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Think back to the second or third grade when your teacher passed out that year’s sales catalog to the class. You’d open the catalog, flipping past the pages of candy bars and wrapping paper that needed to be sold for your school’s annual fundraiser, and head straight to the prizes page.

If you sold 15 candy bars, you’d get a package of glow-in-the-dark ceiling stars. Sell 50 and you’d get a pogo stick. It went on and on, eventually culminating in a grand prize that was usually something incredibly awesome — like an electronic keyboard. Every kid dreamed of the big prize! Since the only way to get it was to sell, sell, sell, it created a healthy sense of competition between you and your classmates to the point where everyone was excited to get started.

In many ways, that sales catalog mirrors an in-office rewards program. The department that goes above and beyond the expected quota of sales or assignments due is the one that receives an incentive. Some of these incentives are even offered before you begin — as a reminder of how your hard work will pay off.

Even though your shoes won’t light up as you walk through those office doors as they might have in the second grade, being rewarded for a job well done never goes out of style. If you don’t already have an employee-rewards program, or you’d like to re-evaluate what you’ve got going, here are three ways to get the ball rolling.

 

Include all the departments separately and as a whole

Some companies have a rewards program in place for their sales team, but why not bring in everyone? Every team can strive toward bigger and better things!

For each department, set up a series of pre-specified goals to hit and rewards that will be given upon reaching those goals. Establish a companywide goal in terms of overall monthly profits, or positive customer service reviews. For those, throw a pizza party for the whole staff to get everyone in on the fun!

 

Think small as well as big

Don’t forget to reward the little goals as well as the large. As a big goal can be rewarded with a bonus, or trip, a small goal can be rewarded with a Starbucks gift card or lottery tickets.

Small rewards can still be a lot of fun and they also help keep the work environment fun and lighthearted. 

 

Encourage your team to work together 

The one danger in an employee rewards program is that it can create a sense of “dog-eat-dog” competition between your employees, and you don’t want that. This isn’t a real life version of “The Hunger Games” — you still want everybody working as a team. So while the individual rewards are good, encourage a sense of communication and camaraderie between team members.

At weekly meetings have everyone go around, speak up and share tips so that everyone can be at the top of their game.

The point of a rewards program is not to pit your team against one another, but to create a stronger one.

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Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark and copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. 

The “opening bell” for 2014 has rung and the new beginning it represents demands a conversation between company leadership and individual contributors — a conversation to celebrate the achievements of 2013 and look forward to 2014.

At the Alfred Mann Foundation, we have found the all-hands meeting effective in not just delivering a consistent message, but in engaging various employees in leading this conversation.

Additionally, we engage employees unrehearsed in banter that is seemingly intended to fill in critical details, but has the additional benefit of establishing the employee as the “subject-matter” expert in front of the entire company, not just his or her own peer group.

The conversation enables leadership to highlight achievement in an uplifting way. No department gets left behind — every employee walks away from the meeting with a pat on the back and the perception that he or she contributed in 2013.

One tip that I’d like to note is presenters must avoid simply reading a “laundry list” of what took place. The interactivity suggested above is meant to turn the presentation into an actual discussion. Pictures and video vignettes that can be embedded into a presentation personalize the acknowledgement and can be a tremendous source of inspiration and fuel interactivity. It’s amazing what source material can be found on a smartphone or in past presentations.

 

Identify the gaps

The group session also presents opportunities to address concerns. The conversation enables leadership to highlight a problem that the organization had to wrestle with and demonstrate the systems, processes and organizational behavior utilized to solve the problem. We can honestly assess which of our processes worked and which fell short and need refinement.

For example, we faced a mechanical engineering problem with a medical device we were developing. The obvious fix was to make the device larger, but increasing the device size undermined our market objectives. The team went to work on the problem and within a few weeks, proposed several potential solutions. The team selected the best solution, planned the redesign and executed on the plan.

In our conversation, not only will the project leaders and individual contributors be acknowledged, the organizational behavior of systematically attacking the problem will also be highlighted.

While we all hope to achieve all our organizational goals, the fact is that every organization has room to improve. The mere planning for the conversation requires leadership to honestly assess the prior year and own the performance gaps.

This has two potential effects: First, leadership is well aware of the challenges ahead and can effectively communicate the gravity of these challenges during the conversation. Second, an initial exchange of ideas can begin that will help fill the gaps. Our goal is to generate infectious enthusiasm to address these gaps.

 

Keep it fresh

Instead of communicating organizational goals, we like to introduce a few new ideas or concepts to our employees. The ideas or concepts may be a course correction, a system change, a change in the org chart, a change in a benefit plan, etc.

This year, among the concepts that we are introducing is a proposed alternative workweek. This will generate considerable discussion among leadership and our individual contributors in spirited off-line conversations on real issues that affect all of our work lives.

Best wishes for a prosperous 2014!

 

David Hankin is the CEO of the Alfred Mann Foundation, a nonprofit medical device company that develops groundbreaking medical devices to address serious medical conditions. For more information, visit www.aemf.org.

If your organization offers an annual wellness-screening program, you are in good company. According to a report by The Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of all U.S. companies with more than 200 employees provide wellness screenings. These programs provide workers the opportunity to have their height, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol conveniently tested on site.

Participants receive a printout of their results and, if the test values are abnormal, they are encouraged to see their primary care physician for a follow-up appointment.

Employers are provided with a confidential report of aggregate health data. This allows companies to tailor on-site educational programs and incentives to best match employees’ risk status. The new Affordable Care Act rules, set to take effect this year, provide companies more power to align insurance premiums with specific health goals.

For the employee, the tests provide a snapshot of their health status and at-risk participants may become more aware of and better motivated to make health behavior changes.

At issue, however, is the idea that traditional finger stick testing for total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) can create a “false negative” by providing the employee with reassurance that they have little or no near-term risk for a cardiovascular event.

According to the American Heart Association, 50 percent of all heart attacks and strokes occur in individuals with normal cholesterol. It’s estimated that for 30 percent of patients with cardiovascular disease, their first sign of disease is death. Clearly, something is missing if, after intense efforts by the medical community over the last 20 years to identify lipid abnormalities, we cannot provide employees with a more accurate assessment of their risk.

In 1976, Russell Ross, Ph.D., at the University of Washington, published a sentinel paper entitled “Atherosclerosis: An Inflammatory Disease.” Ross clearly outlined two components that lead to the clogging of arteries: an injury and a response.

It is inflammation, the response to the insult, that is the culprit in arterial disease. Oxidized cholesterol is but one of many independent factors that can damage the body’s 60,000 miles of blood vessels. Others include dental cavities, sleep apnea, insulin resistance (pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome), cigarette smoking and stress.

Making work site screenings better

A growing body of research is showing that a multi-marker approach — adding several additional inflammation-specific blood tests to the traditional screening panel — can identify at-risk employees who would previously have gone undetected.

A recent study by Marc Penn, M.D., PhD. , and Andrea Klemes, D.O., published in Future Cardiology, evaluated 95,144 patients assessed by MDVIP physicians at their annual physicals. Based on a lipid-only wellness panel, approximately 30 percent of patients presented as being at risk. When the additional tests for inflammation were added, an additional 40 percent were identified.

These advanced inflammatory biomarkers are able to detect employees with “vulnerable plaque” that is likely to rupture into the artery lumen, thereby blocking blood flow, leading to heart attack or stroke. Studies conducted by Cleveland Heart Lab, provider of an advanced inflammation panel, have shown that approximately 10 percent of a screened population fit into this category.

Clearly, a multi-marker approach provides additive information. Employees deserve cardiovascular risk information that is better than the flip of a coin. Companies need the data to target resources to best promote individual and organizational well-being.

Dr. Mark J. Tager is CEO of ChangeWell Inc., a San Diego-based consulting and training company focused on maximizing the health/productivity connection. For more information, visit www.changewell.com

 

It’s still 2013 as I’m writing this, but by the time everyone else reads it, we’ll be closing in on 2014 and kicking off the New Year, working to make good on the resolutions and plans we promised our businesses.

What’s one area to take a closer look at? The company mission statement.

Typically defined as a formal summary of what your organization intends to do in both the short term and long run, mission statements also tend to be woefully outdated thanks to their very definition.

Formality and a lengthy summary can’t hold our attention span the way a down-to-earth and easily tweetable statement can. Now this isn’t to say you need to write everything in 140 characters or less. But if you don’t already have one in place for your business or you have a really stale statement that no longer gels with the direction your company has taken, it might be time to conduct some early spring-cleaning and overhaul your mission statement.

Aim for real and actionable, but also slightly lofty

As mentioned in Inc., mission statements should contain the following four elements: value, inspiration, plausibility and specificity. A simple, concise, grounded and fitting statement that addresses a call to action is the key here. It’s understandable that your statement shouldn’t be too much of a pie-in-the-sky plan for your business (steer clear of “we’ll single-handedly heal the world”-isms).

But a mission statement also needs to inspire just as much as it needs to encourage others to act out on it. Include at least one attainable element that shows how your company can go above and beyond where others may not.

It shouldn’t just be a description of your business

It’s easy to muddle together the synopsis of what your brand does with what it aspires to do. While you do need to mention what it is your business does, keep your overall business description separate from your mission statement — after all, the mission is based on the intentions of your company.

Think about your statement on an annual basis

Making changes to your statement at the start of the year is a great way to kick everything off to a solid start, but it’s also important to revisit your mission statement on an annual basis to make sure it’s still a fit for your company. Additionally, revisit the way you put it together from the grammar usage to how comprehensive it is.

Share your statement with your employees and customers!

At my company, we’re in the midst of revising our own mission statement and plan to make signs for each employee’s desk to showcase the new statement.

Whether you decide to redo your statement completely or even if you make just a few small changes, share them with your team members and customers — it’s a great and fresh reminder of all that your business stands for.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark and copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @deborahsweeney

Anyone who has been a fan of the “Fast & Furious” movies had to do a double take upon hearing the news that actor Paul Walker had been killed in a car crash. It just didn’t seem real that the 40-year-old actor, who rose to fame in high-octane street racing scenes in the fantasy world that is Hollywood, could have died that way. Sure, life imitates art sometimes, but this was just too much to comprehend.

Tragically, it was true, and the actor, who was known for his philanthropy and was hosting a fundraiser that same day to help the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, was gone.

At the time this column was written, production on the seventh installment of the “Fast & Furious” movie franchise had been put on hold as the studio regrouped to figure out how to deal with what had happened.

Life is fleeting

It was another example of how fleeting life can be and how you just never know when your whole world can be thrown upside down. As human beings, most of us thrive on consistency and stability and the idea that we know what’s coming next week, next month and next year.

There are those adrenaline junkies, of course, who love the next challenge and relish the chance to take everything they know and throw it out the window in favor of a new, more exciting plan of action. It’s the kind of personality trait that is portrayed in movies about fast cars and heists made from the rooftops of cars traveling at more than 100 mph.

But whichever type you are, you are not immune to the possibility of your life changing in an instant. And it’s a lesson to all of us to cherish every moment and opportunity we get in life.

Maybe it’s focusing a little bit more on your business and the steps that your company needs to take to achieve its full potential. There are so many things out there to distract us in social media and in our daily lives in general.

It’s easy to get sidetracked or push a project through without giving it your full attention. But there’s a customer out there who is depending on you to come through. That project is just as important as the one for that customer you helped when you weren’t as busy.

What are the priorities?

But at the end of the day, while your business is a critical part of your life, so is your family. So are the families of your employees. Few would argue that family is more important than business.

As you look to do your best at work, make sure you’re leaving enough to be the best you can be at home too. Those moments with your loved ones are moments you don’t want to miss. It’s not always easy, but you’ve got to find a way to be great at both ends and help your employees do the same.

As you start 2014, make it a point to find that balance in the way you go about your life both at work and at home. You just never know when life is going to throw you an unexpected curve.

Mark Scott is senior associate editor of Smart Business Los Angeles, Smart Business Orange County and Smart Business Chicago. If you have an interesting story to share about a person or business making a difference in Los Angeles, Orange County or Chicago, please send an email to mscott@sbnonline.com

After more than a decade of private equity investing with business owners as partners, I’ve learned that the relationship can seem like a marriage. This is especially true in situations where things don’t go as planned.

For the business owner/private equity marriage to withstand challenging circumstances and generate value for both parties upon conclusion (a “liquidity event”), it is important that partners embrace the following attributes:

  • Mutual trust and transparency.
  • Shared vision.
  • Willingness of each partner to put the best interests of the partnership ahead of personal ego.
  • Determination and commitment to make it work.

Mutual trust and transparency

Trust is the cornerstone of all successful relationships. Without it, one can never know for sure where he or she stands. Trust should be built and tested during the courtship phase of the partnership prior to closing the deal and consummating the business owner/private equity marriage. 

Key questions requiring answers include: Does my prospective partner always do what they say they will do? Do they exaggerate? Do they tell only part of the story? Are discussions about the business always clouded by sales talk or spin? Are verbal commitments taken seriously?

If each of these questions can be resolved, the focus is then transparency.

Both partners should be comfortable sharing both positive and negative developments. The due diligence period provides ample opportunity for both sides of the partnership to test this attribute.

Shared vision

It is critical that the business owner and private equity investor share a consistent vision for the marriage. This shared vision should influence strategic planning, resource allocation and the incentives built into the deal structure. The realities of the business should be taken into account, with both partners challenging each other as to the achievability of projections given the business environment, the company’s competitive position and overall potential.

Each party should share the SWOT analyses they have conducted from their vantage points and their base case return expectations. For example, the private equity investor likely has a required time-based return hurdle. Similarly, the business owner will have a target exit value. Both need to be in sync.

Willingness to put personal ego aside

Most entrepreneurs believe they are capable and smart, and it can be difficult to acknowledge mistakes. The same applies to private equity professionals who often view their academic credentials and resumes on par with “real world” operational expertise.

Each needs to separate their personal egos from what is best for the company and the partnership. The business owner must be willing to add to the senior leadership team, and even in the most extreme case, allow a more qualified individual to lead the company, if that is what is best for the business.

Likewise, the private equity professional must be willing to acknowledge their limitations and bring in a more experienced member of the firm or qualified consultant, if challenges warrant additional insight.

Determination and commitment to make it work

Unplanned negative events can put a business on its heels. Much like a marriage, determination and commitment are required to drive the partnership through these tough times.

If they have a strong marriage, the partners’ vow of “in sickness and in health, ’til liquidity event do we part” can ultimately pay off.

Craig Dupper is managing partner at Solis Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Newport Beach, Calif., focused exclusively on lower middle-market companies. For more information, visit www.soliscapital.com.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 23:54

Lin Miao - Why co-working spaces will dominate by 2020

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The era of cubicles and water coolers is coming to an end.

As businesses adapt to the increasingly specific needs of today’s consumer, the office environment is also evolving to meet the needs of today’s workforce. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the startup tech industry and co-working world.

The current generation of tech-savvy entrepreneurs is seeking environments that accommodate a highly competitive yet creative lifestyle, with the least economic impact on their company. They’re working 24/7 for their startup so they chafe at the constraints of a 9-to-5 workweek.

Instead of renting offices, they’re embracing the hottest trend in business: co-working spaces.

A co-working space is an open-access, turnkey environment designed to be an affordable office alternative for startups, freelancers and other independent workers. Worldwide, it’s estimated that there are nearly 2,500 co-working spaces as of early 2013, up 83 percent from the year before.

They serve nearly 110,000 workers and approximately 245 new people join a co-working space each day.

So why are co-working spaces poised to replace the traditional office?

Co-working culture fits today’s creative entrepreneurial lifestyle

Step inside a co-working space and it’s hard to avoid a creative contact high. By bringing together a diverse community of business innovators and creative talent like designers and developers, co-working spaces are a hub of inspiration.

Most co-working spaces host special events where members can share their experience and skills. It’s a perfect environment for young startup entrepreneurs to network, practice their VC pitches or collaborate on new projects.

Deskmag, an online journal about co-working spaces and co-working culture, surveyed workers who reported significant increases in productivity and morale since joining a co-working space. While 71 percent of those surveyed said they felt more creative, 90 percent felt more confident and 70 percent told Deskmag that co-working even made them feel healthier!

Co-working makes more financial sense for startups and small businesses

When you’re starting a business, every penny counts. Renting a traditional office space means security deposits, insurance, utilities and other setup fees — not to mention the cost of furnishings. This can be a tremendous barrier to entry, especially for startups at the critical pre-seed development stage. 

A co-working space essentially provides an instant office for the price of two cups of coffee a day. Deskmag estimates the average cost of a flexible (or “hot”) desk at a co-working space in the U.S., is just $195 a month. Memberships generally include everything entrepreneurs and independent workers need, like conference rooms and WiFi.

Additionally, co-working spaces tend to be strategically located in a city’s major industry center, allowing convenient access for members as well as potential clients or investors.

Co-working spaces will make offices obsolete

By 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 65 million Americans will be independent contractors or solo entrepreneurs — that’s about 40 percent of the workforce. Co-working spaces are already anticipating this shift. Soon, freelancers and tech startups won’t be the only ones abandoning traditional offices for co-working.

With their economic, social and creative live/work advantages, co-working spaces will dominate the business landscape in the next decade. If you’re starting a business, start co-working.

Lin Miao is the founder of Be Great Partners. After selling his first company for $60 million at age 24, Miao launched Be Great Partners and currently serves as the company’s CEO. For more information, visit www.begreat.co.

The odds are not in your favor when it comes to breaking out and becoming the next shining star.

To make it happen, you need to use every tool in your arsenal. I’ve come up with a checklist that I’ve used to create five successful brands, including my own, in the food/culinary/hospitality industry space.

Side note: The hardest part about being successful is balancing confidence with arrogance. The latter usually causes one to look at the brand with unrealistic goggles. But without confidence, most don’t have the guts to take the long, hard steps necessary to be successful. Be cautiously optimistic, but realistic about your brand. And consider whether these three steps can help you determine the difference between success and failure.

What’s the opportunity? What's your niche? 

Always ask, “What is the opportunity?” Is there a need for this brand I am creating? For me, I saw early on that there weren’t that many chefs regarded as the national voice for Asian food. That told me there was a need, because Asian food will always be very popular at every level. At the same time, I would not be a needle in a stack of needles. There are tons of American, European and even Latin cuisine chefs, but very few Asian-American chefs.

Are you authentic? What do you stand for? 

Consumers want brands that they trust, that are authentic and have a story. People inherently want to support great brands. The story of the brand is almost as important as the offering itself.  It creates an emotional tie and aids in the consumer’s desire to support the brand. Once I analyzed the market and saw the opportunity for my brand, I took a look back at my story.

I was the son of the “first Thai food family” in America, from humble beginnings/raised by hardworking immigrant parents who helped to create and establish the Thai food industry.

Everything about lineage made sense to be the spokesperson for Thai food in America. My Chinese ethnicity also made sense to talk and teach about Chinese food. So I went to some journalist friends to put my story on paper, creating bios and refreshing them as necessary.

What can you do to gain a competitive advantage?

Like writing any good business plan, it’s important to go through the exercise of analyzing your competitive set. Know who else is out there doing what you want to do. Are they doing it better? You better hope not.

Quantify your findings and put them on paper. Get a factual sense of how your brand compares. That will also help you realize what your competitive advantages are. Or they could help cultivate ideas on how to gain the competitive advantage. 

With all my brands, I’m constantly monitoring my competitive set and identifying strengths and weaknesses. The flipside to this is also simultaneously monitoring consumers’ needs. Ten years ago fusion was the trend, and now it’s all about micro-regional cuisine and authenticity. If I never monitored the competitive set and the changing consumer landscape, I could have faded out of popularity.

There are a lot of intricacies to creating successful brands. It takes hard work and thousands of decisions, but it always begins with these three questions.

Jet Tila is a world-renowned chef and entrepreneur. He has been called the country’s first “Thai Culinary Ambassador.” Tila has been featured on the Food Network and in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. He also holds five Guinness World Records. For more information, visit www.chefjet.com.

It was Daymond John, CEO of FUBU and an investor on the ABC reality TV series “Shark Tank,” who famously said, “An entrepreneur must pitch a potential investor for what the company is worth as well as sell the dream on how much of a profit can be made.”

But no amount of passion from an entrepreneur, or even an established business owner, can fully quell the nerves that come with pitching before a group of investors. Everything from the length of the PowerPoint presentation to what you wear is heavily scrutinized, and there is no guarantee that every business will receive funding on the first pitch.

Practice makes perfect when it comes to pitching, so before you go in for the final presentation, focus on prepping yourself in the following four areas.

Keep it short and sweet

This applies to every aspect of your presentation. From your elevator pitch — one minute, maximum — to the PowerPoint presentation you’ve prepared. While it’s important to get investors to notice the problems your business can solve or the needs it will meet, adding tons of detail clutters and hurries the pitch. Keep it simple, clean and straight to the point.

As well-known entrepreneur and “Shark Tank” investor Mark Cuban told The Washington Post, “When it comes to business, there is a simple scorecard. Are you making money or are you not making money? Are you succeeding or are you not? So when you go to raise money, always, always catch yourself and eliminate the backstory.”

Don’t over-disclose upfront

Knowing the financial figures behind your business is important, but there’s no need to share all of your exact numbers at the outset. Instead, show a commitment to metrics and analytics.

Investor Mark Cohen says that while measuring metrics is not easy to do, it’s important to believe in the value of what the metrics will reveal and be willing to adapt to what is uncovered.

Be specific about your strategies

As mentioned before, entrepreneurs need to be in tune with the problem their business is solving or the needs it is meeting. Prep your strategies beforehand and know what you’re working on today and how you anticipate growth in the future. It’s also important to know your market and customer base and what they think of the product or service — specifically if they recognize that your company is solving a problem for them that they would be willing to pay for.

Ask questions!

The average window for a pitch meeting with investors is about 10 to 15 minutes. So once you’ve confidently and passionately knocked out the “three magical P’s,” which according to investment banker Gary Spirer including people, product and potential, it’s time to ask questions of your own.

What is the investor’s specific investment strategy? How does the investor typically structure investment in a company? Is the investor focused on a particular industry, business size and/or growth rate? How does the investor get involved in the business after an investment?

Remember that once the pitch is over the only bad question to ask is no question. So be sure to grill your potential investors!

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com, a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark and copyright filing services. For more information, please visit www.mycorporation.com or follow on Twitter at @MyCorporation

After 50 years working with a range of companies — as well as founding and running my own company, J.D. Power and Associates — I have learned a lot about what it takes to succeed in business.

The businesses I’ve seen grow, adapt and thrive are the ones that keep a focus on satisfying customers. They listen to customers, anticipate their needs and desires, and maintain these traits as core principles for how the business should operate.

Whether I’m speaking with business school students or seasoned executives, I focus on five basic lessons that have been helpful to me and to others I have observed throughout my business career.

Take the time to listen

I have witnessed too many companies move further away from achieving satisfied customers by refusing to listen to them.

Back in the 1980s, Peugeot was trying to expand its share of the American car market but was unwilling to listen to customer complaints about difficulties starting the company’s advanced fuel-injected cars. Customers saw this as a quality issue, but Peugeot held fast, confident that fuel injection was superior from an engineering standpoint.

No doubt Peugeot was right, but by not listening and adapting to customers, those customers were lost. By the early 1990s, Peugeot had abandoned the American market.

Remember who the client is

In a B2B world, it is the organization or business you serve, not just the man or woman sitting across from you. This is important from two perspectives. It is critical that you not serve the desires of the representative assigned to work with you to the disservice of the organization.

On the flip side, you must feel empowered to not let that person become an obstacle to the organization receiving the information necessary to take full advantage of your services.

Relationships matter

Relationships are what life and business are all about. They need to be built on a foundation of respect and trust, not just friendship. I never approached business relationships as requiring glad-handing or wining and dining. In the beginning, I simply couldn’t afford it.

As J.D. Power’s success widened, I found that true relationships with executives came from providing them with the clear, actionable information they needed to do their jobs, not time on the golf course.

Be willing to alter your point of view

Don’t be afraid to take a counterintuitive position in order to generate better ideas. The Jesuit education I received at the College of the Holy Cross provided a basis in questioning the status quo, a trait that has served me well.

Don’t “torture the data till it confesses”

Don’t be blind to all but the good news you may want to hear. Consciously or subconsciously interpreting information that comes across your desk in a way that supports past decisions, rather than illuminates needed improvement, is shortsighted. It won’t bring you closer to the satisfied customers who will ultimately dictate your success.  

Dave Power is the founder of J.D. Power and Associates, a global market research company based in Westlake Village, Calif. The book about his 50 years in the auto industry, “Power: How J.D. Power III Became the Auto Industry’s Adviser, Confessor, and Eyewitness to History” is now available. For more information, visit
www.davepowerbook.com.

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