No one said it was going to be easy. Managing others is, in fact, a very difficult process, especially when stress levels are high and you have 37 other urgent tasks to complete that day. No matter the scenario, being a great leader means being a great manager and that takes considerable time, forethought and dedication. Let’s also remind ourselves again that our associates are “the most valuable unlisted asset on our balance sheet.”

Here are a few little known factoids:

? 71 percent of all workers feel stressed.

? 40 percent of adults get less than seven hours of sleep during the weekdays.

? 34 percent of lunches are eaten on the run.

? The average person receives 156 emails per day.

Despite these statistics, the bottom line is that you can get more than these 37 tasks completed and still lead your team to success if you know how to manage them effectively.

The key is finding the time — and the discipline. Time is something we can never get back and is more important than money itself. Here are 10 steps to becoming the leader your associates want to follow:

1. Make the time.

Don’t use time as an excuse or a crutch. Prioritize your calendar to be in alignment with your goals and those of your company. Set two hours each week for strategically “managing” your schedule.

2. Provide direction.

Clearly articulate, in writing, tangible deliverables to your team, complete with timelines. Review those tangibles on a regular basis to hold your associates (and yourself) more accountable.

3. Run effective staff meetings.

Meetings are the bane of our existence — you can’t live with them; you can’t live without them. Keep them focused (one hour or less), keep them interactive and keep them content-rich.

4. Set stretch objectives.

Set high (yet reasonable) goals. Limit the number of homework assignments you assume during a meeting. Again, delegate to allow you, as the leader, to focus on high-level initiatives. By doing so, you will empower those around you.

5. Evaluate your style.

Is it effective? Leaders must create an environment of trust and transparency. And, most importantly, spend more time listening.

6. Inspect what you expect.

Never delegate without management control. Challenge your team with tasks, but circle back to ensure they are getting done.

7. Promote risk taking.

Nothing stifles creativity and growth more than “the traditional leader.” Give your associates permission to push the envelope and to do things differently than you do.

8. Get out of your comfort zone.

Surround yourself with people unlike you. And, with people who have the self-confidence to challenge traditional thinking.

9. Step away from your desk.

Limit the number of meetings in your office; make “house calls” and go to your associate’s office or even the conference room. It will foster open and positive communication.

10. Do what you say you will do.

“Walk the talk” is vital to obtain and retain the trust and respect of your colleagues. You have enormous influence, and it is pivotal to understand this enormous influence you have on people. It all starts with trust and respect.

Managing a team is challenging, but it’s profoundly rewarding if done right. When you find the time to focus on your associates, remember:

? Engaged employees are 3½ times more likely to stay with your company.

? Empowered employees are more productive, creative and resourceful.

? The more you trust your team to do great work, the less stress for everyone.

? The higher the morale, the more fun for everyone.

Once you’ve developed an empowered team you can trust, you will be well on your way to being that leader they will follow.

G. A. Taylor Fernley is president and CEO of Fernley & Fernley, an association management company providing professional management services to non-profit organizations since 1886. He can be reached at tfernley@fernley.com, or for more information, visit www.fernley.com.

Published in Philadelphia
Thursday, 31 January 2013 19:01

Adrienne Lenhoff: Think before you post

Have you rethought your opinion of someone because of something they’ve posted on social media? Social media has blurred the line between business and personal acquaintances, with most people having both personal and professional contacts linked to their pages on social platforms such as Facebook.

Social media creates an environment where many of our social filtering inhibitions disappear, and people tend to feel freer in expressing views they would not otherwise express in real-life social and business settings.

We witnessed the best and worst of friends, family, business colleagues and acquaintances during the 2012 presidential election. In the offline world, most of us would refrain from lambasting someone for expressing their opinion. Most of us, however, would not begin verbal attacks against the individual or the candidates.

The election was an eye-opener

The presidential election shed light on the impact that the things we post on social networks has on our relationships with others. Forty-seven percent of respondents to a poll conducted by Mashable had unfriended someone on Facebook because of election-related issues.

Even if you did not actually unfriend someone, think about those you might be avoiding as a result of their comments or whose update settings you’ve changed to take them out of your active friend feed. Conversely, are your business colleagues or acquaintances taking these same actions against you?

Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project has conducted several surveys about people’s use of social networking sites for politics and personal political interaction. Here are some of the findings:

  • 60 percent of American adults use either social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, and 66 percent of those social media users, or 39 percent of all American adults, have done at least one social media civic or political engagement activity.

  • 22 percent of registered voters shared their presidential vote on social media.

  • 22 percent say they avoid making political comments on social media sites for fear of offending others.

  • 67 percent of those who blocked, unfriended or hid someone on a social networking site did it to a distant friend or acquaintance.

  • 21 percent of those who blocked, unfriended or hid someone on a social networking site did it to a co-worker.

  • 16 percent have friended or followed someone because the person shared the user’s political views.

When it comes to blocking, unfriending or hiding someone on social media, overpolitical postings are often the reason why. The biggest complaints regarded someone posting too frequently about political subjects, posting something a user disagreed with or found offensive, and arguing about politics with the user or someone they know.

The loss of anonymity

For better or worse, the presidential election opened the floodgates of online bashing and heated arguments. In the early days of online interaction, most sites and media outlets allowed users to identify themselves using pseudonyms or user names rather than their true-life identities. That cloak of anonymity allowed many users to dispose of their inhibitions and interact as they would not otherwise in a real-world setting.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a shift from the use of pseudonyms or user handles to sites that now require comments and engagement be tied to social media profiles on Facebook that reveal our real names, along with potentially allowing viewers access to our personal and professional identifying information — including employment information.

When you see someone boldly expressing themselves across social media platforms, it has the repercussion of not only fragmenting relationships but also making you lose respect for ones you have always respected. It puts people in a different light and has the potential to make you rethink who you would want to do business with.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media Marketing and Online Reputation Management, Shazaaam Public Relations and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com.  Follow her on Twitter @alenhoff.

Published in Detroit
Thursday, 03 January 2013 14:22

Unity demands diversity: Tom Nies

“E Pluribus Unum” — it’s the motto of the United States of America found on our national seal and all coins currently being manufactured. Its translation from Latin means, “out of many, one.”

It’s no surprise that the United States adopted this motto in 1776 upon its founding as a nation — the forefathers took 13 separate colonies and created one United States to which we continued adding states and territories over the years.

The same is true of the American people themselves. They came from many countries but together those many became one people, one nation.

I didn’t set out to write a history lesson when I began this column, but as I was reflecting on unity, I came to understand how relevant these words were for entrepreneurs or, truly, any business leader.

Out of many, one

A company is best when its employees come together with one another to develop unity.

There must be mobilization around a central theme or an organizing unity of purpose — a mission statement, an idea or culture.

Since no one is exactly the same, unity by its very nature demands diversity. The more diverse the different members of an organization may be, the greater the need for union and harmony.

Diversity does not mean division any more than solitary means solidarity. Nor can unity tolerate division. Because of this, the important idea seems clear enough: Diversity in unity strengthens, but division from unity weakens.

A truly successful business will only develop when this idea is taken into account. You have to find the delicate balance between personalities, work styles and ideas to unify a diverse group of individuals and strengthen an organization.

Good leaders will not want to surround themselves with “yes-men,” or those who are unified with the leader on every subject possible. Diverse viewpoints and ideas will only serve to strengthen an organization.

The value of a dissenter

Great leaders can also recognize the benefit of having at least one person surrounding them who can play the devil’s advocate. That person will present a differing viewpoint to the one commonly agreed upon.

This is not to say that a person should continuously argue for argument’s sake, but a confidant who can push and needle an issue is of great importance. It forces one to dive deeper into one’s views on a subject to ensure that it is the best route to take and either defend the position or discard it in favor of another.

This devil’s advocate must not cross the line as a negativist. However, when that occurs, that person will be a division from unity and weaken the institution.

This guidance can come into being during many different times in an organization’s life. When an entrepreneur brings in business partners, they all must work together to reach the unity to become one organization.

When a start-up discusses a corporate strategy with angel investors or future buyers, they must work together to find harmony and reach an understanding that strengthens the business or brand.

When an organization puts a board of directors in place, it is seeking counsel from a diverse group of individuals who can mobilize around a central theme of bettering profits or extending a company’s reach.

But these ideas extend even deeper into an organization. A group of employees may find value in them during a meeting as they attempt to implement a social media strategy or discuss internal purchases.

The best meetings will come out of the fact that diverse employees with differing ideas can unite and strengthen an organization. ?

 

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, health care and insurance. Go to tomnies.cincom.com/about.

Published in Cincinnati

We are barraged each day with opinions on the economy, jobs, health care costs and a host of other topics that can affect consumer confidence. Information is plentiful, but it is often contradictory, leaving people to decide who and what to believe.

As business leaders, you must face not only the realities of the business environment in which you operate but also the mindsets of employees and customers.

As the economy shows signs of improving, they look to see if you’ll react. But leaders often rely on others, and being fearful of making the wrong move, they wait for the percentages to improve and for more certainty to prevail. Even the optimists are finding it challenging to break out of the pack and do something bold.

Emergence depends on factors

The reality is that not every sector will enter or emerge from a recession at the same time. It is important that you understand your market and where your business is in the cycle. If you don’t already have a list of leading indicators, then you need to develop one.

Demand the best information from which to make decisions regarding your business. Rely on facts, trends and data to help make better and timelier decisions. Act quick, be decisive, and don’t be a naysayer. Focus on what can be done versus what can’t. Motivate and energize your organization and set goals to break out and show what can be accomplished.

Being an early mover can give your business a substantial competitive advantage. When you see signs of enduring strength, you need to lead changes in your organization to improve the mood and atmosphere, to build confidence that things are going to improve, and to implement the plans you have developed.

Time to take action

Here are some steps you can take:

? Leverage your competitive advantage

? Take price increases in key segments while locking in cost in others.

? Get aggressive in marketing and selling efforts

? Expand into new markets or launch new products

? Invest in training staff and hire high-quality people

? Make acquisitions of products or businesses

? Invest in incremental capacity to enable growth

? Create a contagious atmosphere where people can prosper and customers can enjoy themselves

These actions within a company become contagious and can foster creativity and risk-taking. When done effectively, these actions will position your business for success.

Setting the tone

The way you think and talk about your business, the market and the situation you face will set the tone for the organization. Your actions and words can be the difference between breaking out or being a laggard.

Do you focus on the problem or the solution?

Do you think about the opportunities to grow share or focus only on retaining customers?

Have you ever noticed that, during tough times, the sales gap between the A and B/C players widens? Their attitudes shift and you start hearing excuses from B and C players as to why they “can’t” get sales.

Even when things start to recover, the A players will distance themselves even more from the others. When you go on sales calls with the A players, they acknowledge the circumstance with the customer but will quickly focus on what should be done to make the best out of the situation.

As leaders, we can set this expectation across the organization. It’s a mindset and an attitude. Do your part to create an environment where people can be creative, develop plans and execute with passion so they can win.

 

Tony Arnold is founder and principal of Upfront Management, a St. Louis-based management and executive consulting firm. He can be reached at (314) 825-9525 or tony@upfrontmgmt.com.

Published in St. Louis

Businesses must change in order to maintain a competitive advantage.

However, employees at any level can become an impediment to change as John Kotter noted in a 1995 Harvard Business Review article on leading change and why efforts may fail. The problem is employees might not understand why they need to do things differently and what the benefits of the change will be.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your entire organization supports necessary change:

Understand the dynamics of change

Be aware of the stages that people tend to experience throughout the change process so you can effectively guide your employees. Jeanie Daniel Duck noted the following significant stages in her 2002 book, “The Change Monster.”

* Getting stuck in old thinking

* Recognizing the need to change

* Preparing for and implementing

the change

* Following through with gains made

Unless you address feelings and concerns of employees in each of the above stages, any desired changes will likely fall short.

Adopt effective leadership approaches

Leaders who tend to take a nonproductive approach, such as what we’ll call “The Winner” or the “The Avoider,” have to be aware of how their actions can affect their employees’ ability to accept the change.

The winner will take an attitude of winning at any cost and impose his or her authority on employees. It is better, instead, to focus on the process of building and maintaining relationships with employees. This approach will highlight the importance of the change and build collaboration.

On the other hand, the avoider will not want to make any waves. This risk-averse approach discourages employees who want to align with a progressive organization. Be up front and straightforward with employees about the upcoming transition.

Keep employees informed

As you develop your leadership strategy for the change, remember that open communication is crucial. Employees at all levels need to see and hear from senior executives to believe the change is important.

Employers should continue to promote and discuss the change, even after there is support from employees. This will help sustain the high level of energy and excitement needed for the change to be successful.

Align people of influence

Though it’s your responsibility to lead the change, it’s not all on you. Employers should engage respected leaders and other influential team members. If leaders take the time to sell the value and the benefits of the change to influential people, their support can help lower resistance from more hesitant employees.

Don’t assume which leaders will easily accept the change and which ones will combat it. The employees whom you think are least likely to accept the change might become your best allies.

Make the change sustainable

Finally, if you do not build the change into processes that ensure a consistent and routine approach, then old habits might resurface. It is important that employees do not see this change as the flavor of the month, but rather as a lasting one that will improve the long-term success of the company.

Change won’t happen right away. But with dedication, focus and clearly outlined strategies, you can cross the finish line with your employees at your side.

 

Jay Colker, DM, MBA, MA is core faculty for the master’s in counseling and organizational psychology program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. Dr. Colker also maintains a human capital consulting practice and may be reached at jcolker@adler.edu or at (312) 213-3421.

Published in Chicago

Kelly BorthBuilding a strategy to earn name recognition in the marketplace is more complex today than ever, and increased competition breeds more choices.

The Internet feeds prospects’ desire for 24/7 access to information and, at the same time, has changed the face of publishing. Email provides messaging directly to someone’s personal mailbox. Smartphones connect us around the clock and around the globe. And social media has revolutionized communication by providing a vehicle that gives a voice to the masses.

Much has changed and the new paths have opened the way for businesses to chart their own course. There are fewer barriers to getting your message to your targeted audience (unless you are trying to reach them on their office phone, right?) but many more fragmented choices to reach out and connect with them to get your message heard.

 Develop a well-thought-out strategy

As with all marketing, the best-laid plans produce the best results. Businesses today need an online strategy, an industry strategy and a direct-marketing effort to build exposure.

Understanding what potential customers want and need is imperative to success, as is knowing where potential customers hang out so you know the best opportunities to connect with them.

Chart your own course

The Internet offers no barriers to entry. Unlike having to pitch your story or white paper to an editor to get it published, the Internet freely accepts whatever information you would like to create and share with its open universe of information seekers.

This accessibility means opportunity is at your fingertips to populate that universe with your information. Popular forms of providing information include websites, blogs, press releases, white papers, case studies, educational videos, virtual webinars, various forms of presentations and pictures of products, comparison matrices, social media sites, such as YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+, and so on.

Some Internet services, such as those that distribute press releases, charge a fee, whereas posting sites, such as blogs or social bookmarking sites such as Digg, are free. Tracking engagement and turning engagement into opportunity begins with a solid website that effectively communicates your message, is connected to all of the information you have placed on the Internet and is optimized for search engines.

Becoming visible within targeted industries is more traditional. Strategic sponsorships of industry association events, trade shows, informational seminars and forums, as well as advertising and editorial within trade news vehicles — both print and online — are just a few options.

Think of sponsorships as your connection with the industry that can match you with potential customers. You are benefitting from relationships these industry associations have with the individuals and companies you want as customers.

Your direct strategy is about getting your company in front of a prospect so that when there is a need for what your company sells, the prospect is already familiar with you. This can include direct mail, email campaigns (make sure they are opt-in) and invitations to webinars or seminars where you present meaningful information.

Other options include Google AdWords or other pay-per-click campaigns, trade advertising, trade shows, online advertising, etc.

Plan for a comprehensive, integrated approach

To get noticed today, companies need to have an integrated plan of action, one that is comprehensive in nature to reach the intended target audiences. Just having a website is not the answer, nor is just going to a trade show or having a video on YouTube. It is much more complex than that.

Building a known name in the marketplace takes a commitment to a planned approach and follow-through. And don’t forget the importance of a consistent brand message and voice, as well.

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

 

Published in Columbus

Often overlooked in discussions about improving Ohio’s economy is the fact that actions taken by state and local governments are primary drivers of the cost of doing business. Their ability to levy taxes and impose costly regulations directly impact a company’s bottom line. When governments are inefficient, they need more revenue. When they take a command and control approach to regulations, they often become an obstacle to growth.

To ensure a strong, competitive economy, we need efficient governments that tax less and provide greater value. That’s why the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and our state’s eight metropolitan chambers undertook an important study issued in December 2010, called Redesigning Ohio. It offers a road map for transforming Ohio’s state and local governments into 21st century institutions.

Burdened with an unprecedented fiscal crisis and a projected $8 billion deficit, state government leaders were at an important crossroads. They could continue to accept the status quo or they could embrace reforms aimed at improving services and heightening productivity through greater flexibility and innovation.

The ideas advanced in Redesigning Ohio provided a framework for thinking boldly about ways Ohioans can receive more value for their state and local tax dollars.

Redesigning Ohio offers 10 specific areas for reform. The first proposes changes to the budgeting process itself by employing a unique approach called Budgeting for Outcomes. Two other innovations, Charter Agencies and Entrepreneurial Management, incentivize greater efficiency by providing more freedom to manage in exchange for less funding and by bringing market-based competition to government services.

Redesigning Ohio also proposes pension and civil service reforms that harmonize the public and private sectors and regulatory reforms that use incentives to boost voluntary compliance. In the health care arena, the report urges the government to leverage its buying power to foster greater competition, lower costs and better results. Redesigning Ohio also offers ways to reduce the cost of the criminal justice system and urges a more thorough and regular review of tax credits, exemptions and deductions.

Finally, Ohio has a costly and outdated system of 3,700 local governmental units that must be brought into the 21st century by enhancing productivity and promoting greater collaboration.

Now, two years after the release of Redesigning Ohio, the same nine Chambers of Commerce have issued a Redesigning Ohio Update. The new report details the progress that has been made and sets out the next steps in this critical transformational process.

As a result of bold actions taken by Gov. John Kasich and Ohio lawmakers, clear progress has been made in reforming our criminal justice system and Medicaid program. Most importantly, the reforms are not just reducing costs; they are also improving results.

One of Gov. Kasich’s first actions established the Common Sense Initiative, which focuses on creating a more jobs-friendly regulatory climate in Ohio. CSI has achieved a number of successes that are making Ohio’s regulatory process more transparent, efficient and less costly for businesses.

Also in 2012, the Ohio Legislature enacted public employee pension reforms that are an important first step in ensuring the long-term solvency of those funds and reducing the cost for taxpayers.

During the past two years, many local governments and school districts embraced greater innovation and collaboration, but additional work remains. The successes highlighted in the Redesigning Ohio Update can serve as excellent models for the additional work ahead.

Today, our economy is improving. Unemployment is at 6.9 percent and tax revenues are increasing. But, we cannot allow these improvements to justify a return to the status quo. With Redesigning Ohio as a guide, we must continue the work necessary to transform our state and local governments into 21st century institutions. ?

 

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 the website at www.ohiochamber.com.

Published in Akron/Canton

One of the most significant and enduring ways to increase business profitability is to continuously evaluate your cost structure and reduce costs where possible without sacrificing quality and customer satisfaction. You need to reduce both direct costs of producing your finished goods and business overhead.

Your profit improvement program should help you identify specific steps for cost reduction. These steps often include lowering total delivered costs with your suppliers and reviewing production processes and systems to eliminate waste.

Define material content

You want to start with an evaluation of each category of your cost of goods sold. This evaluation requires each category to be identified with the actual dollars spent and its percentage of sales.

The next step is to look at material content, which is usually your largest cost of sales category, both in actual dollars and as a percent of sales. It is not uncommon in industrial products for your material content to be between 40 and 60 percent of sales. Reducing material costs will immediately and directly benefit the bottom

line and does not require any working capital.

The next thing you need to do is define the specific material content of your products.

Work with suppliers to reduce cost

Companies should be sure to develop a global supply chain for procuring material and evaluate the suppliers for their ability to deliver on time with the required quality and lowest possible cost. Intensive Internet searches, referrals and supply chain conference seminars are all useful for finding and evaluating suppliers.

Displaying your products at supply chain open-house events can also be very effective for developing new sources of supply. Effective supply chain partners will constantly suggest product improvement and cost-reduction ideas.

Adopt an open-door policy for the supply base. You should always be willing to talk to anyone who has a potential way to help you reduce cost and improve quality.

Stratify material purchases

The ABC methodology stratifies all materials and parts purchased by a company into three groups. The A parts are the most expensive and critical to the company’s operations. They will make up 70 to 75 percent of your total material spend, but represent only 5 to 10 percent of the total number of part numbers you purchase.

B parts represent 20 percent of your material spend and about 20 percent of the total part numbers purchased. C parts represent 5 to 10 percent of your material spend but represent 70 to 75 percent of your total number of part numbers purchased. This stratification gives you and your supply base the focus to work on reducing the greatest costs.

Next you want to develop and analyze a purchase price variance report. Ask yourself what your actual spend is versus standard. What are the year-over-year changes? You should evaluate your supply chain’s delivery and quality by developing a scorecard to know how delivery and quality are influencing your total costs.

Product simplification

Another way to reduce material content and costs is product redesign or product simplification. Product simplification is the discipline of integrating the greatest performance functionality into the fewest number of parts using the most suitable and cost-effective materials and manufacturing processes.

Through product simplification, cross-functional product development teams have found that the rigorous combination of design and process innovation can significantly enhance market desirability and engineering efficiency.

Not only is it a team-building experience, but it is also a business opportunity that typically nets significant cost reduction and improved efficiency without sacrificing quality or product performance.

Scrap analysis

Make an effort to become a greener company by recycling. This can contribute to reduced total material content and increased profitability.

 

Matthew P. Figgie is chairman of Clark-Reliance, a global, multidivisional manufacturing company with sales in more than 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.

Published in Cleveland
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 16:09

Hidden costs: Leslie Braksick

Board members are chosen intentionally for their experience, functional expertise and potential to add measurable value. But not all board members are created equal.

Often, impressive experience comes with little knowledge of the company’s industry, competition or market dynamics.

Sometimes members might possess industry content expertise but have no experience with a for-profit/publicly traded company. They bring the passion but not the necessary sense of accountability to shareholders by which for-profit companies live and die.

Look for hidden costs

A board is essential for good corporate governance. However, boards can bring many nonvalue-adding costs that are hidden beneath their dynamics and interplays. These costs often sacrifice the realization of maximum benefit.

An example is the complex dynamics among members or between the chairman and CEO that lead to much off-line conversation, churning and defensiveness — or, worst of all, rocked confidence of the CEO or his team to act boldly in the best interest of the company.

Another example is time wasted while these members attempt to outdo others with positions and comments that do not advance the business of the company.

Yet another cost is staff time spent in preparing special reports or analyses that less-informed board members are “just wondering about.” These requests can tie up human capital for days and days. Such board requests from members who are “just curious” — or worse, who want to escalate their pet issues to center stage — divert the efforts of key management teams and staff from solving the real issues of the business.

Thankfully, solid board members often try to offset the behavior of such peers — but that is a time and energy drainer for the “good guys who try to do the right thing.”

The makeup gives a clue

I often contemplate these questions: Do ineffective board members know who they are and do they care? Do they come from environments that value being difficult for no reason? Do they somehow think that behaving in a belligerent manner is what board members are supposed to do?

Some encouraging news is that we increasingly see board members who are sitting CEOs or executives of other companies. In our experience, they make the very best board members. They are deeply immersed in the real world and active in the trenches of business today, so they better understand the marketplace dynamics of the season.

They participate on the board to learn and grow to further their own careers versus just seeking income. Their challenges tend to be issues-based versus people-based. They are sensitive to the time constraints of the CEO and management team because they live in a similar world, so they tend not to ask for unnecessary reports or additional work.

 

Good board members have no peer

There is no substitute for the board members who do their homework prior to the meetings, get along well with others, challenge issues versus people and are always clear about two things: What problem am I trying to help solve with my requests and comments? And have I behaved constructively and added value to this management team through my comments and questions?

Never rush into a board member selection until you are very sure about how this prospective member has behaved in similar settings.

The hidden and often not-so-hidden costs of an ineffective board member can be incredibly detrimental to the company, the board and the management team. ?

 

Leslie W. Braksick, Ph.D., is co-founder of CLG Inc. (www.clg.com), co-author of “Preparing CEOs for Success: What I Wish I Knew” (2010), and author of “Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits” (2000, 2007). Braksick and her CLG adviser colleagues work with boards, board chairs and CEOs to improve their effectiveness. You can reach her at (412) 269-7240 or lbraksick@clg.com

Published in Pittsburgh

How often do you go to market without a solid business strategy? Probably never, right?

Wrong.

The reality is that if you’re like most organizations, then you’re doing this right now — and you don’t even know it.

That’s because most organizations do not have a well-thought-out marketing strategy. Instead, most are doing what somebody told them they should do. This includes creating a mobile website, engaging in social media and advertising.

All of these are “smart” marketing initiatives. But if they’re done in a vacuum, there’s no way to measure what results those initiatives are intended to accomplish. Worse, you’re chasing tactics instead of delivering results.

There is a significant difference between marketing tactics and marketing strategy. Marketing tactics are ways to bring channels to life. This could be a new website or a mobile-optimized version of your site. Or it could be creating new sales collateral. Tactics should be used to bring your brand message and value proposition to life.

Unfortunately, if they’re not tied to a cohesive strategy, you will not achieve the results you desire.

A marketing strategy, however, allows you to understand the results you should achieve. It also keeps everyone aligned with what you’re trying to accomplish and where you are in the process.

As an example, there are three main reasons for a website: to verify your organization’s brand message to potential customers, to deliver your value proposition and conversion.

Conversion can mean different things for different industries. In retail, it might mean picking out a product, putting it in your shopping cart and making the purchase. In business-to-business, conversion might mean picking up the phone to contact the company, providing a name, email and phone number, or signing up to receive a newsletter.

Without understanding how consumers behave, you may be selling your marketing efforts short. You might not be providing enough information to clearly articulate your brand message or value proposition or you might not be offering users an easy experience that allows for conversion. So how do you ensure that a consistent brand message, value proposition and the ability to target customers converts across all marketing channels?

First, understand who the target consumer is and their needs, attitudes and behaviors. This can be discovered through research, including focus groups or through industry-based segmentation.

Then, conduct a deep dive to understand your business goals and objectives. In retail, this might be the number of sales you want to drive. In B2B, it could be increasing the numbers of prospects in your pipeline.

Finally, evaluate your company’s existing marketing tactics — your website, marketing collateral and overall brand message.

Only then will you be well-equipped to evaluate your overall tactics and compare them to marketing best practices and the competitive landscape. This results in recommendations that include expected business results and return on investment.

Prioritize these by measuring the highest impact against investment levels, and then create a timeline to implement them over a one- to two-year period. Share this strategy throughout the entire organization so everyone understands what will be accomplished and what the expected results are.

Without strategy, and an understanding of everything that goes into it, any money you pour into tactics tends to be money poorly spent. Done correctly, your marketing strategy suddenly becomes your organization’s key driver and leads to tangible and measurable business results.

Dave Fazekas is director of digital marketing for Smart Business Network. Reach him at dfazekas@sbnonline.com or (440) 250-7056.

Published in Akron/Canton