If I were to identify one book pivotal to my company’s success, it would be “Execution” by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. Simply put, it shows how to get the job done and deliver results … whether you are running a company or in your first management job — plus, it is chock full of real-life examples that reinforce each salient point.
In my infinite wisdom, I thought I knew the true meaning of execution. You just set a goal and eliminate all obstacles. Right? Wrong! What I learned from the book was how little I knew about execution in its truest sense. The book brought clarity to my definition and drove home the fact that to fully understand execution, companies large and small need to keep three key points in mind:
- Execution is a discipline.
- Execution must be job No. 1 for business leaders today.
- Execution must be at the centerpiece of any organization’s culture.
With these three points as a backdrop to our execution strategy, what specific action steps are we taking to support our strategy?
Step No. 1. Engage in regular and sound strategic thinking at all levels of the organization.
Embrace the Rockefeller habits and hold daily meetings with all teams and departments to see what successes and challenges are ahead for them. Post core values prominently around the office and liberally reference them during conversations each day.
Step No. 2. Establish the organization’s top priorities.
Meet with top management in the fourth quarter to develop priorities for the following year. Limit those priorities to a maximum of three to five. Commit to writing and prominently display those priorities around the office. Review them quarterly with the entire staff.
Step No. 3. Create organizational clarity and alignment for all associates.
Devote a portion of each staff meeting to reviewing values and what they mean to both internal and external customers. Go to great lengths to explain not so much the “what” but rather the “why” of their hard work and its meaning within the organization.
Step No. 4. Use every opportunity to reinforce organizational alignment.
How do they say it … tell them, tell them again … tell them again. From time to time, show examples of what misalignment can mean to the organization. And celebrate how true alignment benefits everyone.
Our company has enthusiastically embraced these four action steps, and its success surpassed my wildest expectations. The results were a more engaged workforce, a better understanding and appreciation of our own talent pool and an elevated respect of everyone’s role within the organization.
How many of us feel, in the football vernacular, that we get to the 5-yard line and fumble? By embracing some of these techniques, you will be well on your way to the Super Bowl. By adopting these strategies, it has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be our “secret sauce” to success by way of embracing strategic execution. ●
G.A. Taylor Fernley is President and CEO at Fernley & Fernley, an association management company providing professional management services to nonprofit organizations since 1886.
Connect on LinkedIn:
When considering what to showcase for the new “Uniquely Philadelphia” feature in Smart Business Philadelphia, the Mütter Museum instantly came to mind. It’s known worldwide and certainly has many items that can be considered unique.
But, as Communications Director J. Nathan Bazzel is quick to point out, the Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia is much more than a collection of oddities that attracts curiosity seekers.
“People assume that there’s one type of person that comes to the museum. And nothing could be further from the truth,” Bazzel says.
Sharing the human experience
Not everyone has an interest in art, so some people wouldn’t want to visit an art museum. But everyone has an interest in what it means to be human, he says.
“That’s what the museum is about. It’s not about the macabre. Yes, it’s about medicine. But more so, it’s about what it means to be human,” Bazzel says.
Plenty of celebrities have been among the museum’s visitors and Bazzel shared some of what they considered to be the top attractions.
“Teller, of Penn and Teller, would probably tell you it was the Hyrtl skulls, while Penn Jillette would probably say the giant. Anthony Bourdain was very attracted to the giant colon,” he says. “That’s the thing — when people visit, they bring their own life experiences with them.”
Attendance at the Mütter Museum has grown to 140,000 visitors annually, which Bazzel says is the result of being accessible and letting the public know it exists.
That includes a YouTube channel that has more than 4,000 subscribers, making it more popular than The Louvre’s and on par with the British Museum.
“We also have more views than the Guggenheim in New York. So we’re very active on social media. People can connect with us from anywhere in the world. And not just connect with our words, but they can view our collections,” he says.
The museum has been featured on television, as well as in The New York Times, USA Today and The Washington Post.
“I don’t know of any news agency that has not, in some way, covered something here at the Mütter Museum,” Bazzel says.
Furthering medical science
As fascinating as it is to see a plaster death cast of conjoined twins Chang and Eng or the tallest skeleton on display in North America, the Mütter Museum hasn’t strayed from its original purpose of advancing the cause of health.
Bazzel says the importance of that mission has only increased as health care has grown to encompass 19 percent of the gross domestic product.
“It’s probably going to be at 21, 22 percent pretty soon. So we all have an interest in health care. Part of the interest of the museum is how far we have come in health, and how what used to be considered untreatable is now handled routinely,” Bazzel says.
“Who knows, maybe someone will walk out of here and take a little better care of themselves. That might help lower our GDP.” ●
Roger Vozar is associate editor at Smart Business Philadelphia. If you have an interesting story to share about a person or business making a difference in Philadelphia, please sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Henry Ward Beecher once said, “It is much easier to go down a hill than up it, but the view is much better at the top.”
If you’ve ever wondered whether your workforce would band together to win an uphill battle, try relocating your headquarters. Moving a business is an extraordinary task to take on, no matter the size. At Petplan, we’ve experienced fast and furious growth in just a few short years, and relocating our company to larger digs was not without its challenges.
No one really likes change, but it is my belief — and it has been my experience — that change galvanizes people.
Finding Petplan’s new doghouse has not only sweetened our view from the top, but it has re-energized our team, brought colleagues closer and reminded everyone what our brand is all about. When it’s time to box up your company’s belongings and set out for greener pastures, consider these lessons we learned along the way.
Don’t go it alone
The importance of having a plan for everything — and I mean everything — cannot be overstated. But don’t try to untangle the logistics solo; you’re far more likely to cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s if you crowdsource some of the schematics.
Establish a “move team” comprised of members from each department in your company, and rely on them to take a hands-on role in the relocation. There’s a fine line between a team effort and too many cooks in the kitchen, so be sure that you delegate wisely — and don’t be afraid to exercise your power to veto.
Approach the move as if you were launching a new product to your employees; take their temperature, tailor your message and deliver it through as many touchpoints as you can along the way.
During the months leading up to our move, we teased our team with photos of the new space, sneak peeks at some of the campus perks and construction updates to build buzz and help everyone feel informed.
The week before, we gave each employee a “move packet” stuffed with maps of the new office, a list of campus amenities and coupons for local products and services — everything from nearby banks and dry cleaners to emergency veterinary clinics. Communication will help people feel easier about embracing the unknown.
Make your house a home
Infuse as much of your brand personality as you can into the design and décor of your new office. Not only will it make for a more interesting place to come and do business every day, but bringing your company culture to life in your physical space is a great reminder of why you’re all there in the first place. We put furry friends front and center with whimsical touches in our new space.
There’s no mistaking who we are and what we are all about: Pets always come first at Petplan! Every transition takes a period of adjustment — even my dogs, Wellington and Monty, have to circle several times before settling into a new spot on the couch.
But when it comes to moving to a new office, engaging your employees and investing in the right details will go a long way toward helping everyone embrace the change.
Natasha Ashton is the co-CEO and co-founder of Petplan pet insurance and its quarterly glossy pet health magazine, Fetch! — both headquartered in Newtown Square, Pa. She holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. She can be reached at email@example.com. For more information, visit www.gopetplan.com/about-us.
Believe it or not, many people within your organization possess creative genes. Unfortunately as leaders, we often don’t allow them to surface by overloading them with ongoing day-to-day tasks. Sound familiar? You should know they are a critical component to any business’s success.
OK, they may be a tad moody or eccentric … but they are an integral part of the fabric of your organization. Although every organization claims to care about creativity and innovation, very few are willing to do what it takes to keep their creative people happy. So, what are the keys to engaging and retaining creative employees?
Like them or not, here are my top five:
Spoil them and let them fail
Like parents who celebrate their children’s successes, show your creative associates unconditional support and encourage them to do the absurd ... and perhaps even fail. Promote risk-taking at every turn. Of course there are costs associated with these “experiments,” but these are lower than the cost of not innovating.
Surround them with people unlike them
The worst thing you can do to a creative employee is to force them to work with someone like them. They will compete for ideas, brainstorm eternally or simply ignore each other.
The solution is to support your creative associates with colleagues who are too conventional to challenge their ideas, but unconventional enough to collaborate with them. That’s the formula. And, yes, it’s easier said than done.
Don’t pressure them
Giving people more freedom and flexibility at work dramatically enhances creativity. If you like structure, order and predictability, you’re probably not creative.
However, we are all more likely to perform more creatively in spontaneous, unpredictable circumstances. Don’t constrain your creative employees.
Few things are as aggravating to creative individuals as boredom. Indeed, creative people are prewired to seek constant change, even when it’s counterproductive. They take a different route to work every day, even if it gets them lost, and they never repeat an order at a restaurant, even if they really liked it.
Creativity is linked to a higher tolerance of ambiguity. It is therefore essential that you keep surprising your creative employees at every turn.
Make them feel important
Why do creative people fail? Answer: Others fail to recognize them. Fairness is not treating everyone the same, but like they deserve. If you fail to recognize your employees’ creative potential, they will go somewhere where they feel more valued. Natural innovators are rarely gifted with leadership skills. Steve Jobs had better relationships with gadgets than people. We could all learn from Mark Zuckerberg, who brought in Sheryl Sandberg as COO to make up for his leadership deficits.
Research confirms that corporate innovators exhibit many of the characteristics that prevent them from being effective leaders: They are rebellious and anti-social with record low levels of empathy. Put another way, they will be a challenge to manage and will take you, as management, out of your comfort zone. Some days, they will simply drive you crazy.
Properly managed, however, their innovation and ability to look at things through a different lens will be central to your company’s ongoing success.
G. A. Taylor Fernley is president and CEO of Fernley & Fernley, an association management company providing professional management services to nonprofit organizations since 1886. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.fernley.com.
The idea of driving aimlessly seems glamorous in movies and songs. In reality, few of us get in a car without knowing how to reach our destination. We’ve created smartphone apps, GPS devices and satellite mapping to make our trips as efficient as possible and to avoid what we know to be an inconvenient, expensive outcome — getting lost.
I bring up this idea because many companies using social media have inadvertently become lost drivers. They start using social platforms with the goal of reaching some number of likes, retweets or shares, but as they embark on their social media strategies, many experience a disconnect between the content they post, blog and tweet and their progress on measurable business goals. These companies are driving without a roadmap; they just don’t know it.
Sound familiar? If social media isn’t working for you, your social media approaches may be missing a fundamental component: an effective content strategy. Here are three ways a solid content strategy will enhance your company’s social media success.
A like is just a like
All social media engagement is not created equally. To be successful, the social media activity that you generate needs to support your marketing goals — whether you want to improve employee engagement, boost customer conversions or build interest in a new product.
Creating a content strategy before you engage in social media will help your business clarify the specific marketing goals you want to achieve through content, as well as what messages you need to communicate to reach those goals. This process will ensure you get the right likes, shares and retweets from social interactions.
Social is a vehicle
Social media is a vehicle for sharing compelling content with your audience, and it doesn’t work if you don’t know what issues, topics and trends your audience finds compelling. Part of developing a content strategy involves learning how those you are trying to reach want to be talked to. Where do they go for information? How much time do they spend online? What kind of content are they looking for from your industry?
By getting to know the interests and pain points of your audience (customers, employees, shareholders, etc.), you can develop tactics to reach your online audience more effectively, saving you time and enhancing your company’s social influence.
Relevant content is meaningful
Kings of social content don’t become that way by luck. They use strategic tactics to connect with their audience through the right channels at the right times. More importantly, they make these connections meaningful and memorable by posting and sharing strategic, relevant content that their audiences desire.
When you deliver social content that your audience members find valuable or interesting, they’ll reward you by sharing your content, engaging with your business and, ideally, helping to promote your reputation as a thought leader in your business or industry. A content strategy allows you to do that by providing a roadmap for what kinds of informative, helpful, educational or creative content you need to make meaningful interactions.
As a recent Huffington Post article put it, the golden rule of the web is clear: “To know us better is to sell us better.” Ultimately, being successful in the social media space means taking the time to map out what success looks like. In this sense, a solid content strategy is not only an important component of any social media strategy, it’s the key to driving the results your business wants.
Michael Marzec is chief strategy officer of Smart Business and SBN Interactive. Reach him at email@example.com or (440) 250-7078.
When Albert “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap was the CEO at Sunbeam in the late ’90s, he had a reputation for ruthlessness. Besides massively downsizing the company, he was also known to intimidate everyone around him and resort to yelling and fist pounding.
While extreme, Dunlap’s behavior is an example of the type of “dictator” leadership that used to be fairly common in the C-suite. Rules were rules, there were no exceptions for anything and people were just a line item on a budget. Need to cut thousands of jobs? Don’t think twice about it.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Christ-like leader. This leader focuses more on building people up rather than tearing them down. This type of leader understands that there are rules, but sometimes to do the right thing, the rules need to be broken. For example, during the economic downturn, some Christ-like leaders went well beyond what was called for to make sure laid-off employees were taken care of.
They made sure they had the use of office resources to look for a new job and did everything they could to lessen the hardships. They weren’t required to do this; it was just the right thing to do. They saw employees as human, not just numbers on a spreadsheet.
Does it cost money to take the more humane route with your leadership? Yes and no. From a short-term, bottom-line perspective, it probably does cost a few more dollars to help people through a hardship. But long term, it can pay dividends. By treating people with respect and doing the right thing, it helps eliminate animosity toward you and your company from both the ex-employees and current ones. Maybe there are some good employees who you wanted to keep, but couldn’t afford. By showing compassion, when the economy turned around, they were far more likely to consider coming back than if they had just been shown the door with little regard to their well-being.
And what happens when these ex-employees end up in key positions in companies that could be customers? Do you think an ex-employee who you mistreated is going to buy anything from you or recommend your company to someone? It’s a small world, and what goes around often comes around, so it’s always best to treat people as best you can.
You can lead like a dictator and still get results. But do the ends justify the means? Will you conquer all, only to find yourself alone with no friends, the equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol?” Or will you have an epiphany and realize there’s a better way to do things?
During this holiday season, think about your leadership style and the long-term effect it has on people’s lives. If this exercise makes you uncomfortable, then maybe it’s time to change how you lead. ●
What would it take for a company to succeed if its leader could effectively do only one of the following: innovate, instigate or administrate? We all know that an innovator is the one who sees things that aren’t and asks why not? The instigator sees things that are and asks why? The administrator doesn’t necessarily ask profound questions but, instead, is dogged about crossing the “t’s,” dotting the “i’s” and making sure that whatever is supposed to happen happens.
Ideally, a top leader combines all three traits while being charismatic, intellectual, pragmatic and able to make decisions faster than a speeding bullet. Although some of us might fantasize that we are Superman or Superwoman, with a sense of exaggerated omnipotence, the bubble usually bursts when we’re confronted simultaneously with multiple situations that require the versatility of a Swiss army knife.
Business leaders come in all shapes and sizes with various skill sets and styles that are invaluable, depending on the priorities of a company at any given point in time.
Every business needs an innovator to differentiate the company. Without a unique something or other, there isn’t a compelling reason to exist. Once those special products or services that distinguish the business from others are discovered and in place, it takes an instigator to continuously re-examine and challenge every aspect of the business that leads to continued improvements, both functionally and economically. It also takes an administrator — someone who can keep all the balls in the air, ensuring that everyone in the organization is in sync and delivering the finished products as promised to keep customers coming back.
As politicians and pundits of all types have pounded into our heads in recent years, “It takes a village to raise a child.” All who practice the art and science of business have learned that, instead of a village, it takes a diverse team working together to make one plus one equal three.
On the ideal team, each member possesses different strengths, contributing to the greater good. The exceptional leader is best when he or she is an effective chef who knows how to mix the different skills together to create a winning recipe.
In many companies, however, leaders tend to surround themselves with clones who share similar abilities, interests and backgrounds. As an example, a manufacturer may have a management team comprised solely of engineers, or a marketing organization could have salespeople who came up through the ranks calling all the shots.
If everyone in an organization comes from the same mold, what tends to happen is, figuratively, one lies and the others swear to it. This builds to a crescendo of complacency and perpetual mediocrity.
There is a better way. Good leaders surround themselves with others who complement their capabilities, and savvy leaders select those with dramatically different backgrounds who will challenge their thinking because they’re not carbon copies of the boss. This opens new horizons, forges breakthroughs and leads to optimal daily performance.
Strange bedfellows can stimulate, nudge and keep each other moving toward the previously unexplored.
To have a sustainable and effective organization, you can’t have one type without all the others. While everyone on the team may not always agree, each player must always be committed to making the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
The single most important skill of the leader who has to pull all the pieces and parts together is to have the versatility of that Swiss army knife — selecting the precise tool to accomplish the objective at hand. ●
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. “The Benevolent Dictator,” a book by Feuer that chronicles his step-by-step strategy to build business and create wealth, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Reach him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than 800 years ago, medieval philosopher Maimonides outlined eight levels of charity, the greatest of which was supporting an individual in such a way that he or she becomes independent. In Maimonides’ view, support was defined as a gift or loan, entering into a partnership or simply helping that person find employment.
Few things are more powerful than philanthropy — especially when its end goal is to better the lives of others. These days, philanthropy, and corporate philanthropy specifically, has assumed a broader role in society.
Today, companies give back more strategically than ever before. They align themselves with nonprofits that foster missions they believe in. The wealthiest people on the planet have even coordinated the Giving Pledge (www.givingpledge.org), where they’ve committed to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.
At last count, more than 115 people had taken the pledge. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates may be the most prominent names on the list, but others include Spanx Founder Sara Blakely, Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert, Progressive’s Peter Lewis and Netflix Founder Reed Hastings.
Last month, one member, David Rubenstein, CEO and co-founder of The Carlyle Group, discussed the importance of philanthropy during a presentation at EY’s 2013 Strategic Growth Forum.
In his pledge letter, Rubenstein explains why: “I recognize to have any significant impact on an organization or cause, one must concentrate resources, and make transformative gifts — and to be involved in making certain those gifts actually transform in a positive way.”
One way Rubenstein is being transformative is through “Patriotic Philanthropy.” He has given $10 million to help restore President Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home and underwrote renovations to the historic Washington Monument. Yet Rubenstein’s most noteworthy initiative is the whopping $23 million to acquire a rare copy of the Magna Carta, ensuring it remained in the United States. After its purchase, Rubenstein gifted it to the National Archives.
Not everyone has Rubenstein’s vast resources. But every organization and any individual can make their own impact.
In the workplace, for example, organizations that give back elevate their status perception-wise among competitors and peers. It doesn’t take much. But by being a company that cares, prospective employees want to work for you. For your existing team, deliberate and well-organized corporate philanthropy programs quickly take on a life of their own, becoming a rallying point.
Think strategically and get started by finding your cause. We all have them. They exist at our very core, forming the belief system we live by every day. So why shouldn’t our philanthropy follow that same course? Consider aligning your giving or volunteerism with something you personally believe in or care about; something that fits with what your company does or something that is close to your employees’ hearts.
Most important, get involved and just make a difference. It really comes down to that. One initiative that has always impressed me has been the annual CreateAthon event undertaken by WhiteSpace Creative, a member of the Pillar Award class of 2005. You can read a first-hand account of this year’s program here.
Being a good corporate citizen goes well beyond making good business sense. When you align yourself with causes you care about, whether big or small, you make a difference in someone’s life. And the bottom line is this: It is all of our duties to get involved. It’s no longer a question of if, but rather of what, when and how. ●
Dustin S. Klein is publisher and vice president of operations for Smart Business. Reach him at email@example.com or (440) 250-7026.
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. ●