 people who have liked them on Facebook, they are in fact only reaching a small percentage of this audience.

That being said, there are a number of strategies that can help assess the potential value from social media marketing:

Direct marketing return

This is the most obvious type of return from social media. It involves looking directly at indicators that social media is driving business. This may include areas such as website traffic, redemptions of coupon codes, leads generated or e-mail addresses obtained.

Customer retention return

Many angry customers don’t get satisfaction from traditional customer service, so they take to the Internet. It is a growing expectation that businesses respond to customers on social media sites. 

In working with a company recently, an executive asked me, “We aren’t going to make everyone happy, so what’s the point?” I asked him what the lifetime value of a customer was, and he responded that it was a few thousand dollars. Next I asked how many customers they would have to keep as a result of social media efforts for it to pay out. The answer was one per month. 

By using this logic, we can determine if it is reasonable to expect the social media efforts to keep one customer happy and prevent them from leaving.

Word-of-mouth return

Similar to the customer retention return, a return on word of mouth can be calculated by looking at the lifetime value of a customer and assuming that because of making the effort on social media, a certain number of incremental referrals were generated from customers. It usually doesn’t take very many of these to start paying off.

Awareness and exposure

Awareness and impressions do have value in marketing online. An old marketing principle known as the Rule of Seven states that it takes seven interactions or impressions with a brand before someone chooses to do business. By having a presence in social media brands can increase the general awareness and impressions of a brand.

The items above are just a starting point. The key to success in judging the return from social media is to fully understand the goals and objectives and then measure your campaign against your objectives.

Don’t hold social media too highly

When evaluating social media, be sure that you aren’t holding it to a higher bar than other media. I spoke to an organization recently and the VP of marketing asked how they should judge the return from social media. I told him to measure it the same way they measure the rest of their marketing. He gave me a funny look and said, “Well, we don’t really measure the rest of our marketing.”

Just because you can measure clicks and traffic, doesn’t mean that those are the only things adding value in your social media.

Be sure to think comprehensively about your social media efforts and set goals up front.

Krista Neher is the CEO of Boot Camp Digital, author of the bestselling “Social Media Field Guide” and an international speaker.

When you consider the setting in which decisions are made in an organization, it’s easy to picture a conference room table. The CEO sits at the head of the table and a council of vice presidents and executives line either side. Bob Frisch, author of “Who’s in the Room? How Great Leaders Structure and Manage the Teams Around Them,” argues that some of the most critical decisions in an organization are made before the door to the conference room swings open. In this interview, he discusses the power of the “kitchen cabinet,” the problem with team-building exercises and the question every senior management team should answer.

Let’s start with the basic premise of the book: What leads members of an executive team to come to the CEO and ask, ‘Why wasn’t I in the room?’

The group goes by a variety of different names, but it could basically be called the boss and the boss’s direct reports. Officially speaking, this is the senior decision-making body of the company. Everybody knows that this is the boss and his or her team. They get together every week or every month, and they make the big momentous decisions.

The reality for the people that sit on those teams is that most of the major decisions are made by a smaller group before that team ever gets together. The boss makes decisions with the same handful of people around him or her time after time. It’s an informal ‘kitchen cabinet’ that makes the major decisions and the larger group has to discuss it, modify, communicate it, implement it, etc. The senior group doesn’t actually make the decisions of the organization and that gap between the myth and reality causes problems.

Many companies that experience this type of issue with decision-making think the solution lies in hiring a consultant or someone who tries team-buildin’ exercises. What is actually the result of this solution?

Bosses figure that if the team can communicate better, the frustrations caused by the decision-making process will go away.

The root cause of the problem isn’t psychological. It’s not behavioral. It’s not a communication problem. The root cause is, for example, the different people around the table have different political power. The root cause could also be that the boss doesn’t want to have 12 or 14 people around him every time he wants to make a decision. Bosses want the flexibility, latitude and intimate feeling that they get from having only two or three people around them when making decisions.

A central point for anyone reading this book is to move from ‘Should we do this?’ to ‘How do we do this?’ What starts the process of shifting a company from the former to the latter?

The business case goes in front of senior management teams or executive committees for approval. Usually the group comes into the conference room, the lights go down, they show the business case, the lights go up and things get passed through. We asked numerous groups, ‘In what percent of businesses cases is the case either turned down or significantly changed at the level of executive team approval?’

The typical answer we received was that it was changed at this level in less than 10 percent of cases. Usually what people said is that one or two cases were changed in the past few years. This is a kabuki, ritualistic approval process that is in almost every process flow of almost every business case. The ‘best-practice’ companies don’t say, ‘Should we go ahead and do this planned expansion?’ That’s a foregone conclusion. The question that these companies ask is: ‘Are the various parts of the organization around the table prepared to do what they need to do to support the successful implementation of the initiative described in this business case?’

“Who’s in the Room?”

By Bob Frisch

Jossey-Bass, 193 pages, $29.95

About the book: “Who’s in the Room” is author and consultant Bob Frisch’s examination of the organizational decision-making process. Based on years of research and intense interviews with a wide range of CEOs and their teams, Frisch guides leaders through a process to empower their senior management group. He redirects the senior management team’s focus and spreads decision-making power across the organization.

The author: Bob Frisch is managing partner of The Strategic Offsites Group and has worked with organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to German mittelstand family businesses to the U.S. State Department. Frisch’s work has been featured in the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Businessweek and Fortune.

Why you should read it: Making decisions causes internal tension in organizations. The biggest problem is that this tension often goes unspoken and unresolved. Frisch provides one of the more captivating examinations of the decision-making process. He also explains the reasons that traditional solutions such as team-building exercises and corporate psychologists fail to produce results related to decision-making.

Why it’s different: Frisch makes a critical distinction to which leaders should pay attention. He titles one chapter “Move from ‘Should We Do This?’ to ‘How Do We Do This?’” and he gives interesting evidence to support the belief that the former question is rarely answered by the senior management team. By restructuring the priorities of the senior management team, Frisch takes his readers away from traditional thinking that inevitably forces people to try to make the best of a broken situation.

Can’t miss: “Best Practices: Design an Organization That Delivers the Outcomes You Need.” In this chapter, Frisch teaches readers about the “Three Centers of Gravity.” Despite arguing for the dissolving of as many organizational teams as possible, Frisch help executives revitalize and strengthen the three teams that generally exist in most organizations. The chapter provides a push to an outcomes-based approach that is certain to help organizations be more effective.

To share or not to share: Executives will want their team members to read this book. It’s an inexpensive investment that will prevent needless spending on team-building consultants. “Who’s In the Room” also negates the root cause of the hurt feelings that result from feeling left out.

How to reach: Bob Frisch was a recent guest on Soundview Live, Soundview’s exclusive webinar series. To hear the complete broadcast, visit www.summary.com/webinars.

In business, too many executives believe that the best path to success is to “manage mad” thinking this will project an image of determination and tenacity, combined with the ability to strike fear in the hearts of any naysayers with opposing views.

Is there a better way, a more balanced method to manage other than by mimicking a fire-breathing dragon? Unfortunately, we have too many bad role models who employ a fearsome persona. There are the pugnacious politicians who make every issue a black-and-white cause célèbre, screaming, “If we don’t do it my way, we’ll wind up in a shambles on the precipice of extinction.” Then there are the professional and college coaches, with seemingly permanent scowls etched on their faces, who shout their mandates to be sure players know that if they don’t get the play right, they run the risk of being toast.

Corporate executives from the most admired to the most reviled have adopted this managing mad game face over time, some, perhaps, without even realizing it.

Certainly there is a time and place for a boss to raise his or her voice a few octaves, take on facial expressions of the walking dead and deliver a monologue laced with wakeup calls about either doing it the leader’s way or facing possible draconian consequences. This technique is best used very sparingly in situations that warrant an edgy demeanor. However, if a boss constantly plays the managing mad card, it loses its impact and the message becomes diluted as recipients think to themselves, “Same old, same old — just another series of empty threats.” Constantly portraying a vitriolic curmudgeon serves only to dampen hope and curb enthusiasm.

A point of clarification: Don’t confuse managing mad with being direct and holding people accountable while communicating clearly and explaining the positives, as well as negatives, to a team. This latter method is much preferred by those on the receiving end in order for the team to understand what is being said and, more importantly, what is expected of them.

We have all worked with and known people for whom the use of a smile, a compassionate gesture or a little humor at the right time and place is about as rare as politicians treating each other with respect during a debate. Businesspeople are not elected politicians trying to get votes by speaking the unspeakable with Armageddon undertones.

If you’re the boss, ask yourself if you hear what you’re saying and how you’re delivering the message. Do you need a self-prescribed attitude adjustment and a makeover of your style? If a subordinate projected a managing mad style, you would certainly provide the necessary coaching and counseling. However, if you fear you need this type of tune-up, how can you do it without losing face by asking peers or other trusted associates for a no-holds-barred critique?

There is an easy and effective way to accomplish this self-assessment. Surreptitiously record your next talk to the troops, even a phone conference call or a one-on-one session. Most smartphones have this feature. Before listening to your recording and evaluating your delivery, wait a few hours or until the next day so that you can listen more objectively, being a bit more removed from the heat of the moment. Close your door and use a mirror to watch your own expression as you listen to yourself. You’ll immediately know by what you hear and by your expressions in the mirror if you fall into the managing mad trap. Once you’re done, take a deep breath and then quickly jot down your own impressions, including the tone, choice of words and substance of the message. The big question becomes, “If you were the audience, would you buy what you’re selling?”

If you decide you need improvements, and we all do, use the same voice recorder before you give your next battle cry and rehearse a few times using the device to capture your delivery. Also, do these trial runs in front of a mirror so you can see yourself as others will see you.

When you introspectively examine your technique, you may not like what you discover. However, after the shock of realizing you’ve been managing Mad, you can quickly begin transforming your style, not to morph into a likable wimp but instead to become a thoughtful and effective leader whom others will eagerly listen to and then follow. To get results, it’s sometimes not what you say but how you say it.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

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