Randall Kenneth Jones: Challenging the philosophy of color can show how black and white is creative, tooWritten by Randall Kenneth Jones
A black-and-white thinker is said to see only yes or no, right or wrong, good or evil — and nothing in between.
Some suggest black-and-white thinkers view the world without emotion and practice only logical thought. Naysayers sing the praises of the various shades of gray — and the nuances that lie in between.
Children are taught that color represents creativity. Just ask any child about his or her reaction to their first big box of Crayola crayons. Black may work well for an outline but what child can resist the temptation of Shocking Pink, Midnight Blue or Jungle Green?
Before you decide where you lie on the color/thought spectrum, celebrated landscape/nature photographer Clyde Butcher is likely to turn your “black and white” belief system on its ear.
Butcher, an internationally renowned nature photographer who works exclusively in black and white, has built his career on challenging what it means to be a black-and-white thinker while redefining the importance placed on color.
Pay attention to the details
Every businessperson has an environment and resources to care for, a workplace ecosystem that must equally safeguard the needs of stockholders, employees and consumers.
Butcher’s primary goal is to promote and protect our natural environment. Butcher, who first and foremost views himself as an educator, has much to teach.
Responding to the tragic death of his 17-year-old son Ted, killed by a drunken driver in 1986, Butcher made a career-changing decision to honor his child — and life itself — and shun the commercial trends of photography.
“It became more important to pursue what I loved, not what sells,” Butcher says.
Henceforth, Butcher’s artistic soul would forever be expressed in black, white and the seemingly monochromatic rainbow that lies in between.
“Color gets in the way of seeing what is really in the picture. When all you look for is color, you miss the details,” Butcher says.
Rethinking the nature of business
It may be the nature of business to pay careful attention to the bottom line, but Butcher offers an unexpected, thought-provoking spin on the importance of achieving true balance: “Everything in nature has the same importance.”
While maintaining focus is essential in business, of equal importance is the ability to stop and reconsider what shaped that focus in the first place — or Butcher’s beloved “details.”
An advocate of seeing the “big picture,” Butcher prefers his work displayed in large formats.
“When it’s big, you can’t really see it all, you have to feel it. Your eye can’t take in the entire image, which forces you to step in and study it,” Butcher says.
A basic thought process that metaphorically applies to any type of big picture investigation — artistic, business or otherwise. What may initially seem to be of critical importance could ultimately end up clouding your judgment.
Left brain versus right brain
As Butcher sees photography as both science and emotion, he ultimately dares the left-brained (analytical) and right-brained (creative) public to do something profoundly simple: Think.
Whether you see the world in black, white and/or shades of gray — or if you prefer, the colorful land of Oz to Dorothy Gale’s Kansas — Butcher’s lesson is clear: No matter what you do in life, a little extra thought as well as an attention to, and respect for, detail goes a very long way. ●
For more on Clyde Butcher, visit clydebutcher.com.
Speaker, writer and professional storyteller Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Fla. Visit randallkennethjones.com.
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The customer is always king. It might sound like a cliché, but when you think about it, how long has it been since you actually heard somebody say it?
There was a time that customer service was a given. Remember the scene in “Back to the Future” when the lead character arrives in the 1950s to the bizarre sight of a team of gas station attendants descending upon a car? Audiences roared with laughter.
Most of us have probably noticed erosion in customer service. Perhaps your supermarket no longer offers to help you take your groceries to the car. Customer service is nearly dead in the airline industry — no pillows, blankets, meal service or checked luggage. Unless you’re willing to pay extra for it, of course.
The reality is that customer service has been going slowly downhill for years. As profit margins get thinner, companies look for ways to squeeze out every last penny. This means fewer employees under increasing pressure, doing more than ever before.
Protect your reputation
Despite this disturbing trend, neglecting customer satisfaction is a big mistake. It damages the one thing you can’t buy — reputation — and can even prove fatal to a company.
It’s a fiercely competitive environment out there and people won’t come flocking to you just because you make a fancy widget. Somewhere out there, somebody else is making a widget just as fancy as yours, plus he or she is offering great customer service.
While it’s true that we live in an increasingly bottom line-oriented business environment, never forget that your customers are human beings, not just commodities from which you derive revenue.
Give customers what they want
Customers yearn to be taken seriously, listened to, treated with respect and admired. In addition, they desire to be prosperous, happy and loved. To be successful, address these needs and make it your No. 1 priority.
Assume that customers are listening very carefully to what you say, both in one-on-one interactions with staff or by the overall attitude you convey as a company. If they feel you don’t really care, they’ll look for other alternatives.
The power of people
Money is tight in every business, but think twice before cutting back on things that affect customer service. One of my pet peeves is the inability to get a human being when calling a company. Automated attendants are fine, but if a customer wants to reach a person, that option should be made immediately available.
I work in the world of direct response shopping, in which customer service — including being able to get a friendly operator on the line — has always been a priority. This might explain why the industry has continued to do well, even as much of the retail sector has struggled. Even so, extra incentives, such as reduced or free shipping and money back guarantees, have come increasingly into play in order to attract and keep customers.
Running a business is tough and there are a million things that are out of your control. But as customer service continues to deteriorate, take advantage of the situation to differentiate your business. Remember how your mother probably told you to, “Treat others as you would like to be treated?” Success might not always be that simple, but it’s certainly a good place to start. ●
Tony Little is the founder, president and CEO of Health International Corp., and executive chairman of Positive Lifestyle International. Known as “America’s Personal Trainer,” he has
been a television icon for more than 20 years. After overcoming a car accident that nearly took his life, Little learned how to turn adversity into victory. Known for his wild enthusiasm, Little is responsible for revolutionizing direct-response marketing and television home shopping. He has sold more than $3 billion in products bearing his name. Reach him at email@example.com.
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One-to-one communication problems often can be resolved by understanding your communication style through the styles of others. Effective managers do this to make other people understand them, be receptive to ideas and lessen their resistance to change.
The work of psychologist Carl Jung offers a framework that managers can adopt to improve communication. Jung found that people tend to have one of four communication styles: thinker, feeler, doer and intuitor.
Our navigational styles form patterns of behavior recognized by others through the way we write, dress, speak, act and think. Let’s examine navigational styles and see if you recognize yourself.
Thinker style of navigating relies heavily on reasoning and logic. Thinkers have a strong sense of linear time; past, present and future are connected in a logical sequence. If the facts don’t fit in this order, they are likely to be ignored and discarded.
The thinker’s strength is in analyzing data and using it to solve problems, often with a variety of solutions. Other people view thinkers as rational, objective and unemotional.
A feeler’s style is anchored in feelings and emotions. Users can’t separate their emotions from a situation when making decisions. They are very aware of moral issues/dilemmas, and they show more empathy and compassion for people than the other styles.
Feelers tend to be more traditional in their approach to solving problems. They think best when people are around and they feel they are contributing.
No other style has the ability to perceive the present moment as fully as the doer. The doer is considered the most practical and pragmatic in making decisions. This navigational style is results-oriented and likes useful — not theoretical or conceptual — solutions to problems.
Doers can absorb vast amounts of data about what’s happening around them and use it to get things done quickly. Doers tend to be better at making short rather than long-range decisions.
The intuitor lives in the future — a world of concepts and ideas, rather than actions, feelings or logical thought. This style is more at home with what will be then with what is or was. Such a person is able to see the potential in a situation or person.
The intuitor is easily frustrated with routine in detail. To others the intuitor may appear flighty and unrealistic; but this person can be inspired about the future as quickly as the doer can initiate a project, the thinker can evolve a new theory and the feeler can recognize the effects of a decision on the people involved.
Once you’ve identified the other person’s navigational style, you can modify yours so there is less friction and your styles become complementary.
If the other person is a thinker, prepare to work with him or her by being armed with all the facts. This makes you look credible and helps develop a rapport so you can explore the alternatives to solving a problem.
If you’re dealing with a doer, realize this person makes decisions quickly. Don’t overwhelm this individual with the same amount of facts you would provide the thinker.
If the other person is a feeler, be prepared to listen to feelings. However, once you build a relationship with this type of person, you’ll be rewarded with the feeler’s greatest strength — loyalty. ●
Jay Nisberg is an internationally known management consultant recognized for his work in strategic planning and growth management with professional services firms and privately-owned businesses. He is the author of the “Random House Handbook of Business Terms” as well as the “Random House Dictionary of Business Terms.” Nisberg is the longest active member of Accounting Today’s “Top 100 Most Influential People in the Accounting Profession.” He is the co-author of “Stratagem: Simple, Effective Strategic Planning for Your Business and Your Life,” published by Smart Business Books. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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We can always count on Northern California to generate a good debate. On one hand, we saw Yahoo eliminate work-from-home arrangements last year, and on the other, the city of San Francisco passed the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance on Oct. 8.
Essentially, this ordinance and a similar law recently passed in Vermont grant employees the right to request flexibility or predictability in schedule, and the employer is compelled to respond by either granting or denying the request in a prescribed time frame. Both measures have heightened scrutiny of flexibility and what it means to create an effective workplace.
Smart, forward-thinking companies in Florida should consider offering flexwork options without being compelled by law — because it just makes good business sense. There is overwhelming research that shows flexibility leads to higher engagement, retention and productivity as well as lower absenteeism, stress levels, health issues and operating costs. In fact, four out of five workers say flexibility is important when considering a new job.
High-profile examples abound of tangible benefits to corporations. Consider Aetna, where nearly half of workers use flexible workspaces. They shed 2.7 million square feet of office space, saving about $78 million per year. Unilever’s Agile Working initiative resulted in a 12.9 percent reduction in selling and administrative costs, along with a 10.2 percent increase in revenue.
SAS has effective workplace programs that have led to a 37-year string of revenue growth and profitability, employee turnover rates of 2 to 4 percent versus the software industry average of 22 percent, and savings of up to $70 million a year in hiring and training costs.
The rise in flexible workplace initiatives is also supported by several demographic trends:
- One in five U.S. workers currently provides eldercare, necessitating schedule flexibility and/or predictability for the caregivers;
- Growing workforce participation of millennials and digital natives, for whom flexibility to work from anywhere, at any time, and from any device is a foregone conclusion; and
- Men are now reporting higher levels of work/life conflict than women, driving up pressure for flexwork from all workers and not solely working women, according to the Families and Work Institute.
Flexibility options abound
Interestingly, we currently see far more flexwork offered for white collar and salaried workers than in the realm of blue collar, hourly and shift work. That’s partially because managers have a harder time envisioning what flexibility looks like for such workers, but there are a litany of great options that do not involve working from home.
One of the biggest long-term motivators at work is the ability to control one’s destiny. In order to stay relevant, organizations must have a flexible culture where realistic work patterns meet the needs of employees and employers. The ultimate goal of any flexible workplace strategy is to help leaders attract, retain and engage top talent.
It’s up to all parties involved to align on communication, collaboration and accountability practices that ensure smooth execution for colleagues, customers, managers and other relevant constituencies.
Karen May, vice president of people development at Google, put it well: “Imagine a world where most organizations were the best place to work. Imagine what we could be getting done on the planet if it were true.” As a Floridian, I say, “Imagine what we could be getting done in Florida!” ●
Shani Magosky is a flexible workplace consultant, executive coach and productivity expert who has worked in numerous industries, for venerable institutions and unknown startups, in a range of economic environments from bubble to recession, and in revenue-producing, advisory and senior managerial roles. She resides in Fort Lauderdale and can be reached at email@example.com. For more information, visit vitesseconsult.com.
Learn more about Vitesse Consulting at:
Four years ago, David Lopez found his calling. A striving Fort Lauderdale entrepreneur, Lopez came across a unique opportunity: a mobile dental equipment repair company. With a strong background in franchising, Lopez, who was looking for a recession-proof business model that could offer a high return on investment, knew he had found what he had been looking for and couldn’t pass it up.
So he bought a van with his friend and partner, Mike Parker. They equipped it with tools and inventory and started to approach dentists’ offices to offer on-site handpiece repair, equipment service and sales. Two years later, Dental Fix Rx was born.
Since its creation, Dental Fix’s mission has been to revolutionize the dental service industry by delivering high-quality and immediate service at a competitive price, through a dedicated mobile network of highly trained and successful franchise professionals.
The company soon gained recognition by providing a much-needed solution to dentists in an innovative way. Dental Fix removed the need for doctors to ship their handpieces to repair centers, eliminating their frustration and the four-week wait period to get them back, as well as saving them money.
Today, Davie-based Dental Fix has more than 100 franchises, a presence in more than 70 territories and serves more than 7,500 dentists in North America.
“From the beginning, I saw the many benefits of this business,” Lopez says. “Dental Fix’s startup costs were low and offered an easy-to-operate platform. Also, I did not have to worry about inventory cost fluctuations and minimum-wage employees. The best part was the return on investment. There are not too many businesses out there where you can bill $175 an hour to customers after a six-week training program.”
“I knew Dental Fix was going to be a game changer in the industry,” says Parker, also a van operator. “As an independent van operator, it was very difficult to compete against the big companies, since I did not have easy access to parts or equipment. It was also very costly for me to employ personnel to handle the calls and manage the schedule. With Dental Fix, I save at least $3,000 a month. As an owner, this is a huge benefit.”
Because Dental Fix provides a need-based service, the business was able to survive the economic recession. After all, no matter how bad the economy is, people will always need to go to the dentist and dentists’ equipment will always need to be repaired.
Lopez realized Dental Fix’s untapped business potential early on in the game, and began to strategize a growth plan. He was determined to enter the franchise arena.
Building a franchise takes a plan
“Building a franchise is about building a scalable system,” noted Lopez. “Before setting course, I needed to understand the type of systems we needed in place in order to successfully scale it.”
Lopez began to dissect the business carefully. For more than six months, he documented all the processes of the business. He also launched a second van with his brother-in-law, which served as the perfect test lab by addressing challenges and grasping what worked best.
The business, however, was still far from ready. Lopez’s biggest concern — and one he needed to address promptly — was the establishment of a competent training program.
With no competition in the market, he had to design the program from scratch. He set up a training facility, arranged sessions with repair technicians and videotaped them fixing the equipment. These recording sessions enabled him to create a complete training program with videos and hands-on training.
Even though the company was selling franchises, Dental Fix operated with negative cash flow for the first two years. The company’s focus was on putting the necessary systems and processes in place.
“We knew we were sitting on a huge opportunity, but we needed to first take the time to develop the right infrastructure,” says Lopez. “We were fine with the fact that we were operating at a loss the first two years because we had a clear plan.”
Despite the risky strategy, Lopez was able to bring Dental Fix to the development stage he desired. Currently, the company features a state-of-the-art training center and provides an extensive six-week training program that successfully prepares franchisees to repair, maintain and rebuild equipment.
The company also offers a strong support system through account management services, a technical support hotline, periodic visits to individual markets and proven marketing strategies.
Establish the appropriate company culture
Even though Dental Fix serves the dental industry, its clients are the franchisees, not the dentists. Lopez’s “our customer comes first” motto is ingrained into the company’s culture. A sign above his office door serves as a friendly reminder to all employees and newcomers: “Our franchise owner’s interests come first. If they succeed, our success will follow.”
The company’s corporate staff, as well as the franchise owners, comes from very diverse backgrounds, but none have previous experience in the dental service industry. It is not allowed if you want to be part of the Dental Fix organization.
“The reason is simple,” Lopez says. “Often, experience comes with bad habits. Dental Fix is an organization that is innovating the dental service industry. We adequately train all corporate staff and franchise owners with our values and systems. We are not a dental company. We are a franchise company, whose franchisees happen to be in the dental business. We want a culture that puts our customers first and thinks outside the box.”
Bumps along the road make a business stronger
Like in all great stories, the path to success is never easy. In the second year of operation, Dental Fix had to go through litigation after suing a former franchisee, who used to own and operate seven territories, for trying to copy its business model. After seven months of litigation and loosing almost 30 percent of its territories overnight, Dental Fix won the case.
This was an important lesson for Lopez, who has become very selective when it comes to granting franchises.
“As an entrepreneur, you will make many mistakes. The important thing is that when you make a mistake, you learn from it and do not do it again. Now, we only sell franchises to owner operators,” Lopez says.
Dental Fix’s future looks bright. The company is undergoing an aggressive expansion plan, calling for 500 mobile centers in the next five years throughout the United States and Canada.
“We have come a long way,” Lopez says. “The initial two years we focused on developing a solid infrastructure. Now, we are focusing on recruiting the right franchise partners, including do-it-yourselfers and military veterans. We are building an incredible organization. I can confidently say that there is no service franchise that provides a better return on investment than Dental Fix Rx.” ●
How to reach: Dental Fix Rx, (800) 586-0340, www.dentalfixrx.com.
Learn more about Dental Fix Rx at:
It just took instant credibility for Bill Hamm to know he hired the right exec team to revamp Independent Financial PartnersWritten by Dennis Seeds
Bill Hamm was facing some difficult news a year ago for Independent Financial Partners, the company of which he was CEO and had launched in 2000. It was not on how to deal with the explosive 1,000 percent growth the company had experienced the year before, but an internal issue.
He had to terminate his chief operating and chief compliance officers.
“We had one employee who took some liberties with some forms that they created, and it created a compliance issue,” Hamm says. “It had nothing to do with client money or anything like that. As a result — to a certain degree — the CCO and the COO were terminated because of that oversight.”
The situation gave Hamm a golden opportunity to take a step back and review if there needed to be other changes within the company.
“We had independent auditors come in,” Hamm says. “We checked everything from start to finish just to make sure that there were no systemic problems, which there weren’t. It was just a one-off situation that created this challenge, but we decided to take it and turn it into something that we could really work with.
“We took it as an opportunity to relook at everything. We revamped our staff, we revamped our technology, and we revamped our value proposition. Between the three of us executives, we have put together some additional team members who enable us to raise the level of service and items that we provide to our advisers to include additional value-added programs.”
Hamm follows the approach in his company of treating others as he would like to be treated himself.
“When we built this thing, it was built with the idea of me as an adviser — what kind of organization would I like to affiliate with, for me to service my clients?” he says. “That is how we’ve gone about creating the vision or the concept, and I think that is one of the reasons why we have had such good growth over the last three or four years, especially just because of that one philosophy. We are pretty proud of that.”
Here’s how Hamm seized the opportunity to set things right in the wealth management company from Tampa and bring improvements while driving 2013 revenue of $110 million, up from $82.79 million in 2012 for both commission-based business through LPL Financial and fees through IFP.
Look at your end goals
One of the first steps you may want to undertake when considering if you should revamp your business is to look at your end goals and determine if your business model has the ability to reach those objectives.
“Because we had some rapid growth in the last three or four years, it was probably a good time to re-evaluate, relook and focus on if where we were going was where we wanted to go,” Hamm says.
Once he realized it was a good time to assemble the ideas he had been forming into self-examination, he started to see where alignment could be improved.
“Make sure you are going into the direction that you want to go,” Hamm says. “Make sure that the things that you have done to date were what you wanted to do, and identify any changes that you want to make and decide if you are confident in what you want to do.”
Confidence and belief in the direction you are about to go is critical. Belief in your ability and capacity to undertake and complete a mission will help ensure a successful performance more than any other factor.
“The worst thing somebody can do is start down a road where he or she is not confident going down,” he says. “If the people who are following you, and the people you hired to help you get there — if they don’t see that confidence in you, then it’s going to be a long road to go.
“Make sure you know where you’re going.”
Crystallize your dream team
Revitalization is often not complete without a shake-up in personnel. For some organizations, it offers the chance to reassess your team before any changes are made. For Hamm, it was a case of having to replace executives who left rather suddenly. However, in a way, it gave him a jump on how to decide what qualifications were needed for his new executive team members.
“I knew pretty much where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to do, but there was still some technical things, some different technologies that we needed that obviously I’m not an expert at,” Hamm says. “There were some compliance requirements that we would now need to make because of a larger size and other things. That’s why I hired them, I will be the first to tell you I don’t know everything.
“I needed someone who had more experience supervising a larger number of employees,” he says. “A number of years ago, we had only six or seven employees. And at that point everybody wore a number of different hats and performed different functions. So it was a little bit easier from a corporate structure perspective.”
But in the last three years, the company has gone from six employees to 34, and almost 500 advisers.
“While we’re still not a big firm, growth brings additional challenges of dealing with those employees and their needs and putting more structure in place,” Hamm says.
He needed someone who had experience managing larger numbers of people before and someone else who had experience in both the compliance and the operations field.
His approach was to conduct a search not through a recruiter but via referral.
“This is a large industry but yet it is small to the extent that a lot of people know each other, especially if you have been in the business for 30 years like I have,” he says. “You develop a network of people who from time to time become very beneficial to you in filling these types of positions.”
A local securities attorney that Hamm had worked with had a network of prospects. He knew two well-qualified candidates that he told Hamm about.
“When I reached out to him for thought, he actually recommended these two gentlemen,” he says. “They came in, we interviewed them, we talked and we went back and forth. And we finally put it together.
“We’ve used other programs like LinkedIn and some of the more common lists for other employees in different departments. But for this I wanted to go with somebody who knew somebody, who had somebody in the know.”
Launch your plan and watch it
If you’ve done your due diligence on your candidates, and thought out every scenario possible about how your future executive might fit in, it’s time to decide and get your revitalization underway and realize your achievements.
The first matter at hand is to observe how well the new executive’s personality fits in with your company culture. The better the chemistry, the better the fit, Hamm says.
The second point is to discern how well an experienced and qualified candidate will be accepted — and whether the skill set and background make an impression on fellow workers.
“With our internal employees, just the resumes, credentials and their background gave them instant credibility,” Hamm says. “For our advisers, when I published their resumes and they had a chance to speak with them, it was instant credibility because, again, if you reviewed the resumes, you would understand that it was kind of a ‘wow’ factor, which was what we were looking for and what we needed.”
For Hamm, accepting the challenge of a leadership shake-up and addressing what needed to be improved was like hitting a home run.
“Well, we did, and I think we are blessed to have them here, and as part of that process, my son Chris also came back from New York to work with us in a number of different capacities that we needed,” he says. “Since then, we added five or six new people in different positions to improve our value proposition to our advisers and our clients as well as strengthen some of the internal mechanisms that we put in place to surveil all this business.
“Our new COO has a resume that is probably as long as your arm, and we were quite blessed to get him,” Hamm says. “Actually, he commutes from New York every week. He comes in on Monday morning and flies home every Friday night. He had expertise in a number of areas that I thought we needed to help set the foundation and take us to the next level.”
In 2011, IFP had $25.1 million in revenue, as compared to $1.2 million in 2009.
“I can safely say a year later on the anniversary of the change and also after investing a fair amount of money, I think we have probably one of the strongest compliance platforms out there as well as one of the strongest value propositions that anybody in our business would find,” Hamm says. ●
- Review your end goals.
- Decide on your dream team members.
- Launch your plan and observe how it goes.
The Hamm File:
Name: Bill Hamm
Company: Independent Financial Partners
Birthplace: Orlando, Fla. But I was raised in North Florida/South Georgia so that’s where my accent comes from.
Education: I got my bachelor’s degree in agriculture and economics from the University of Florida. I’ve got a master’s degree from the American College in Pennsylvania. I went back to school to the University of South Florida and got a co-degree in accounting and finance in the late 1980s after I was out in the workforce for a while. I have all the C’s: CFA, CFP, CLU and CHFC. But I’m done with school. I’m not done learning, but I’m done with school.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? Besides cutting a lawn or two, the first job I had was, every summer from the time I was 8 on, I would go work on our family farm in South Georgia. My grandparents and aunts and uncles grew corn, raised hogs, cattle, hay, everything. About the middle of June when school was out, I would go up there for about a month or month and a half. It was physical labor, throwing hay bales, cropping tobacco, working in the hog pens. It was very, very, very hard physical labor in the middle of the summer in South Georgia.
But what that made me feel was it made me appreciate the type of job I have now. That being said, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. A lot of the values that I espouse now come from my parents and my grandparents.
Who do you admire in business? I don’t know if there is any specific individual; obviously there are the giants like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. I just admire most anybody who is self-made, who created something from nothing, who has created jobs — some of those people make a difference for other people. Having gone through that process myself I know how hard that is for anybody to do that on whatever scale. I think is pretty amazing.
What is the best business advice you ever received? Probably from my granddad, Frank Morgan. He told me, “Bill, you damn well better do what you say you are going to do because when everything is said and done, your reputation is the only thing you’ve got left.” And we try to adhere to that, and I think that has served us well.
What is your definition of business success? Success is measured by if you have been able to do what you wanted to do. I don’t think it necessarily is measured as much by money, although I think money is important because it enables you to continue doing the vision that you have. But I think if you are in a business, and you are truly making a difference and you are able to take part of that and contribute back, then to me that is a success. You are providing jobs for other people, or you are providing services for other people that again make a difference ... to me, that is successful.
I could probably point to a number of individuals I won’t name who somebody outwardly may think are successful but when you look underneath the hood, they paid for what they are doing, their family life is a mess, what they are doing is not really making a contribution. But they make a lot of money. I don’t necessarily think that makes you a success.
Learn more about Independent Financial Partners at:
How to reach: Independent Financial Partners, (813) 341-0960 or www.ifpartners.com
If you were to assemble some of the world’s outstanding business leaders in one place and ask them their secret to sleeping well at night amid the pressures of running a successful business, you might think you’d collect the best tips to handling anxiety in the business world.
The truth is that top business leaders often don’t have a secret to reveal — they rely on the strength and confidence they’ve developed over the years.
At the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year conference, held earlier this year in Monaco, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year country winners assembled to compete for the World Entrepreneur Of The Year title.
We took the opportunity to collect the thoughts of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs — innovators, futurists, turnaround specialists and problem solvers — about dealing with worries. ●
“There’s nothing that keeps me up at night. I sleep very well. The challenge we have as a company is to keep delivering the culture we have created and expand it, keep evolving at the speed our customers expect us to evolve and keep creating value for them as we have for the past 10 years.”
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Argentina
“The main thing is to make sure that we are always looking for new, creative ideas that keep our business updated with new technology and creativity. The other thing is making sure we are working faster than before.”
Lorenzo Barrera Segovia
founder and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Mexico
“Business has its highs and lows, because let’s face it, it’s not easy. It has its challenges. They asked Steve Jobs what was the most important thing in business and he said, ‘Passion.’ If you don’t have passion you would give up when things get difficult. We have so much passion and love for what we do that it becomes a part of our life.”
founder, president and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 United States
2013 World Entrepreneur Of The Year
“What if the stock market crashes? What if there is some unknown thing that happens? What if there’s another 9/11 type of situation? Companies need to carry on, but maybe they don’t need to do events. Maybe they cut back on entertainment and speakers. The worry is what happens if something happens that I can’t control.”
President and founder
SME Entertainment Group
“We are in recovering times. I feel very positive about the economy in general, but I’m still very worried about Europe. And while we are recovering, it’s still choppy and choppy times are times when there are more needs out there.”
Retired global chairman and CEO
"I guess there is a point in my life where I thought it is all about me, and I am going to be the guy that guides everything and controls everything. What I have learned is that the best thing that I have done for our business is learn to let go and learn to get people who are better equipped to manage specific areas, do their thing and not get in the way."
Dr. Alan Ulsifer
CEO, president and chair
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Canada
“Nothing keeps me awake at night becase my work is solid.
My father married at 60 and my mother was 23. They had four children. Then he died, and we quickly had to start thinking about what to do. There was no money — nothing. We had to leave the little town we lived in because of violence there. Thanks to that, I am where I am right now because I still could be on the streets of my village selling tobacco. There is no wrong that can do good. That's what I have to teach people.”
founder and president
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Colombia
The size of the service sector, global competition, rising labor and technology costs and demanding customers all force companies to create excellent customer experiences.
The challenge firms face today is knowing their customer’s definition of service quality and how to deliver that at a reasonable cost to create superior customer value.
Customers use service encounters to assess the quality of a firm’s offering. So, how can we “wow” customers?
It’s all about the service experience
Seventy percent of customer defections are due to service problems. Improving service quality is like taking vitamins, eating healthy and exercising regularly. Although the results may not be immediate, long-term benefits are significant. Service quality is not a “quick fix,” but rather a way of life for companies who are serious about improvement. Here are 10 recommendations that can lead to superior customer value:
1. Co-create services with customers. Learn what customers value by incorporating the “voice-of-the-customer” into the service development process.
2. Focus your improvement programs outward, on market “break-points.” By defining and mapping episodes (service cycle), you can see the service experience as the customer sees it. Realize that customers view service as a totality, not an isolated set of activities.
3. Create a tangible representation of service quality. Hertz Gold Plus Rewards communicates a premium, value-added bundle of services to business travelers seeking a hassle-free car rental experience.
4. Use teamwork to promote service excellence — service workers who support one another and achieve together can avoid service burnout.
5. Create a “service-bias” based on key SQ determinants such as professionalism, attitudes/behaviors, accessibility and flexibility, reliability/trustworthiness and service recovery.
6. Develop metrics that are specific in nature, such as a 95 percent on-time delivery, customer wait time or order processing time.
7. Employee selection, job design and training are crucial to building customer satisfaction and SQ. The ability to respond quickly, competently and pleasantly to customers needs to be a priority.
8. Reward quality efforts in marketing. Seek opportunities to reinforce quality behaviors when they occur. Reward employees on the basis of commitment and effort, not just sales outcomes.
9. Think of service as a process, not a series of functions. Service quality occurs when the entire service experience is managed and the organization is aligned to respond accordingly.
10. Integrate customer information across sales channels. The information made available to online and offline service representatives should be consistent.
Checklist — improving service quality
1. Does your company really listen to its customers? Give a specific example of how good listening improved the service experience.
2. Reliability means performing the promised services dependably and accurately. On a 10-point scale, where 1 is unreliable and 10 is perfectly reliable, rate your company and explain why.
3. How well does your company perform the “service basics?”
4. How effectively does your company manage service design — systems, people and the physical environment? Provide an example of how lack of planning in one of these areas resulted in a “fail point” during a customer encounter.
5. Service recovery refers to how effectively companies respond to service failures. Cite an example when a service failure occurred and how it was handled.
6. Teamwork is an important dynamic in sustaining service workers’ motivation. How can you improve teamwork in your organization?
7. Internal service is crucial to service improvement, as customer satisfaction often mirrors employee satisfaction. To what extent does your company assess internal service quality? ●
Art Weinstein, Ph.D., is chair and professor of marketing at Nova Southeastern University and author of “Superior Customer Value: Strategies for Winning and Retaining Customers.” He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (954) 262-5097. For more information, visit www.artweinstein.com.
Link with Art Weinstein on LinkedIn http://linkd.in/1hQcrHJ.
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.
Mark Pentecost sees growing pains as High-class problems that can’t hold a match to It Works! teamworkWritten by Dennis Seeds
Mark Pentecost knew it was time to work on the substantial growth his company, It Works!, was experiencing — and stop putting out fires all the time. The health and wellness company, whose flagship product is called the Ultimate Body Applicator, grew from $29 million in revenue in 2010, to $45 million in 2011, to more than $200 million in 2012.
There were growing pains along the way, but Pentecost, president and CEO, prefers to think of them as high-class problems.
“I think you get caught in the weeds putting out fires all the time instead of being at 10,000 feet, seeing what’s going on,” he says. “It was how to connect the departments. We were growing so quickly. We were adding 10 or 12 people to a department and all of a sudden we were becoming too many departments instead of one team.
“I had to make sure the focus was crossing over and that people were spending time together as a team.”
Pentecost set out to find ways to ensure crossover between departments. One device he settled on was an informal company get-together called fire pit talks.
While certainly not a revolutionary idea — the term “fireside chats” goes back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s days — it offered a tool to fire up team members while they were in a relaxed, casual setting.
But there was one rule that made it different. The participants, usually the lead figure from each department, were not allowed to talk about anything in their departments — they could only talk about ideas they had for other departments.
“So that made it OK to leap across departments and say, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about this with your supply chain? Or have you thought about this with your marketing team? Social media, I know you guys are doing this, but what about … ?’” Pentecost says.
The fire pit talks put It Works! back on track, and emphasized how critical teamwork was.
“It led to being one team, and now as we see challenges, we are trying to pick up on them,” Pentecost says. “In the last couple of years we have added so many more people, and we have had to do more processes — which sometimes is painful and isn’t fun.
“You’ve got to have a process for everything you do. Your operations people say, ‘Let’s just walk over and do it,’ and your vision people say, ‘I’ve got to wait for the process.’ So there are those kinds of growing pains. For me, it’s fun. It’s exciting how to put those together.”
Here’s how Pentecost makes it all come together with his team of 60,000, who serve more than 400,000 customers through direct sales.
Instill one team, one mission
It takes a strong teamwork structure and a leader with vision — and hopefully experience — to make a company successful.
Pentecost found that his 16-year career as a high school teacher and basketball coach gave him the foundation to understand what makes up a team.
“In business, I found I did the same thing I did with coaching,” he says. “First you have to get the right people on your team in the game. It’s kind of like that Good to Great proverb: You’ve got to get the right people on the bus and get them in the right seats. Then you’ve got to have a great game plan, keep people focused and inspire them to see the vision that you have.”
The company uses a cross-interview process through other departments to help make sure new hires fit into the team.
“Even though you are coming into the supply chain, or you’re coming in as a programmer or maybe you are coming in as a customer service representative, or whatever level that you are coming in, what we are learning here is that not only is it your resume and your talents, but it is also how you interact with the whole team,” Pentecost says.
A part of Pentecost’s game plan for It Works! to reach its first $100 million in sales was to use a sports-like technique. He designed a jersey for employees at the headquarters, as well as in the field, and staffers added the motto, “One team, one mission.”
“This led to monthly events that focus on what we are doing,” he says. “At them, there is a lot of passion, energy. It may be a jersey one month, or bracelets that we wear the next month, and we all really get behind pushing that. I wouldn’t call it, ‘rah, rah;’ I would call it just inspiring people to be connected that way.”
Even splitting employees into two teams to help a common purpose, such as raising funds for a charity, helps build teamwork — and does not become divisive.
“I do worry about that, but, to me, I look at it from when I was coaching basketball, I had 12 on my team,” Pentecost says. “But in the stadium there might be 8,000 to 10,000 people. So to me, it is unifying them as a fan of our company and unifying them with the same focus, the same message that somebody would have watching their team. That’s worked well for us so far.
“For me, the coaching part was innovating, doing it your own way, having a good vision, focus, keeping people focused and then building a great team. That has been our magic formula for success, especially in the last few years. Our growth has been amazing.
“I feel like coaching was really just a prelude to being the CEO,” he says.
Brainstorm and build upon an idea
When Pentecost was first using the fire pit talks to smooth out the wrinkles in the teamwork fabric, he also realized it offered a time for brainstorming, which not only resulted in some great ideas but also helped build the feeling of team ownership.
Anyone can bring up an idea, and even Pentecost tosses out a few.
“I will see a commercial on TV, and I’ll say, ‘Hey, what do you think of this crazy idea?’ And then I let them take off from there. We like to have a crazy idea. Something that might be really crazy but you throw it out there.
“I find some of our best stuff comes from someone saying, ‘This might be really dumb or this might be really crazy,’ and then it ends up being ‘genius.’”
The gatherings provide a platform for these conversations and no one feels threatened, and everyone has fun.
“To be able to laugh at something or be able to say, ‘Well, that’s crazy but what if you took it over here,’ we may end up way far away from where it started but with a great idea that helps the company.”
Even ideas such as moving the company are fair game at the fire pit chats. Originally located in Grand Rapids, Mich., the company moved to Bradenton, Fla., a little over two years ago.
“Sometimes in the middle of winter for some reason, people didn’t enjoy coming to Grand Rapids,” Pentecost says. “We all laughed about it because we had about 25 families in our management at that point. I remember the bank saying you would lose half of your management in such a move.”
The decision was made and 100 percent of the management moved to Florida.
“We moved 25 families from Michigan — we were already a tight group,” he says. “We had to find schools together, we had to find churches together, we had to find golf leagues and softball, and where the kids play altogether, so it made us tighter. As we added people to that, we made sure that we all clicked.”
Consider those who helped along the way
Teamwork and competition is not all about winning, although winning the championship is certainly a goal worth seeking. It’s the middle ground that needs to be considered.
Pentecost is careful to point out that while a leader is often a competitive person, the leader must learn that his or her greatest strength is also the greatest weakness.
“I can be so competitive that I have blinders on to what is going on to the side of me, and so it’s been a great strength,” he says. “It’s realizing it’s not just getting to the end line. I used to set a goal — it’s finishing, it’s winning the championship or it’s having another championship year, where now I am realizing it’s that process in between.
“When I was teaching, I was in the teachers’ union,” Pentecost says. “I didn’t understand what was going on. Now that I have been on both sides of the fence, it really helps me understand a lot of the troubles and views different people may have.”
In short, it’s not forgetting the people along the way who helped in the pursuit.
“It’s how you take care of your people at the office,” Pentecost says. “It’s the victories that you celebrate together as a team. It’s the change that you can really make in your community.” ●
- Impart the theme of one team, one mission.
- Brainstorm and build upon an idea.
- Consider those who helped along the way.
The Pentecost File:
Name: Mark Pentecost
Title: President and CEO
Company: It Works!
Birthplace: I was born in Holt, Mich., which is near Lansing. I started teaching just outside Grand Rapids and loved the area, so when we started our business I was living in that area.
Education: I got my teaching degree from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I had a lawn care business. At one time I was mowing about every yard on our block. I learned how to be your own boss and do a good job. I learned that if you messed something up, if you ran over a hose, you had to repair it and take it out of your profits. I definitely would say now I am frugal with money as far as not wasting it. It’s being smart, being prudent with my team.
What is the best business advice you ever received? I think for me, it was, “Never give in, never give up.” I look back at 13 years of It Works!, and I remember a couple of times that someone called us and said maybe we should quit putting money into it, that it was going to ruin us — we had financed it ourselves, and we just kept thinking we had the vision and we had to have faith in what we’re doing. The reason for our success is that we just never gave up or gave in. We stayed with the values that we thought were right and we were just like that little train, we were just going a little more, little more.
Who do you admire in business? I think I would take a little from a lot of people. I look at Warren Buffett. He really studies the numbers of the business and what they do. I look at Donald Trump and the branding that he has done. I look at someone like Mark Cuban who bootstrapped himself and didn’t come from money but was able to create that. I love John Maxwell with his study on leadership and leading. I think probably more than ever I realize how important that is in this world today. We are under a magnifying glass so you have to be real. I think it has been a case of taking a little from quite a few and try to take the good and put that in our own.
How do you define business success? That’s a great question because that changes. In the beginning when I started the company, it was all on the bottom line, being profitable and being able to pay your bills and your employees. Sometimes I tell people I don’t have a high IQ — I have high grit. We just stuck with something and didn’t let it go. To me that’s what business is. It’s that grit of getting in there and even though we didn’t have a silver spoon, you can create that. We truly are in a country that if you’ve got high grit, you can accomplish anything. If you had told me I would be teaching for 16 years, then I was going to own a golf course and a ranch, and I was going to own a company in the Inc. 500 and sales were going to be in the multimillions yearly and international, I would’ve thought, man, that sounds like something you read in a book. But we’ve done it ourselves and we are just getting to it. I mean the story is not complete yet.
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How to reach: It Works!, (800) 537-2395 or www.myitworks.com