Competitive dynamics in the current environment suggest it is a seller’s market for high-quality businesses. Buyers are flush with cash, credit markets are wide open for business and valuations are rising.
The capital markets are white hot, lifting valuations of publicly traded companies. Broad market indices are at record highs, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and Dow Jones Industrial Average up 21 percent and 18 percent, respectively, through the year-to-date period.
In the low interest rate environment, buyers can afford to pay more, and are, as lenders accommodate higher leverage and borrower-friendly terms.
Private equity database PitchBook reported in its 2H 2013 Middle Market Report that the middle market median enterprise value to EBITDA multiple reached 10.5x in June 2013, supported by a median debt multiple of 6.1x — both decade highs. Purchase price multiples for strategic and financial buyers reached their highest level since the market peak in 2007, according to October data reported by S&P Leveraged Commentary & Data.
Companies that weren’t ready to go to market in 2012 because they needed another year of seasoning may now be primed to take advantage of favorable conditions. Valuations continue to be very competitive, so it is a good time to be a seller. ●
Andrew K. Petryk is managing director and principal of Brown Gibbons Lang & Co. LLC, an investment bank serving the middle market. Contact him at (216) 920-6613 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nanofilm Ltd. of Valley View announced it was merging with Applied Nanotech Holdings Inc. in a stock swap transaction. Nanofilm is a leading developer in nanotechnology with a leading market position for specialty optical coatings, cleaners and nano-composite products.
Empire Die Casting Co. Inc. of Macedonia received a letter of intent to be acquired by New Growth Capital Group. Empire Die Casting manufactures aluminum and zinc die cast parts for diverse applications including automotive, aerospace, medical equipment, home appliance and electronics. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October 2013.
The Riverside Co. acquired NJoy Baby S.L., expanding Riverside’s existing Baby Jogger platform. Based in Barcelona, Spain, NJoy is a designer and developer of strollers and related accessories that is best known for its innovative reversible umbrella stroller. Riverside also acquired employee-training company Catalyst Awareness, an add-on to Alchemy Systems platform. Riverside tallied 4 acquisitions in the month and 15year-to-date.
Linsalata Capital Partners and PNC Erieview Capital exited Royal Baths Manufacturing Co. Ltd. in a sale to Cotton Creek Capital Management LLC. Houston-based Royal makes acrylic and cultured marble bathroom products, including soaker and whirlpool bathtubs, vanity tops, sinks, shower walls and bases. Linsalata acquired the company in 2003.
A long-range plan recently adopted by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Focus on the Future, includes strategies and tactics that culminate in a single goal to increase the value members receive from their Ohio Chamber investment.
The thoughts, opinions and ideas of Ohio Chamber members are incorporated into Focus on the Future through the use of surveys and focus groups. Over the years, members have urged us to continue our focus on these areas: 1) advocating for Ohio businesses, 2) educating members on legislative and regulatory issues and 3) taking a proactive approach to political involvement.
These three member-directed priorities, supported by the chamber’s mission, vision and primary goal of increasing member value, are the backbone of Focus on the Future. As this long-range plan is implemented over the next five years, Ohio Chamber members will experience an organization with the following:
- A renewed sense of excitement and purpose.
- Greater firepower and resources to advocate for its members.
- An advanced technology platform to support better communications.
- Higher quality programs, services and events.
- A headquarters facility that meets the needs of its members and staff while appropriately reflecting the status of Ohio’s premier business organization.
The commitment and support of our members is not taken lightly. In return, we are committed to making their membership experience a high-quality one that gives back in a meaningful way. We look forward to implementing Focus on the Future, a plan for strengthening the Ohio Chamber for tomorrow and beyond. Here’s a brief description of the plan’s major initiatives:
A powerful force on Capital Square
Building on its strong reputation the Ohio Chamber will become an even more formidable force on Capital Square. New media strategies will help improve communication with members, government officials and the public.
In addition, new committee processes, grass root and key-influencer programs will be used to help make member participation easier and more effective.
A leader on economic and business research
As our states premiere business resource and advocate, the Ohio Chamber will increase its investments in producing solid economic information that is helpful to Ohio businesses and research that informs the public policy process.
A successful communicator
The Ohio Chamber’s multi-platform approach to communicating with our members will be enhanced by expanding social media strategies and updating our website.
Defining the chamber’s brand and improving our ability to implement public relations strategies will help build our name and image in every corner of the state.
A champion of quality membership experiences
Making sure members have a valuable and quality experience will continue to be a top priority. The number of chamber members will be increased, and even more importantly, the number of members who make a substantial investment in the work of the Ohio Chamber, our “Chamber Champions,” will be doubled over the next five years.
A sponsor of cost-effective programs, services and events
High-quality, cost-effective programs that help Ohio businesses save money will be offered and marketed statewide.
Additionally, opportunities to learn about key legislative and regulatory changes, attend events featuring business and government leaders, and network with policymakers and business colleagues will be offered in ways that facilitate effective participation.
A hub for business activity
Ohio Chamber members have access to our headquarters in downtown Columbus for chamber-sponsored events and activities, as well as member-initiated meetings.
New initiatives will help ensure ease of access to those opportunities and a physical infrastructure that supports the quality and quantity of member needs. ●
Linda Woggon is executive vice president of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. As Ohio’s largest and most diverse statewide business advocacy group, the Ohio Chamber has been an effective voice for business since 1893. To contact the Ohio Chamber, call (614) 228-4201 or visit www.ohiochamber.com.
Despite the underlying premise that United States manufacturing is a dead or dying business, manufacturing here in the states is alive, well and actually on the incline.
“The U.S. is fast becoming one of the lowest-cost countries for manufacturing in the developed world,” says CNBC, citing the Boston Consulting Group. BCG found that the average manufacturing costs in Germany, Japan, France, Italy and the United Kingdom will be 8 to 18 percent higher than the U.S. by 2015. So is manufacturing dead? On the contrary, it is increasing.
Watch for hurdles to overcome
In our soon-to-be-published book, “Maximizing Profits Immediately: How to Dramatically Improve your Company’s Bottom Line,” we continue the program started by Harry E. Figgie that helps manufacturing companies compete more effectively. Many people believe that the U.S. cannot compete in a global environment. This is simply not true; however, manufacturing does have some distinct hurdles:
There is no question that the manufacturing sector does not dominate the U.S. economy. In the past 60 years, the U.S. employment in manufacturing has wavered from 50 to 10 percent. If you measure this by the gross domestic product, the manufacturing share of the economy has fallen by 25 percent in the 1950s to 11 percent today.
While there is a profound shift, the collapse that we are so-called witnessing is simply a hangover from the earlier 2000s, when the number of workers declined from 17.3 million to 13.5 million. More than 4 million jobs were lost in manufacturing from the U.S. not being competitive and outsourcing. Since 2003 this has stabilized at low levels, and in the last several years manufacturing employment has actually risen for the first time since the late 1990s.
Manufacturing is moving forward, growing, thriving, competing and doing well. U.S. manufacturing still accounts for 50 billion exports every month. If you measure manufacturing on a stand-alone basis, it is still the eighth largest economy in the world. One in every six private sector jobs is in manufacturing.
An edge on global competition
Today, the manufacturing sector employs 12 million people or 9 percent of the total workforce. It also accounts for 6.6 million jobs in other sectors, including accounting, wholesaling, shipping and more. For $1 in manufacturing in manufactured sales, that final sale supports $1.37 in other areas of the economy, larger than any other economic multiplier.
Recent headlines highlight General Electric Co., Apple Inc. and other companies reporting that manufacturing is back in the U.S. They are employing better, faster and more economic processes than global competition, leading to increased productivity.
It is widely reported that the labor transportation and energy costs in China have made offshore manufacturing more expensive. The Hackett Group reports that the gap between manufacturing in the U.S. and China has shrunk by nearly 50 percent in the last few years and likely will be less than 13 percent in 2013.
With our ability to be nimble and creative, U.S. manufacturing is becoming more profitable. We are focusing on better design, better performance, safety and a superior product. Most importantly, we are offering a superior life cycle of a product — better than you can get anywhere else in the world.
With rising costs in China, the movement now is to eliminate sweatshops, push out the foreign competition and develop superior and lasting products. With that, the U.S. promises to continue its movement to keep manufacturing and jobs plentiful here at home. ●
Matthew P. Figgie is chairman of Clark-Reliance, a global, multi-divisional manufacturing company with sales in over 80 countries, serving the power generation petroleum, refining and chemical processing industries. He is also chairman of Figgie Capital and the Figgie Foundation, a member of the University Hospitals Board of Directors, corporate co-chairman for the 2013 Five Star Sensation and chairman of the National Kidney Walk.
Rick Solon is president and CEO of Clark-Reliance and has more than 35 years of experience in manufacturing and operating companies. He is also the chairman of the National Kidney Foundation Golf Outing.
It used to be that buyers would send out purchase orders with standard terms and conditions, and sellers would ship the product with invoices containing their own conditions. Now that more business is conducted online, conditions are agreed to by click-wrap — clicking a box to accept the terms of the website.
That causes problems when employees wind up agreeing to terms that greatly benefit the seller or supplier to the detriment of the purchaser, says Todd C. Baumgartner, a partner at Brouse McDowell.
“For whatever reason — it might be psychological — there is a lot less negotiation with terms and conditions on websites. It’s important to know what you’re agreeing to, and negotiate if you need to protect your interests,” Baumgartner says.
Smart Business spoke with Baumgartner about how to handle click-wrap agreements and potential problems when they’re agreed to without proper review.
How are differences resolved when buyers and sellers have different terms?
The Uniform Commercial Code has standard rules to follow when that happens. But what’s occurring now is that, General Electric, for example, uses a website instead of putting terms and conditions on the back of invoices. There is no paper going back and forth. GE has the clout to pull that off — companies will just accept the terms in order to be GE’s supplier. But you can negotiate terms and conditions on websites.
A 2002 case, I.Lan Systems Inc. v. Netscout Service Level Corp., demonstrates what can happen with these click-wrap contracts. The buyer, I.Lan Systems, negotiated an extensive software license agreement with all sorts of protections. However, whenever there was an update to the software, it was downloaded from a website by the IT department. Every time that happened, they downloaded a new license agreement that voided the prior one. The new agreements were skewed in favor of the software company, stating that it was not responsible if the software crashed the computer system. When that happened, there was fairly extensive damage, but the court ruled the software company was only liable for the original purchase price.
It’s critical that companies understand every time an IT employee clicks these buttons, they’re getting a new software licensing agreement whether they realize it or not.
What’s the best way to deal with click-wrap agreements?
Don’t just click boxes. Have the head of the IT department review everything, and set up a policy in-house with appropriate procedures so these matters are presented to the right decision-makers.
If there’s something in the agreement that’s not acceptable, depending on your leverage, you can tell the software company you’re not doing click-wrap updates or negotiate an agreement covering the updates.
Click-wrap agreements are not necessarily a bad thing for the buyer or seller, but it’s important that it’s mentioned in bold at the bottom of your invoice or purchase order that the terms are on the website. The seller also needs to keep track of the terms and conditions it had. Then, if a company comes back later and claims it didn’t understand the terms, or didn’t know what was agreed to, sellers can produce what was on the website two years ago.
What sort of problems can arise years later?
Many times disputes are about specifications that the product was supposed to meet, and if it didn’t meet those specifications, what damages might be involved. As a supplier, you want to limit your consequential damages to replacing the product. A buyer will argue that it lost revenue as a result of the defective product. If the agreement doesn’t have the proper damage limitation, it’s going to be a problem for the supplier.
Are purchase agreements done differently online?
Essentially they’re set up the same way; it’s just that people are less likely to negotiate something that’s on their computer screen. Companies will still ask for changes to terms and conditions on a website, but the number of requests for changes drops substantially. Everyone’s classically conditioned to review a contract in Microsoft Word line-by-line; as businesspeople we’re still catching up with the fact that websites can be changed. ●
Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Brouse McDowell
No company is immune to fraud. You may have stringent internal controls, and rigorous hiring and training programs, but still employees may find ways to violate standards.
“It is not enough to have a strong personal ethical code. It needs to be communicated and enforced to become corporate culture,” says Mariah Webinger, Ph.D., an assistant professor of accountancy at John Carroll University. “When it comes to enforcement, you need to proceed cautiously to make sure you are achieving your goals.”
Smart Business spoke with Webinger about dealing with employee fraud.
What should you do if you suspect an employee of fraud?
First, sit down, take a deep breath and think. It is never a good idea to confront a suspected employee right away. You probably don’t have the evidence you need to prove either innocence or guilt. Confronting the employee puts them on guard and makes it even less likely you can get that evidence.
Secondly, you could be wrong. Accusing a suspected employee can be very demoralizing to your workforce and creates an atmosphere of suspicion, forcing bystanders to choose sides.
Third, you never want to interview a suspect when you are emotional. Acting on emotion rarely makes good business sense, so give yourself a break to cool down before you make any decisions.
Finally, communicate the issue and the consequence internally, and perhaps to external stakeholders. When you do, try to stick to the facts and avoid value statements about the employee or the situation.
Does the type of employee misconduct affect consequences and communication?
All types of employee misconduct should be handled thoughtfully and not emotionally. However, the type of conduct will influence the consequence, which in turn will influence how it is communicated. If it is a minor policy infringement, it may be acceptable to have a reprimand as a consequence and an internal memo for communication.
Embezzlement or fraud should result in termination, regardless of size, since these violations are willful and never accidental. Also, fraud indicates an internal control weakness. These weaknesses need to be rectified and should be communicated.
Should a fraud perpetrator ever be retained as an employee?
The short answer is ‘no.’ Usually two reasons are given for wanting to retain an employee after a fraud: The fraud was a small amount or the person is a great employee. All frauds start small. Keeping a dishonest employee on the payroll sends a message to your other employees that fraud is acceptable as long as it is small or if you are a valuable employee. No employee is as irreplaceable as your corporate culture. If they are a good person and a talented employee they will have a great career elsewhere. The consequences of violating an ethical code might be the most important business lesson they will ever learn.
When should you pursue legal action?
Collect your evidence first. Law enforcement is usually overworked and generally not an expert in business. It is unlikely that they will pursue something unless there is a very tight case.
When do you need to hire a forensic investigator?
Generally your current employees will be more efficient at collecting evidence than an external expert because they are more familiar with your company. However, if the issue is contentious or involves office politics, it is helpful to have an independent investigation.
Also, that the fraud was perpetrated suggests there is a weakness in the internal skill set. Usually fraud involves accounting and/or information technology. If you don’t have internal experts in those fields, try to hire a forensic investigator with that expertise.
Where can you find a forensic investigator?
Avoid the yellow pages. It is hard to differentiate between a good forensic investigator and an imposter. Ask your auditor or accountant. They may not be able to do the work for you because of independence issue, but they can usually refer you to someone who can. Also ask your attorney. Most likely they have worked with forensic accountants or business experts and can recommend someone. If all you have is a Web search or the phone book, ask for references and check them. •
Mariah Webinger, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of accountancy at John Carroll University. Reach her at (216) 397-4225 or email@example.com.
Insights Executive Education is brought to you by John Carroll University
Some mistakenly believe that U.S. patents travel the world with universal protection, but countries work independent of each other when granting patents. That is why, when conducting business internationally, it is important to understand how intellectual property protections are procured in each country.
According to the Paris Convention, a treaty signed by the U.S. and 174 other countries that protects industrial property, a patent granted in one signatory country does not mean it must be granted in another.
“U.S. patents are independent from those granted by foreign countries, so protection is advisable in each market a patented product will be sold,” says John S. Zanghi, a partner at Fay Sharpe LLP.
Smart Business spoke with Zanghi about acquiring international patent protection.
How does the Paris Convention apply?
National treatment and right of priority are two important clauses of the Paris Convention with which businesses should be familiar. National treatment says member countries must grant the same patent protection rights to foreign citizens of other signatory countries as it grants to its own nationals. Nationals from a non-signatory country also are entitled to national treatment so long as they have a ‘real and effective industrial or commercial establishment in a contracting state.’
‘Rights of priority’ refers to the length of time an applicant can take to file a patent for the same invention in two countries. For patents and utility models, an applicant must file additional applications within 12 months. A patent office handles these as if they were filed on the same day as the original application, allowing time to determine the commercial viability of the patented product in additional countries.
An applicant seeking priority based upon an earlier filing is protected from any subsequent disclosures, such as publications, that occurred since the first patent was filed.
Why can’t one international patent application grant protection in all countries?
People have long discussed the idea of a single international patent application, but it’s not available.
Applicants can file using the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), a multilateral agreement administered by the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization, which allows applicants to file a single application for patent protection in multiple countries. Applicants select the countries or regions where they would like to receive protection. The application is submitted to each office for review, which manages the granting of patent protection individually. Applicants must adhere to the requirements of a particular country and prosecute each patent separately from other countries.
For patent protection in Europe, filing regionally through the European Patent Office (EPO) is an option. The EPO is a collection of 38 European countries that agreed to establish a single procedure for the grant of patents. A European patent gives its proprietor the same rights as would be conferred by a national patent granted in any participating country. Ultimately, if granted, the European patent will grant in the selected European countries. Any infringement is dealt with by national law.
What needs to be done to file a patent in a foreign country?
Obtain legal counsel in each foreign country because each manages its own patent protection. Local counsel has knowledge of local requirements and can assist in filing and prosecuting an application through to the grant of the patent. They also are able to process applications in a timely manner to ensure you don’t miss a filing deadline.
Which patent and patent laws apply if a U.S. business is sued in another country?
Each issuing country manages and maintains patent protection. If someone sues you for infringement outside of the U.S., the laws of that country govern. However, if the country is a Paris Convention signatory, it must grant the same protection to all non-citizens as its own citizens. It is important to understand how the various international treaties and conventions operate, as well as the filing requirements of each country.
Filing a patent is not an insignificant cost, so it is imperative to understand your obligations and risks wherever you conduct business or in countries where significant competitors conduct business. •
Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Fay Sharpe LLP
Twelve years ago, EY decided to go global with its Entrepreneur Of The Year awards and establish the World Entrepreneur Of The Year program — and the results have been, shall we say, an international success. The conference, held annually in Monaco, features Entrepreneur Of The Year country winners competing for the World Entrepreneur Of The Year title.
Assembling business leaders from around the world in one place to be honored is a huge accomplishment — the wealth of experience, as well as the variety of successful leadership styles, is outstanding.
Here are some thoughts from the collection of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs — innovators, futurists, turnaround specialists and problem-solvers — about leadership styles. ●
“I built the company based on people, not on experience from before. They were willing to learn and try anything. We had a bunch of people who had never done this before. None of us had run companies. None of us had worked in high levels of companies. None of us were from Fortune 500s. Chobani not only became a business that grew, but Chobani was like a school to us, including myself.”
founder, president and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 United States
2013 Entrepreneur Of The World
“Early on, the business was centered on me, and I had to make all the decisions alone. Now I share those decisions with my 10 main directors. If there are differences in opinion, I make the last decision.
The other thing is that I have had to ensure that the people who are invited to work here are people with principles, values, integrity, responsibility and passion. If I don’t see a person with passion, they don’t hang around the company very long.”
Lorenzo Barrera Segovia
founder and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Mexico
“I’m a very passionate person, which will never change. When you grow, you gain more experience and the kind of problems you face change. As you grow, you need to grow with your organization.”
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Argentina
“In the startup days, you have to be very innovative, hire and retain talent, refine your business as you deploy in the marketplace, and you learn things from it. Today, with a solid track record of business success, I can focus on what’s next and think more strategic and long-term than you’re allowed to in the early days. My style has evolved as the business has matured.”
Chevron Energy Solutions
“Entrepreneurship and leadership is about always having ideas, knowing that it is possible even though everyone says it is too difficult. Maintain the positive and always have new ideas.”
Mario Hernandez, founder and president, Marroquinera
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Colombia
“To keep the entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurship alive once you've got past the startup base, I think it is making sure people understand why they are there. There are always things you can do to improve your business. You should be rethinking and retooling it every chance you get. The key thing is to make sure everybody in the organization understands the story, where are you going — how are you going to get there? And the belief that you are doing the right thing —people want to know their purpose. Keep the energy going, keep a strong sense of purpose.”
Dr. Alan Ulsifer
CEO, president and chair
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Canada
“The skill sets of an entrepreneur involve understanding how to create business. Why not work with kids who need it the most and actually teach them and help them to be entrepreneurs? That’s what is going to grow our economy and create stability where otherwise we’re going to have a lot of social unrest.”
President and CEO
Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship
“I like to be involved. I want to know everything that is going on. But I have to delegate to my team. That was the biggest adjustment for me, and it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s that delegating to others, trusting them and reinventing yourself. Now that we’ve grown, I put more responsibility on my team and rely on my team more than I once did.”
President and founder
SME Entertainment Group
“If someone makes a mistake, what do you do? You laugh with them. You don’t yell at them. You laugh. It just keeps things light and lively and people want to do their very best. You let them know they screwed up, but you also let them know it’s OK.”
National Heritage Academies
Leaders often talk about how the traits of accountability and transparency helped make them who they are, but to retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, who served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for four years under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, leadership is quite simply how you listen, learn and lead.
It’s not just a coincidence that communication is as important in the war zone as it is in an organization — and that’s where Mullen emphasizes listening to what his team members have on their minds.
Smart Business talked with Mullen about the challenges of being in command:
Q. What do you see as the most important trait that any leader must possess?
A. Integrity. Be true to yourself, and obviously true to your values. The value of integrity intrinsically has been a driver for me since I was a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. It has served me exceptionally well.
Integrity encompasses being honest, truthful and consistent — both publicly and privately in leadership positions — and representing that in every situation. It is most evident in the toughest decisions you have to make.
Q. And how can you ensure integrity is present in leadership?
A. What I loved about command was the responsibility and authority that came with it. But more than anything else, the other piece was accountability — accountable leadership. That is not just having someone hold you accountable, but having enough strength yourself as a leader to hold yourself accountable.
I just found that even with those decisions that can be very unpopular, if you are true to that value of integrity, even if it may not seem to some to be the best decision, it [integrity] holds you in the best stead as a leader over the long term. And because of that, it becomes incredibly supportive of those very, very tough decisions.
Q. So what can help a leader make those tough decisions more effectively?
A. As a more senior leader, I learned to keep a diversity of views around me. The more senior I got, the more diverse the people, the recommendations and the discussions had to be in order for me to make the right decision.
I had people around me who were willing to say, ‘Hey, this is when you got it wrong,’ as opposed to the opposite, which is isolation, where nobody will tell the emperor [he] doesn’t have any clothes on.
Q. You’ve mentioned the importance of listening to others in order to help you become a better leader. How did you do that?
A. Everywhere I went, whether we had a town hall meeting or we could call an all-hands meeting, I would take questions from the audience. So, for example, when a young enlisted man would give me a question of which I didn’t know the answer, I said, “I don’t know the answer, but give me your email address. I will go research it and get back to you.”
I did that. I went back and looked at whatever their concern was. And some of those concerns generated significant changes in the military, or in the particular service they were in. For me, as chairman, that was a vital part of trying to understand what I was asking them to do, and then taking that feedback and trying to fix the problem that they raised — if it made sense to do it.
A good leader can make such a difference, and create something out of nothing, whereas a bad leader is unable to do that. The ingredient that makes a difference is leadership. ●
Retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen served more than 43 years in the Navy, having served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011, and as chief of naval operations from 2005 to 2007. He will be the keynote speaker at the Dec. 5 American Red Cross Hero Awards. Learn more about the Hero Awards at www.clevelandheroes.com.
Consider this business scenario: You’ve landed a big account for your company by converting a highly prized prospect into a valuable client. The new client has hired you to handle a specific scope of work and is counting on your team’s ability to deliver work that goes above and beyond.
While nothing is more important than delivering great customer service to satisfy the client, you may not realize that you’re probably overlooking unrealized opportunities to forge a stronger relationship with your customer.
In today’s business landscape, most large companies offer an array of products and services. More often than not, however, your clients use you for a specific service or skill set. And unfortunately, in this scenario, most companies focus solely on the task at hand — delivering what they’ve been contracted to deliver — failing to take ample time to think about the bond they’re creating with the client and what could be next.
In more simple terms, it is one thing to provide service that keeps a customer; it is another to keep that customer and expand the relationship to become a trusted partner.
Provide value in a deliberate way
The good news is that this is an easy fix. Establish a content marketing program that allows you to distribute thought leadership to your clients.
A content marketing program will help you provide value that other service providers may not, and when clients see you as an informational resource and partner, it will be easier to expand the relationship.
Take this example into consideration: You are an insurance provider and your main product is life insurance, therefore most of the communication you have with your clients surrounds that topic.
With a comprehensive content marketing program in place, however, you can educate your clients on the recent trends in the insurance industry and how that affects the individual. At the same time, you can give them an overview of your company’s wellness program and let them know that if they joined, they could reduce their monthly premiums.
As you can see, you’re not just providing your client with the original service, you’re also providing them with both your thought leadership — aka value — and additional offerings.
Personal connections payoff
Aside from providing value to the client with the content you distribute, a strong content marketing program allows you to showcase your brand’s personality. Clients will be able to connect with your brand on a more personal level.
Providing continually updated content through the right channels to the right clients enhances your day-to-day communications. Clients start seeing you as thought leaders and partners instead of just service providers.
It will help you expand relationships and, as a result, generate new business through more products and services.
Show them more than just what they see on the surface — show them how active you are in the community, or how much fun you had during a recent company outing. If may sound trivial, but your clients do similar things, and seeing you connect with the community and/or employees will help forge a more personal connection. You never know; you and your client may support the same charity, organization or team.
Open communication also will help strengthen relationships to the point where you can capture a premium price and eliminate price-jumping clients. Clients will pay more for a valuable relationship than simply look to get the lowest price elsewhere. ●
David Fazekas is vice president of marketing services for SBN Interactive. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7056.
You would think someone like Douglas Merrill would be a heavy multitasker, with multiple devices in hand, fielding several conversations — both real and virtual — simultaneously.
But you would be wrong.
Merrill, who was the CIO at Google until 2008, doesn’t like to multitask. He says that when you do it, you aren’t using your brain’s full capacity and aren’t as effective. He recommends focusing on one thing at a time.
Billionaire Mark Cuban has his own time management strategy. Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, says you should completely avoid meetings unless you are closing a deal. Otherwise, he says, they are a waste of time.
Both of these proven leaders have learned that how you manage your time is paramount to your effectiveness.
As a CEO, you are swamped every day with calls and emails from people wanting a piece of your time. Some are internal, some are charity requests, some are from friends or family members and others are from service providers.
To help wade through this sea of information, it’s important to have a system in place to help you free up time to think about your business and the things that matter most in life. These open times are what author Richard Swenson refers to as “margin.” They are the spaces between ourselves and our limits that are reserved for emergencies.
But for many business leaders, there are no spaces left.
The way out of this trap is to set clear goals and values for yourself and your organization. Once you do that, you will have a filter through which to evaluate everything. Everything will have an immediate yes or no answer, eliminating the “let me think about it” category completely.
The key is to establish what your goals are first and then prioritize what is important. With your priorities straight, you will find more time to put toward important things on your goals list, but don’t forget to leave time on your daily schedule. There is no way to foresee all emergencies, so by leaving yourself some margin, when something unexpected happens, you already have time built in to deal with it.
Once you have margin built into your life, you have to have the discipline to stick to it. There will always be the temptation to take every meeting or answer every email. But if you use your goals and priorities as a filter, those requests are easily either accepted or declined based on where they fall on your priority list.
If you want a life where you can experience more peace and joy and less anxiety, start looking at your priorities and establish some margin in your daily schedule. ●