Florida (1036)

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 11:46

Listen, learn and lead

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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.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 11:42

Beyond conversion

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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 dfazekas@sbninteractive.com or (440) 250-7056.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 11:37

Watch your margin

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You would think someone like Douglas Merrill would be a heavy multitasker, with multiple devices in hand, fielding several conversations — both real and virtual — simultaneously.

But you would be wrong.

Merrill, who was the CIO at Google until 2008, doesn’t like to multitask. He says that when you do it, you aren’t using your brain’s full capacity and aren’t as effective. He recommends focusing on one thing at a time.

Billionaire Mark Cuban has his own time management strategy. Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, says you should completely avoid meetings unless you are closing a deal. Otherwise, he says, they are a waste of time.

Both of these proven leaders have learned that how you manage your time is paramount to your effectiveness.

As a CEO, you are swamped every day with calls and emails from people wanting a piece of your time. Some are internal, some are charity requests, some are from friends or family members and others are from service providers.

To help wade through this sea of information, it’s important to have a system in place to help you free up time to think about your business and the things that matter most in life. These open times are what author Richard Swenson refers to as “margin.” They are the spaces between ourselves and our limits that are reserved for emergencies.

But for many business leaders, there are no spaces left.

The way out of this trap is to set clear goals and values for yourself and your organization. Once you do that, you will have a filter through which to evaluate everything. Everything will have an immediate yes or no answer, eliminating the “let me think about it” category completely.

The key is to establish what your goals are first and then prioritize what is important. With your priorities straight, you will find more time to put toward important things on your goals list, but don’t forget to leave time on your daily schedule. There is no way to foresee all emergencies, so by leaving yourself some margin, when something unexpected happens, you already have time built in to deal with it.

Once you have margin built into your life, you have to have the discipline to stick to it. There will always be the temptation to take every meeting or answer every email. But if you use your goals and priorities as a filter, those requests are easily either accepted or declined based on where they fall on your priority list.

If you want a life where you can experience more peace and joy and less anxiety, start looking at your priorities and establish some margin in your daily schedule. ●

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 07:31

What to do if you’re under a public, verbal attack

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Deny, deny, deny; fall, tuck and roll; or put your head in the sand?

The quick answer to this headline is none of the above. A leader, by definition, must do exactly that — lead, which means being in front of a variety of audiences, including employees, investors and customers. Not everyone is going to be a gung-ho supporter. Sooner or later you’ll encounter a naysayer who either has a point to prove or is on a mission to make you and your company look bad.

Many of these verbal confrontations come out of nowhere and when least expected. As the representative of your organization, it is your responsibility to manage these situations and recognize that sometimes a “win” can simply minimize the damage.

When under siege, it’s human instinct to fight, flee or freeze. Typically these behavioral responses aren’t particularly productive in a war of words. Engaging in verbal fisticuffs could simply escalate the encounter, giving more credence to the matter than deserved.

If you flee by ignoring the negative assertions, you’ll immediately be presumed guilty as charged. It’s hard to make your side of the story known if you put your head in the sand.

By freezing, you’ll appear intellectually impotent. Worse yet, pooh-poohing a question will only fuel the aggressor’s determination to disrupt the proceedings. You could use a SWAT-type police and military technique to elude a confronter by falling, tucking and rolling to safety, but that usually only works on the silver screen.

Perhaps the best method to manage unwelcome adversaries is to be prepared prior to taking center stage. This applies to live audiences or a virtual gathering when you’re speaking to multiple participants, which is common practice for public company CEOs during quarterly analyst conference calls.

Most gatherings of this nature include a Q&A segment where the tables are turned on the speaker who must be prepared to respond to inquiries both positive and negative.

Before any such meeting, it is critical to contemplate and rehearse how you would respond to thorny or adverse statements or questions.

A good practice is to put the possible questions in writing and then craft your responses, hoping, of course, that they won’t be needed. This is no different from what the President of the United States or the head of any city council does prior to a press conference or presentation. The advantage of this exercise is that it tends to sharpen your thinking and causes you to explore issues from the other perspective.

In some cases you’ll find yourself in an awkward or difficult situation where there is no suitable yes or no answer, or when the subject of the interrogatory is so specific it is applicable to only a very few.

The one-off question is easiest to handle by stating that you or your representative will answer the question following the session rather than squander the remaining time on something that does not interest or affect the majority.

The more difficult question is one that will take further investigation and deliberation, in which case the best course of action is to say exactly that. Answer by asserting that rather than giving a less-than-thoughtful response to a question that deserves more research, you or your vicar will get back with the appropriate response in short order. This helps to protect you from shooting from the hip only to later regret something that can come back to haunt you.

Effective speakers and leaders have learned that the best way to counter antagonism is through diplomacy. It’s much more difficult for the antagonist to continue to fight with a polite, unwilling opponent.

Finally, when being challenged, never personalize your response against your questioner; always control your temper; and don’t linger on a negative. Keep the proceedings moving forward and at the conclusion keep your promise to follow up with an answer. This will build your credibility and allow you to do what you do best, lead. ●

 

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 mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 11:26

Is your next big thing built to last?

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My 7-year-old son Cole recently gave me a Rainbow Loom bracelet, which is made of linked rubber bands. It is today’s school-age children’s craze, and Novi, Michigan-based Choon’s Design LLC is churning out the kits at a record pace.

With more than 1 million units sold in the last 24 months, Rainbow Loom is the brainchild of Choon Ng, a former Nissan crash safety engineer who invented it while working on a craft project for his daughters.

And Rainbow Loom, it turns out, isn’t its original name. When it was created, it was called Twistz Bandz.

Timing is everything, and Twistz Bandz may have sounded a bit too much like Silly Bandz — the last “wrist” craze that swept the nation. Between November 2008 and early 2011, every school-age child in sight was wearing layer upon layer of Silly Bandz on their wrists. It was as hot a product as anything since Beanie Babies.

Twistz Bandz’s arrival, it seems, happened just as Silly Bandz ran into what every hot new product eventually faces: competition. Look-a-likes with similar-sounding names began flooding the market. They were cheaper, and you could buy them more readily at more retail locations. The core brand quickly diluted. So Ng did what any smart businessperson would: He changed the dynamics of the situation.

Thus, Rainbow Loom was born.

Enter social media

Within a few months, the product — which allows its young owners to custom-create bracelets — was gaining attention. Much of this was due to a full-tilt social media blitz, including videos on YouTube and an engaging Facebook page, where users could share their designs.

More recently, Ng has become vigilant in protecting his patent and U.S. trademark — battling all wannabe competitors from launching similar-sounding products and flooding the market to dilute his own brand.

His success — or failure — is yet-to-be determined. But his efforts will prove fruitless if he’s not already looking ahead to the next product. This is the dirty little secret to any hot toy craze and the core dilemma every business leaders faces: How do you remain relevant as consumers’ wants, needs and desires ebb and flow — sometimes as swiftly as the wind changes direction. 

Get beyond being a fad

Success in business relies upon building a sustainable operation that will outlast any cyclical “must have” product explosion.

There needs to be the creation of an idea continuum — an innovation factory, if you will. Innovative leaders must review, measure and adapt a company’s products, services and solutions to the changing whims of the marketplace. You need to talk to customers, vendors and prospects. And you need to regularly take the pulse of the market.

If you haven’t taken at least some of the gains from today’s success and invested it into research and development for tomorrow, you’re already losing ground. Today is today, and just like the disclaimers for financial investing warn — past performance does not indicate future results.

In the end, the only thing that matters is this: Is your next big thing built to last? Or, like every other craze that’s every hit the market, will your opportunities to remain relevant long into the future fade away after the competition creeps in and dilutes your market? ●

 

Dustin S. Klein is publisher and vice president of operations for Smart Business. Reach him at dsklein@sbnonline.com or (440) 250-7026.

Former Dallas Cowboys right guard Crawford Ker played under some top coaches in his day — including Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson — and he’s quick to comment he’s learned that for the best coaches, a team owes its wins to the process.

“It’s all about the process; the best coaches don’t get too far ahead of themselves,” he says. “You have to celebrate your wins, but you have to say, ‘OK, that was last week. Let’s move on to this week.’ You just have to be really centered.”

While that formula holds its weight on the gridiron as long as you follow it, Ker found that once he became an entrepreneur after his NFL career, he likewise would be keeping his team members centered — in the business world, that is.

“It’s like, too many highs, too many lows,” he says. “It’s either ‘I’m the best there ever was,’ or, ‘I am the worst there ever was.’ So I try to balance it out and say, ‘Just keep improving. Keep working on the little things and try to do a little bit better.’”

Ker spent six seasons in the NFL, was voted to the team of the decade by Dallas Cowboy Weekly and then dabbled a little in business ventures before establishing Ker’s WingHouse Bar and Grill in Largo, Fla., in 1994. The main attractions were the signature chicken wings, a family-friendly atmosphere at a total of 22 locations and growing and the WingHouse Girls — a version of “The Girl Next Door.”

Ker says like some football games, businesses are a hard thing to win.

“You never really win in business,” he says. “You might win for a little while, but you always have to keep improving and always get a very good team around you.

“John F. Kennedy once said, ‘Surround yourself with great people,’ but it is not as easy as it sounds. Here, we will find people, and if they’re good, we will develop them. It’s just a process. If you get the right team, it will be a lot easier for you.”

Here’s how Ker, president, CEO and founder, tries to get the best players on his team and stay focused on the process as WingHouse’s 1,400 employees help generate more than $60 million a year in revenue.

 

Mixing it up can be a plus

Whether your leaders arise from your rank and file or come in from the outside is one of the top questions involving a business operation. In some cases, a mixture offers a good solution. Ker believes in drawing from both sources.

“I always tell my managers, you have 40-50 employees in the restaurant, and they are doing their work in front of you the whole time, so you train them and give them additional skills,” he says.

“You develop inside and you evaluate what you have inside, and if you don’t have what you need, you go outside to try to get the talent.”

You have to keep your culture intact, however. When you hire from the outside, those employees may be accustomed to their own ways, which could be at odds with your culture.

“I played for the Dallas Cowboys, and then I went to the Denver Broncos,” Ker says. “I might have said, ‘In Dallas, we used to do it like this and like that.’ Well, Denver really didn’t want to hear that. It’s the same in business. You’ve got to respect someone else’s culture. You can’t go into someone’s house and rearrange their furniture and say, ‘I really like it like this.’ People will take offense at that.”

During the on-boarding process with any employee, stress that the culture you have built will remain, and you are not about to re-invent it.

“The business doesn’t run itself, and you have to have great people,” Ker says. “If you look at any great organization, you have great people in those organizations. If you are not first in the market, you’ve got to keep improving and be better than your competition.”

 

Get your team aligned

Alignment is a familiar term in football and in business, but the repercussions for poor alignment in the corporate world far outweigh the 5-yard penalty of a neutral zone infraction.

“It really comes down to people,” Ker says. “The biggest thing is getting them aligned. I think a lot of good, high-energy people really want to make a big impact. They want to prove their worth. And that’s a good thing. Passion is a great thing to people, but also you have to be somewhat slow in business to know your way around the block, so to speak.”

Employees really can’t be expected to lead themselves, and they can’t always just assume they are doing their jobs well.

“It takes a lot of coaching and leadership,” he says. “You have to spend an enormous amount of time with people. And some won’t get it. In your business or any other business, some people will pick up the work really fast and do real well; some people you could tell them how a thousand times and they’ll never get it done.”

While you can’t always give an employee the friendly football slap on the back for a job well done, you can offer encouragement in other ways.

“Give continual feedback to people and continual training,” Ker says. “Continue to say, ‘OK, this is good. This isn’t so good.’ Give them advice. ‘OK, why don’t we do this … how about that?’

“You reward the good, and you kind of frown upon poor performance, and you’ve got to have good metrics to decide,” he says, noting the importance of performance plans that are aligned with and support the goals of the organization.

 

Be better, not just different

Conventional wisdom may say you have to be different from your competition to succeed, but in today’s marketplace, just being different may not be enough.

“I don’t know if I agree with the philosophy of just being different,” Ker says. “I think you have to be better. You don’t really have to be different — just be better.

“So whatever anyone does, if you look at Kmart, if you look at Wal-Mart, the names Kmart and Wal-Mart are pretty similar. OK, what was different? Sam Walton did it better than Kmart. But his model was a Kmart.”

Ker has a couple of trick plays, so to speak, to stay a step ahead of the competition.

“We believe in a philosophy of ‘Brilliant on the Basics,’” he says. “In the restaurant business, we all know it is great service, a great product and a very clean atmosphere. If you look at the top one in the restaurant segment over the years, it’s been McDonald’s. McDonald’s is very good in marketing; very clean. You look at that and you say, ‘OK, they did it.’ You could do it too if you work hard enough at it.”

Enter the confidence factor: There’s not a sports coach around who doesn’t impart the value to his players of believing you can win.

“People believe in mentors,” Ker says. “My dad was probably my biggest mentor. He taught me that you can do whatever you want to do. But it is not easy.

“I remember going to my first football tryout in junior college. He said, ‘It’s going to be tough.’ And he was right; it was tough. He was just always there, and he instilled that confidence in me that you can do what you want to do.”

But mentors don’t have to be a parent or a boss. Sometimes they can be co-workers.

“I have been around some great athletes in my day, and I saw what they did and how they did it,” Ker says. “It kind of rubbed off on me, and I said, ‘OK, either I’m doing it right, or I’m doing it wrong. I need to straighten up and do it the way I would want the results to be.’”

Ker’s “Brilliant on the Basics” mission statement provides the foundation for the WingHouse culture.

“In our business, it is food, it is service, it is our staff, and if we are brilliant on the basics, we will be successful,” he says. “When you get away from the basics, you start to stumble a little bit. And that’s where the problems start.

“Your goal is exceptional product, exceptional customer service, a clean atmosphere and that your policies and procedures are followed — kind of like quality assurance standards.”

One other means to ensure that quality levels are maintained is to grow carefully.

“I used to think that more is better; now I think better is better,” Ker says. “It’s a private company. We don’t have to hit projections of ‘X’ amount per year. What we try to do is do the best deal we can. Maybe we turn down a lot of deals but the ones we get we feel comfortable with.”

 

Takeaways

  • Mixing it up can be a plus.
  • Get your team aligned.
  • Be better, not just different.

 

The Ker File

Name: Crawford Ker
Title: President, CEO and founder
Company: Ker’s WingHouse Bar and Grill 

Born: Philadelphia. My mom and dad emigrated from Scotland. They settled in Philadelphia. I grew up there and moved to Florida when I was about 12 or 13.

Education: I went to a two-year school, Arizona Western College in Yuma, Ariz., and then I went to the University of Florida.

What was your first job and what did that experience teach you? My first job was working with my father. He had a lawn care business. I was in fifth or sixth grade, and much of my job was just hand-trimming work. We didn’t have string trimmers back then, so my dad gave me a little pair of hand trimmers, and I would go to it. The funny thing about it is, years later, I made my living grabbing people with my hands. So my hands were very strong, maybe because I started using those little hand trimmers when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and it paid dividends later when I was trying to wrestle big defensive lineman.

Who do you admire in business? It’s kind of a different business than I am in, but I admire Vince McMahon from the WWE for his business savvy. He works very hard at what he does. He is on top of his business. I don’t watch the product a lot but I know that he is very involved in it. So he could be in the wings, he could be beside it; he is very dedicated to his business. That is what I respect — any owner who really gets his hands dirty and works his business.

What is the best business advice you ever received? It would probably be keep going. Don’t be deterred. Keep going forward. Everybody has setbacks, nothing is as good as it seems, nothing is as bad as it seems. Just keep going and don’t count your wins too much and don’t count your losses too much. Just keep moving forward and do your best.

What is your definition of business success? Business success to me is having a lot of people contributing to a common goal or common cause of the business. The ultimate success is if a lot of people have benefited from your results. Success is a team sport. So if everybody is successful, you are successful. I think the biggest thing about it is if the company is successful, a lot of people are making a living off your company. For me that is successful. You are employing a lot of people, and a lot of people are counting on your decisions.

 

How to reach: Ker’s WingHouse Bar and Grill, (727) 535-2939 or www.winghouse.com

We’ve all heard the saying “timing is everything.” But is it always true? 

And for that matter, what does “timing” really mean?

Frankly, I think many people allow the notion of timing to overly-influence their decision-making in every area of day-to-day life.

In business, it can absolutely paralyze you if you’re perpetually waiting for the right moment. This is not to say that one should make rash decisions based on nothing but whims. But over the years, I’ve seen many well-intentioned individuals take such a cautious approach to their businesses that nothing ever gets done. 

Brash moves get rewarded

The truth is there are always opportunities out there waiting to be grasped. Successful people who make decisions for themselves and their companies recognize this and are often hailed for making “bold moves.”

Timing, to a large extent, is really what you make it. I believe in pushing the envelope, because when you come right down to it, there’s never a perfect time to do anything. If you look for them, there will always be reasons for you to not do something.

In the business world, you only grow if you’re willing to go out on a limb and get the fruit — it’s not going to just drop onto your front lawn. Even if it does, someone will come along and snatch it before you can collect it.

Over the years, I became very successful with selling exercise and fitness products, but at a certain point I recognized that I needed to diversify my product line if I was going to stay relevant.

I did a lot of research and decided to expand organically. My thinking was if I could teach you how to exercise and get in shape, I could also sell other products that were healthy lifestyle related. Over time, I added products, but there was never a particular moment to signal me that it was the perfect time to expand.

I trusted my gut and had learned enough about the environment around me to devise a plan and then make informed decisions.

Because of this, I managed to survive and prosper even as many of my competitors disappeared because the world had changed, and they couldn’t keep up. Timing was a factor in my decisions, but mostly because I made the decision to adapt to the evolving business landscape.

Add the right attitude

Whatever you decide — and whenever you decide to do it — be sure to proceed with a positive attitude.

Making big decisions is more than just deciding to do something and then getting the mechanics going. How you go about it is just as important and makes a huge difference. I’ve built my career around being upbeat and excited. Enthusiasm is contagious.

There’s really no great mystery to being a master of timing. Just remember there are always business opportunities available for individuals and companies with the right idea, and who bring intelligence, a good work ethic and high energy to the table.

It just takes a little courage and the confidence in yourself to know you can deliver the goods. Today sounds like a good day 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 guestbook@tonylittle.com.

 

Communication style conflicts can have a powerful effect on the activities within a corporation. When we communicate, we are either building or breaking down relationships with individuals who are part of our working teams.

In the business environment, management problems are more frequently interpersonal problems than anything else. If we can become more sensitive to the qualities that make up different styles of communication, we can work from our strengths rather than our weakneify our styles to be more effective with others — in other words, we can learn to “speak their language.”

Here are three key steps to increase your listeners receptively to your message. 

Preparation

  • Figure out the style and needs of the person you want to reach.
  • Consider timing and mood in terms of the other person’s navigating style.
  • Anticipate style conflict. When planning your delivery, think of the two or three most likely objections and prepare alternative ideas in keeping with the other person’s style.
  • Make certain that any materials such as memos or charts are consistent with the other person’s style.

 Presenting your ideas

  • Let the other person discuss the topic before you present your ideas. You may discover clues you’ve missed.
  • Present your ideas clearly and briefly. Be sure to use the mode with which your listener is most comfortable.
  • Answer questions using the kind of words that suit the other person’s navigating style.

 Coming to an agreement

  • Ask for the other person’s reaction. Watch for the clues to his or her style and the way the response is given.
  • If the reaction is negative, try to explore the other person’s point of view more fully. Don’t automatically assume you understand his or her thinking process; use open-ended questions.
  • Restate your listener’s views in your own words to be sure you understand the listener’s points to let him or her know how you understand those views.
  • Summarize the difference in your viewpoints. Try to explore options and alternatives together.
  • If the reaction is positive, discuss the next step so you both know what is going to happen.
  • Don’t oversell. When you’ve gained agreement, stop. Then leave and go on to another topic. Too much discussion can generate second thoughts with the person you’re trying to influence.

 Storms are common in the business environment. Conflicts in navigational style occur regularly as difficult issues arise that require resolution with other managers, subordinates and customers. While we can’t remove the issues, we can change the outcomes. We can change the way people relate to each other.

When we view interpersonal differences in terms of our different styles of communicating, we increase our chances of working together toward more productive ends. ●

 

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 Network. Contact him at jaynisberg@snet.net

 

Sunday, 29 September 2013 09:15

Ron Antevy: Make your next tech project a winner

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Here is an alarming statistic — more than two-thirds of all technology projects fail. The rollout of new technology is a necessity in today’s business environment, where companies must innovate to grow and remain competitive, but how do you introduce technology into your business the right way?

How do you overcome the fear of change and of technology itself inherent in every rollout? How do you encourage people to use new technology, or better yet, how do you turn them into champions of the “new” way?

Here are strategies that we’ve seen work based on our own experiences implementing our construction management software for the last 20 years. 

Define success before you start

Articulating success can be difficult; however, you must define success and how you will measure it before you begin. There can be no uncertainty. You should also define success for each type of stakeholder. Success for the executive or technology buyer might mean quantifiable savings or headcount reduction. For the day-to-day users, success usually means something different — easier ways to accomplish tasks. It’s important to get input from everyone.  

We bring stakeholders together to define success. It’s not uncommon to hear unrealistic expectations, conflicting goals or outcomes that can’t be measured. These discussions turn into negotiations. Sometimes this process can be slow and painful, but take your time now so you can speed up later once you have a clear definition among the group.

Team members will walk to the end of the earth to achieve the goal when they are bought in completely, understand the goal and know what’s in it for them.

Take baby steps

When it comes to technology implementation, you can deploy in baby steps (phase-in technology over time) or with a big bang (do everything at once). The problem with the big bang approach is that most of the time all you get is an explosion. When given the choice, I am a big fan of baby steps.

In most cases the big bang approach actually takes longer — especially when it doesn’t work. My suggestion is to look at your new technology and your definition of success. Figure out the one thing you can do first and focus on getting that right. You will get a quick benefit, but more important, your team will have a win under their belt.

Minimize your risk

You can minimize your risks in a technology project by doing the following:

  • Over-communicate — The leader must communicate the plan and the benefits relentlessly. Celebrate the successes, even the small wins, to spread that winning feeling. Evangelize what you’re doing through formal and informal channels often.
  • Get the “Been There, Done That” software — Technologists love to describe features and share what they could do for your business. Instead, ask for lots of specific references of what they did in your industry. This reduces purchase risk and improves adoption when your users realize their peers use the same technology.

Most of this is just good organizational change management practice — but when it comes to technology, it’s even more important if you want a good outcome. ●

Ron Antevy is president and CEO of e-Builder, the first company to develop web-based capital program management and construction project management software. Under his leadership, e-Builder has consistently grown more than 30 percent a year since it was founded in 1998. For more information, visit www.e-builder.net.

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Ron Antevy on Twitter: @rantevy

Google pay-per-click advertising is a great tool for building brand awareness and generating leads online.

It can be a bit complicated for some, but there are four things you should be doing for your PPC to reach its fullest potential. 

1. Organize keywords to target niche prospect groups

The difference between an ignored ad and an effective ad is its relevance. An ad for jewelry gets ignored when it appears in the search results of someone seeking remodeling services. The way you can make your ad the most relevant to prospects is by separating them according to the keywords they target and organizing them into groups.

The more thoroughly your keywords are organized, the more they will appear as if made specifically for the prospect.

Organizing your keywords does two things for your PPC: it makes your ads more relevant to prospects, and it increases your click-through rate.

These are the exact factors that also give you a high quality score for your ads. A high quality score gets you better ad locations on websites and better ranking for search ads. It also gives you a lower cost per click for your ads. Google is rating your ad on how helpful it is to your prospect, based on its relevance and click-through rate. 

2. Create consistency throughout your PPC process

The PPC process is composed of three steps: grab prospects’ attention with a relevant ad; direct them to a landing page that elaborates on what the ad offers; and present a special offer as an incentive for prospects to fill out a contact form.

From your ad to your offer, your PPC marketing message and design should feel continuous and cohesive. It shouldn’t feel like three steps. If your landing page looks different than the image ad that attracted the prospect, the user will experience disconnect.

At each step, build trust throughout the process, ultimately leading to the prospect filling out your contact form. That’s how you turn them into a lead. 

3. Optimize ads for phone responses

For most businesses, phone responses are a more valuable lead than those from contact forms, so it’s a great idea to optimize your ads to generate these calls. There are two ways to do this:

1. Make sure your number is displayed in all images and text ads.

2. Adjust your display times to only show ads when you’re in the office. This gives you the opportunity to get those calls and make the most of them when you’re open for business. Your phone responses don’t cost you anything. 

4. Use ad extensions

PPC ads have a small character limit, but luckily Google offers Ad Extensions. These give you the ability to present important marketing information without adding to your character limit.

Location Extension: Helps prospects find your office.

Product Extension: Shows pictures and prices of your products.

SiteLink Extension: Presents multiple pages from your website simultaneously.

Phone Number Extension: Adds a click-to-call number beneath your ad.

Social Media Extension: Shows how many +1s your Google+ page has.

Seller Rating Extension: Shows the rating your customers have given your company. (Google only shows it if it’s four or five stars.) 

Make sure you are taking advantage of every opportunity to improve your PPC efficacy. You’ll see the difference in your sales numbers. ●

 

Joy Gendusa is the founder and CEO of direct mail marketing firm, PostcardMania. She originally started the company in 1998. It now employs more than 200 people and has more than 53,000 customers in more than 350 industries. For more information, visit www.postcardmania.com.