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.
It Works! Social Media Links:
How to reach: It Works!, (800) 537-2395 or www.myitworks.com
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.
Twelve years ago, EY decided to go global with its Entrepreneur Of The Year awards and establish the World Entrepreneur Of The Year program — and the results have been, shall we say, an international success. The conference, held annually in Monaco, features Entrepreneur Of The Year country winners competing for the World Entrepreneur Of The Year title.
Assembling business leaders from around the world in one place to be honored is a huge accomplishment — the wealth of experience, as well as the variety of successful leadership styles, is outstanding.
Here are some thoughts from the collection of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs — innovators, futurists, turnaround specialists and problem-solvers — about leadership styles. ●
“I built the company based on people, not on experience from before. They were willing to learn and try anything. We had a bunch of people who had never done this before. None of us had run companies. None of us had worked in high levels of companies. None of us were from Fortune 500s. Chobani not only became a business that grew, but Chobani was like a school to us, including myself.”
founder, president and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 United States
2013 Entrepreneur Of The World
“Early on, the business was centered on me, and I had to make all the decisions alone. Now I share those decisions with my 10 main directors. If there are differences in opinion, I make the last decision.
The other thing is that I have had to ensure that the people who are invited to work here are people with principles, values, integrity, responsibility and passion. If I don’t see a person with passion, they don’t hang around the company very long.”
Lorenzo Barrera Segovia
founder and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Mexico
“I’m a very passionate person, which will never change. When you grow, you gain more experience and the kind of problems you face change. As you grow, you need to grow with your organization.”
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Argentina
“In the startup days, you have to be very innovative, hire and retain talent, refine your business as you deploy in the marketplace, and you learn things from it. Today, with a solid track record of business success, I can focus on what’s next and think more strategic and long-term than you’re allowed to in the early days. My style has evolved as the business has matured.”
Chevron Energy Solutions
“Entrepreneurship and leadership is about always having ideas, knowing that it is possible even though everyone says it is too difficult. Maintain the positive and always have new ideas.”
Mario Hernandez, founder and president, Marroquinera
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Colombia
“To keep the entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurship alive once you've got past the startup base, I think it is making sure people understand why they are there. There are always things you can do to improve your business. You should be rethinking and retooling it every chance you get. The key thing is to make sure everybody in the organization understands the story, where are you going — how are you going to get there? And the belief that you are doing the right thing —people want to know their purpose. Keep the energy going, keep a strong sense of purpose.”
Dr. Alan Ulsifer
CEO, president and chair
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Canada
“The skill sets of an entrepreneur involve understanding how to create business. Why not work with kids who need it the most and actually teach them and help them to be entrepreneurs? That’s what is going to grow our economy and create stability where otherwise we’re going to have a lot of social unrest.”
President and CEO
Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship
“I like to be involved. I want to know everything that is going on. But I have to delegate to my team. That was the biggest adjustment for me, and it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s that delegating to others, trusting them and reinventing yourself. Now that we’ve grown, I put more responsibility on my team and rely on my team more than I once did.”
President and founder
SME Entertainment Group
“If someone makes a mistake, what do you do? You laugh with them. You don’t yell at them. You laugh. It just keeps things light and lively and people want to do their very best. You let them know they screwed up, but you also let them know it’s OK.”
National Heritage Academies
Leaders often talk about how the traits of accountability and transparency helped make them who they are, but to retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, who served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for four years under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, leadership is quite simply how you listen, learn and lead.
It’s not just a coincidence that communication is as important in the war zone as it is in an organization — and that’s where Mullen emphasizes listening to what his team members have on their minds.
Smart Business talked with Mullen about the challenges of being in command:
Q. What do you see as the most important trait that any leader must possess?
A. Integrity. Be true to yourself, and obviously true to your values. The value of integrity intrinsically has been a driver for me since I was a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. It has served me exceptionally well.
Integrity encompasses being honest, truthful and consistent — both publicly and privately in leadership positions — and representing that in every situation. It is most evident in the toughest decisions you have to make.
Q. And how can you ensure integrity is present in leadership?
A. What I loved about command was the responsibility and authority that came with it. But more than anything else, the other piece was accountability — accountable leadership. That is not just having someone hold you accountable, but having enough strength yourself as a leader to hold yourself accountable.
I just found that even with those decisions that can be very unpopular, if you are true to that value of integrity, even if it may not seem to some to be the best decision, it [integrity] holds you in the best stead as a leader over the long term. And because of that, it becomes incredibly supportive of those very, very tough decisions.
Q. So what can help a leader make those tough decisions more effectively?
A. As a more senior leader, I learned to keep a diversity of views around me. The more senior I got, the more diverse the people, the recommendations and the discussions had to be in order for me to make the right decision.
I had people around me who were willing to say, ‘Hey, this is when you got it wrong,’ as opposed to the opposite, which is isolation, where nobody will tell the emperor [he] doesn’t have any clothes on.
Q. You’ve mentioned the importance of listening to others in order to help you become a better leader. How did you do that?
A. Everywhere I went, whether we had a town hall meeting or we could call an all-hands meeting, I would take questions from the audience. So, for example, when a young enlisted man would give me a question of which I didn’t know the answer, I said, “I don’t know the answer, but give me your email address. I will go research it and get back to you.”
I did that. I went back and looked at whatever their concern was. And some of those concerns generated significant changes in the military, or in the particular service they were in. For me, as chairman, that was a vital part of trying to understand what I was asking them to do, and then taking that feedback and trying to fix the problem that they raised — if it made sense to do it.
A good leader can make such a difference, and create something out of nothing, whereas a bad leader is unable to do that. The ingredient that makes a difference is leadership. ●
Retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen served more than 43 years in the Navy, having served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011, and as chief of naval operations from 2005 to 2007. He will be the keynote speaker at the Dec. 5 American Red Cross Hero Awards. Learn more about the Hero Awards at www.clevelandheroes.com.
Consider this business scenario: You’ve landed a big account for your company by converting a highly prized prospect into a valuable client. The new client has hired you to handle a specific scope of work and is counting on your team’s ability to deliver work that goes above and beyond.
While nothing is more important than delivering great customer service to satisfy the client, you may not realize that you’re probably overlooking unrealized opportunities to forge a stronger relationship with your customer.
In today’s business landscape, most large companies offer an array of products and services. More often than not, however, your clients use you for a specific service or skill set. And unfortunately, in this scenario, most companies focus solely on the task at hand — delivering what they’ve been contracted to deliver — failing to take ample time to think about the bond they’re creating with the client and what could be next.
In more simple terms, it is one thing to provide service that keeps a customer; it is another to keep that customer and expand the relationship to become a trusted partner.
Provide value in a deliberate way
The good news is that this is an easy fix. Establish a content marketing program that allows you to distribute thought leadership to your clients.
A content marketing program will help you provide value that other service providers may not, and when clients see you as an informational resource and partner, it will be easier to expand the relationship.
Take this example into consideration: You are an insurance provider and your main product is life insurance, therefore most of the communication you have with your clients surrounds that topic.
With a comprehensive content marketing program in place, however, you can educate your clients on the recent trends in the insurance industry and how that affects the individual. At the same time, you can give them an overview of your company’s wellness program and let them know that if they joined, they could reduce their monthly premiums.
As you can see, you’re not just providing your client with the original service, you’re also providing them with both your thought leadership — aka value — and additional offerings.
Personal connections payoff
Aside from providing value to the client with the content you distribute, a strong content marketing program allows you to showcase your brand’s personality. Clients will be able to connect with your brand on a more personal level.
Providing continually updated content through the right channels to the right clients enhances your day-to-day communications. Clients start seeing you as thought leaders and partners instead of just service providers.
It will help you expand relationships and, as a result, generate new business through more products and services.
Show them more than just what they see on the surface — show them how active you are in the community, or how much fun you had during a recent company outing. If may sound trivial, but your clients do similar things, and seeing you connect with the community and/or employees will help forge a more personal connection. You never know; you and your client may support the same charity, organization or team.
Open communication also will help strengthen relationships to the point where you can capture a premium price and eliminate price-jumping clients. Clients will pay more for a valuable relationship than simply look to get the lowest price elsewhere. ●
David Fazekas is vice president of marketing services for SBN Interactive. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7056.