Whenever Randy Reichmann needs to illustrate to his managers that what works for one person may not work as well for others — and that there may be other options — he usually talks about sifting flour.
“A mother and a daughter were making cookies at home, and they were getting ready to sift flour,” he says. “The young girl pulled out a fine-mesh strainer … and I remember, this is how my mom did it. She just pushed the flour through it with a fork.
“But the mom said, ‘Oh no, honey. That’s not how you sift flour.’ She reached under the counter and brought out a sifter with a little hand crank. Then she poured the flour in and sifted the flour while she turned the crank. The little girl said, ‘No, Mom. That’s how you sift flour.’
“The question is, if you didn’t see either person sift flour, would the cookie taste any different? The answer is no. The point is there is more than one way to do things.”
The advice that Reichmann, president and CEO of the Indiana region of Old National Bank, gives to new managers follows that mold — that they have to figure out what motivates people to do the things that need to be done in a way that they are comfortable doing.
“That’s really the message,” he says. “Young managers should not just expect people to do the things the ways they did them — but they should help them find the ways that they can do them and still be successful. That takes time.”
There is one way to deal with problems, and that is directly, Reichmann says.
“You deal with them head on,” he says. “You have to be careful, too. I learned this lesson: It is one thing to have a positive attitude, but you can’t wear rose-colored glasses because there are real problems that come up, and you have to deal with those.”
Here’s how Reichmann learned how to look at problems through colorless lenses and teach his executives to do likewise as they confront challenges at Old National Bank, an institution with corporate assets of about $10 billion and 2,300 employees.
Make over your mindset
Surviving a traumatic event can help people develop resilience and the coping mechanisms to deal with the challenge — just as it was with Reichmann.
His experience with an economic crisis gave him the tools to help him and his staff survive future crises. Reichmann was managing about 125 people at an out-of-state bank group when the real estate market crashed as a result of out-of-control speculation, and he had to take action. He was trying to keep the organization afloat while at the same time trying to continue to conduct business as usual. But it was difficult, and he says he drove to work each morning wondering which deal was going to crash that day and what the resulting losses were going to be.
Banks and thrifts had to work hard to prevent panic among the public as well as among financial organizations’ employees. To combat the fear, Reichmann called a leadership meeting.
“It was an interesting meeting to me because it had nothing to do with banking and had everything to do with helping people deal with adversity,” he says.
The whole point of the meeting was that, with the right mindset, they had the ability to stand up to difficult times.
“There is a quotation from author Wayne Dyer, Ph.D., that says, ‘When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,’” Reichmann says. “We were trying to get people to focus not on the behind-the-scenes efforts to keep the bank afloat, because we already had people working on that. We were trying to get them refocused on what we could do with our existing customers and hopefully to acquire new customers to help grow the bank — to help grow revenue at a time when we were taking some pretty significant charge-offs.”
The results of the meeting were significant. But for Reichmann, it was a life-changing moment for his mindset.
“I grew up on a farm in central Illinois and learned that if you worked hard, everything will be OK,” he says. “I found out very quickly that sometimes there are things so much out of your control that there is no guarantee they were going to be OK, in terms of what your measuring stick is for a bank.”
His transformation took some time, however, because he had some “unlearning” to do. He says he needed to switch from a fear, or a scarcity, mentality to an abundance mentality.
“I just meant that we would get through this, we would do what we had to do,” he says. “I remember clearly thinking, ‘Once I get through this, I am going to catch the next train out of banking land because I don’t ever want to go through something like this again. It was horrible.’”
But with some patience, Reichmann found a silver lining.
“As things got better, and we improved dramatically, you get to the end of it, and all of a sudden, you realize that the situation is better; the bank was going to be OK,” he says. “In fact, we were making quite a bit of money. Also, we were the only bank in town that really made it there. Then you think, ‘Jeez, I just went through all that. Why do I want to leave now?’”
So he stayed, and his career continued to grow. But that period of time has stuck with him and has defined what he is capable of in terms of enduring hardship, in terms of leadership and in helping other people to see their way through a very difficult time.
“Ultimately, you come out on the other end in a way that you never could have imagined when you were going through it,” Reichmann says.
Pull back and regain focus
While there are many times when it is important for a business to keep looking at the big picture — an aerial view of your business, if you will — there are times when you should be flying at tree-top level instead. Reichmann says homing in to regain focus will help prevent getting engulfed in a situation, which often is unproductive.
Instead, you need to take your eye off of the big picture and just do the next thing because it is too easy to become overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problems you are facing.
“I couldn’t solve all the charge-offs and nonaccruals and try to get rid of the real-estate-owned properties that we had, but what I could do was I could go work on the next problem,” he says. “I could go on a call with one of our bankers. I could make a call myself to try to develop some new business.”
Once you shift the focus away from the big picture, employee anxieties often decline. Reichmann says that if everyone is doing the things that they are able to do instead of focusing on the things they can’t, the picture starts to become clearer. He says that an improved mindset and a focus on tying up loose ends can go a long way to restore stability to a business. And that’s what happened in his situation as he and his staff finally knew that they were going to make it and that they were positioned well in the marketplace.
“We were the only bank in town that cleaned up its balance sheet, and that effort was just fabulous,” he says. “I’ve never seen a bank generate more profit in that period of time. We were much more disciplined than we had been. We were requiring equity, getting appraisals and doing all the things that we are doing now and just made it a healthier environment for everyone. It was just an incredible period of time.”
You have to bring perspective to a problem, a belief that you are going to solve that problem no matter what it takes. Reichmann says it’s easy to take on a defeatist attitude and begin to believe that you aren’t going to make it. But if you reach that point, you are never going to win. Instead, you need to remain positive and maintain the belief that you are going to come out ahead. If you lose a sale or even a customer, it’s important to adopt the attitude that it is not necessarily a loss.
“That’s not the way to look at it,” he says. “You are certainly not happy that you’ve lost the business, but you need to learn what you did wrong and what you could do differently to do better the next time. There is more business out there. Are you going to sit around and feel sorry for yourself about what you lost or are you going to focus on getting out there and seeing what you can win?”
Making the effort takes time, however, and it can be difficult. People tend to get into habits, and it takes a conscious effort. You have to make the effort to change your thought patterns and think in terms of abundance. Reichmann says that changing his mindset made him more optimistic, removed some of the fear and made him a better leader. That allowed him to step up and lead his employees to the light at the end of the tunnel.
He says that as a leader in difficult times, you have to show employees that there is a way out of the current situation. Then, as positive things occur, share those wins with them. However, you also need to share the negative, along with information about how you are going to deal with it.
Blend and make magic happen
As a challenging situation begins to improve, the ultimate measure of success is not financial achievement but personal enhancement. When you can tie a company’s level of earnings with an employee’s goals for personal development, you have what software engineers call “a killer application.”
“When you have blended those two things, you have a magic potion,” Reichmann says. “You have self-motivated individuals who feel like they are making progress not only in their roles but also in their personal goals for their lives, and that’s a pretty positive experience.”
If you can do that, employees are no longer working for themselves in one sense and working for the bank in another sense. As a leader, it is your job to find out what makes your employees tick, as everyone has their own personal goals and what works for one may not work for another.
Reichmann says he often tells new managers that they are not one of the rank and file. Instead, they have to move up the chain into a new position, which includes figuring out how to motivate individual workers.
“Typically, if I have an up-and-comer who is eager and aggressive and clearly has a bright track record, he or she may say, ‘OK, I did A, B and C, and I got here. So therefore, I need to have my people do A, B and C, and then they will get here,’ he says. “The point that you have to get through to them is that A, B and C worked for you, but perhaps X, Y and Z will work for somebody else to get the same results. To me, what leadership and management are all about is trying to figure out how people grow personally, because when you do that, they perform better professionally.” <<
How to reach: Old National Bank, (800) 731-2265 or www.oldnational.com
The Reichmann File
President and CEO
Old National Bank
Born: Carlinville, Ill., a small agricultural town about 45 miles south of Springfield, Ill.
Education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I majored in agricultural economics.
What was your first job?
I worked on a dairy, hog and grain farm as a youngster. Aside from that, when I went to college, the first job where I got a check from somebody other than my dad was working for the university. I would fuel up the pool cars on evenings and weekends. I learned, having always worked for my dad, that it was fun to work hard for other people and see them appreciate it — for somebody besides your family. That served me well in my career because, on a dairy farm, there is no vacation from milking cows. What I found out is that, when you get into the professional world and you just work hard, you can go pretty far.
Whom do you most admire in business?
I admire Jim Morris, president of the Indiana Pacers. Being president of the Pacers is a high-profile position, but Jim is all about helping other people. Whether it is Boy Scouts or whatever else makes Indianapolis a better place to live, Jim probably is involved in that somehow.
What is the best business advice you have ever received?
I wish I could remember who said it, but, ‘Put your head down and do the next thing. And stop worrying about things you can’t control.’
What is your definition of business success?
Business success is being successful financially, and I hesitate to use the term ‘more important’ but just as important is that you are seeing people grow — that you see those things that you’ve invested in in terms of teaching and guiding pay dividends. Success is when you see them able to handle a situation that, heretofore, maybe they couldn’t have.
All businesses face obstacles at some point that will impair growth and evolution.
“It’s important to push through the problem by understanding its cause,” says Josh Klarin, vice president of Business Development, Consulting, at Sequent. “What do you do when this cycle hits? Many factors could be the cause, and it’s easy to blame them. But you need to face the situation with honesty and realism and take a tough look at things.”
“We all get stuck, we all hit bumps and even take steps back as we build our businesses. The successful learn from these sticking points, build new knowledge and blast through them. Sometimes we just have to ask ourselves a few questions, remain calm and rediscover the things that built our companies in the first place.”
Smart Business spoke with Klarin about ways to address and surpass hurdles that your company encounters.
What do you mean when you say a business is stuck?
You’ve hit a level where you’ve just plateaued. It’s typically a revenue or profitability measurement, something financial. It could also be technology or controls, or you have lost sight of why you’re in business, your core services.
How do you identify the obstacles and bottlenecks causing the problem?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you stuck because everything has to flow through you or someone else at every step?
- Are your products and services clear?
- Do your people understand purpose and pricing?
- Have you built an environment of empowerment?
- Is there a fear of mistakes that stifles creativity or reasonable risk taking?
Owners of small and mid-sized businesses usually know there’s a problem but sometimes don’t want to admit it because of a founder’s pride or an unwillingness to look outside the forest and see what’s out there. The No. 1 cause of getting stuck is that the leaders of the business get in their own way — ‘I built it. I know it. Therefore, everything must come through me.’ That stifles the company and it stifles people.
What can you can do to overcome obstacles and grow your business?
First, employees want to have some authority and to know that not every little thing they do has to be run through an approval chain. You can use the analogy of raising children. When they’re young and small, you have to take care of them and feed them. As they get older, you have to let go a little bit and trust you’ve taught them and empowered them to do the right things. This really isn’t a lot different. That’s why when companies hit various growth stages, they’ll bring in a different person, someone with experience in operating a company of that size. In a small business, you’re not going to do that. You just have to look in the mirror and trust the people who helped you get to where you are today.
What role can employees play in moving the business forward?
It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, employees not only want to be heard, they actually care and have something to say. Sometimes you just have to ask. The second thing you can do is ensure your environment encourages feedback, input and ideas. Have an informal gathering and engage employees. The simple act of asking can uncover some wonderful things and help your culture. They see things on an everyday basis that you wouldn’t necessarily see.
Once you’ve asked the right questions, you can create an environment where people want to engage, which is the third step. If they think you’re asking and are going to throw the ideas away, or they worry that if they say something wrong they’re going to be fired, that’s not creating the right culture and environment.
How can customers help move the business?
Customers are a fourth way to overcome obstacles and grow your business. Ask them what they are seeing with your business, how you are perceived, and what is working and what isn’t. Ask them why they decided to use you or to no longer do business with your company. Involve them in improvement by asking what they need and want. Remember, without your customers, you have no business. You should be able to find two or three that you can sit down with and start trying to address what they might be thinking about.
Could the solution be branching out into other products or services?
So many times, small businesses just want to get money, which you can understand, but they get stuck by spreading themselves too thin. A customer wants something, it’s not exactly what a company does or what it’s good at, but the business tries it. Before long, you’re trying five or six things that you’re not really good at and you forgot what got you here. Understandably, when you’re small it’s all about making payroll and keeping the lights on, but losing focus is such a big risk. You don’t want to abandon your core.
The final way to grow your business is to look at the core business to see if it has plateaued. If it hasn’t, that’s when you need to look at your competition and what your opportunities are. If you’re in a market that’s shrinking, it’s a whole different question. But if that’s not the case, you need to find out the elements that are making people chose a competitor, whether it’s a better product, price or service.
That’s not saying you shouldn’t look at new product lines or services, but there has to be some thoughtfulness to what you go into and don’t just jump into something that may be more than a few degrees from your core business.
Josh Klarin is vice president of Business Development, Consulting at Sequent. Reach him at (614) 410-2368 or JKlarin@sequent.biz.
Insights HR Outsourcing is brought to you by Sequent
You need to stick out in today’s world.
Seth Godin, entrepreneur and author, says, “Taking a stand requires guts. You will stick out and get noticed. Your stand may be controversial. Brazen. Or provide an uncomfortable truth.” You will absolutely be judged. But reasonable people will appreciate that you took the chance and showed your resolve.
The alternative to taking a stand is certainly safer. But speaking your truth is more satisfying. You can have either, not both: Stand out or fit in. Not all the time, and never at the same time, but it’s always a choice.
Those who choose to fit in should expect to avoid criticism (and be ignored). Those who stand out should expect neither.
Every success story is rooted in hard work, motivation and persistence. Sure, being at the right place at the right time helps. But even that is dependent upon an astute appreciation of what, where and why the right time and place exist.
Research, homework, focus
Do your homework. Knock on doors. Do your due diligence. Stay focused. Keep up with new technology. Find a way to break through. There are no shortcuts worth taking.
Whether you consider yourself a great author, architect, brain surgeon or sculptor, it doesn’t matter how gifted you are if your work doesn’t get written, built, used or created. You have to stop daydreaming, planning and procrastinating at some point. If you have a brilliant plan but it remains undiscovered or unfinished, what’s holding you back?
Stop worrying about perfection, funding or selling your idea. Just go for it and sink or swim. It’s the only way to find out if you really are brilliant, gifted and worthy.
The value of quietness
It’s a noisy world. I appreciate this most when I’m enjoying a breather in my own schedule. I recently read Roberta Matuson’s “Fast Company” blog and realized how much being quiet not only strengthens focus and productivity but also leadership ability.
It’s easy to overlook the fact that the most productive people in an organization aren’t the ones who make the most noise. It’s usually the quiet ones who get the most done. Here’s what Matuson says about quiet leadership: “Being quiet calms others. Quiet people have the ability to calm those around them. For example, when everyone is stressing out because it looks like a team isn’t going to meet their deadlines, it’s usually the quiet people who are able to calm people down and carry them over the finish line.”
Quiet leaders project confidence. Calm and quiet in the midst of a storm allow the time and space needed to focus on the important issues at hand and allow your team to learn to do the same.
The advantage of the morning
I’m most alert the first thing in the morning. So that’s when I tend to schedule the things that require the most effort — be it brainpower, physical activity or creativity.
What successful people do with their first hour of every day — often before going into the office — is fascinating. Before that first power breakfast or staff meeting, the first hour of the day may be best served by planning. That’s because the first hour of each day is the hour you see everything most clearly and focus on the human side of work rather than your task list.
Writer, speaker and “Fast Company” blogger Tony Robbins writes, “Remember when you used to have a period at the beginning of every day to think about your schedule, catch up with friends, maybe knock out a few tasks? It was called homeroom, and it went away after high school. But many successful people schedule themselves a kind of grown-up homeroom every day. You should, too.”
Your first hour is a quiet gem. Use it to keep the rest of your day functioning at its best. <<
David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies under one roof. The company has been voted one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at email@example.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.
Empathy is the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions or experience of others. Empathy is more than simple sympathy, which is being able to understand and support others with compassion or sensitivity.
Simply put, empathy is the ability to step into someone else's shoes, be aware of their feelings and understand their needs.
In the workplace, empathy can show a deep respect for co-workers and show that you care, as opposed to just going by rules and regulations. An empathic leadership style can make everyone feel like a team and increase productivity, morale and loyalty. Empathy is a powerful tool in the leadership belt of a well-liked and respected executive.
We could all take a lesson from nurses about being empathetic. Time and again, nurses rate as the most trusted profession. Why? Because they use proper empathy to make patients feel cared for and safe.
Over the years I have discovered that most people who score high on assessments for empathy have no idea why. They do not completely understand what it is they actually do that makes others see them as empathetic. They can only express that they:
- Like people.
- Enjoy working with and helping others.
- Value people as individuals.
In order to facilitate a deeper understanding of the importance of empathy in the workplace, I will pose four questions regarding the nature, role and benefits of empathy.
1. Why does it matter for us to understand the needs of others?
By understanding others we develop closer relationships.
The radar of every good executive just went off when they read the word “relationships.” This is not a bad thing since most people understand the problems that happen when improper relationships are developed in the workplace.
This being said, the baby cannot be thrown out with the bath water. In order for a team of workers and their leaders to work powerfully together, proper relationships must be built and deepened.
When this happens through empathy, trust is built in the team. When trust is built, good things begin to happen.
2. What traits/behaviors distinguish someone as empathetic?
Empathy requires three things: listening, openness and understanding.
Empathetic people listen attentively to what you’re telling them, putting their complete focus on the person in front of them and not getting easily distracted. They spend more time listening than talking because they want to understand the difficulties others face, all of which helps to give those around them the feeling of being heard and recognized.
Empathetic executives and managers realize that the bottom line of any business is only reached through and with people. Therefore, they have an attitude of openness towards and understanding of the feelings and emotions of their team members.
3. What role does empathy play in the workplace? Why does it matter?
When we understand our team, we have a better idea of the challenges ahead of us.
To drive home the above point, further consider these:
- Empathy allows us to feel safe with our failures because we won’t simply be blamed for them.
- It encourages leaders to understand the root cause behind poor performance.
- Being empathetic allows leaders to help struggling employees improve and excel.
Empathy plays a major role in the workplace for every organization that will deal with failures, poor performance and employees who truly want to succeed. As leaders, our role is simple—deal empathetically with our team and watch them build a strong and prosperous organization.
4. So why aren’t we being more empathetic at work?
Empathy takes work.
- Demonstrating empathy takes time and effort to show awareness and understanding.
- It’s not always easy to understand why an employee thinks or feels the way they do about a situation.
- It means putting others ahead of yourself, which can be a challenge in today’s competitive workplace.
- Many organizations are focused on achieving goals no matter what the cost to employees.
Each of these reasons can be seen as true.
Let me ask a question though: What distinguishes average to mediocre leaders from those who excel?
In my opinion, the distinction comes through the ability of the leader who actively works against all the so-called “reasons” and incorporates an attitude of empathy throughout his or her organization. That type of leader will excel.
By spending more time learning about the needs of their employees, leaders can set the tone and approach taken by their employees to achieve their organization’s goals.
When writing about empathy I am reminded of the famous quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
This is a truth that has long stood the test of time. It is true for our relationships in and out of the workplace.
DeLores Pressley, motivational speaker and personal power expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a life of significance. Her story has been touted in The Washington Post, Black Enterprise, First for Women, Essence, New York Daily News, Ebony and Marie Claire. She is a frequent media guest and has been interviewed on every major network – ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX – including America’s top rated shows OPRAH and Entertainment Tonight.
She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.
Roadblocks abound in business. Most business owners have been told, “No, we won’t fund your great invention.” Most executives have been told, “We’re not ready yet” to enter that wide-open, new market. But how they respond to those obstacles, the “no”s that are inevitable, is often a good indicator of who will ultimately succeed.
The first step is to step back and assess the causes of the opposition. That likely requires asking probing questions to get insight about the reasons and reasoning behind the rejection. The banker who rejected your idea may have valuable insight into your industry sector, information that could affect how you choose to proceed.
While data gathering, also probe for guidance on how to make your proposal stronger, when to re-pitch your proposal and who else may have decision-making or decision-influencing authority. The goal should be to identify possible avenues for future appeals.
Armed with the new information, it’s useful to then take a look back at where you are in relation to your goals for the project. Review and celebrate your successes. It will give you the energy to continue onward. But measuring your results, as well as who helped you accomplish the past results, also may shed light on who may be able to guide or assist you in your next steps.
Now, modify your strategy. Every rejection should be viewed as an opportunity to improve. Your planned adjustments should be listed and scheduled. Then, as you progress in making changes, you will be able to see your accomplishments and have a record of how you responded to different scenarios for future reference. It also will give you a clear return on investment in time and energy spent and keep you centered on progress.
Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company, Zeitgeist Wellness Group, offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zwgroup.net.
There are many pressures on organizations to make the most out of every customer interaction and maximize the return on investment on marketing and sales spend. However, businesses often don’t have the work force necessary to handle these functions as timely and effectively as they would like or the tools and processes in place to measure and track success. Companies that are able to track interaction, engagement, investments and customer patterns and behaviors often enlist the help of a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.
“A CRM tool helps businesses manage sales, marketing and customer service operations without significantly expanding their work force,” says Gina Rosen, a consultant at Columbus. “CRM, in the past, may have been nice to have — a luxury technology, but in today’s marketplace, it’s a must have to stay competitive.”
Smart Business spoke with Rosen about CRM, its applications and how it has helped businesses improve processes to better engage customers, target sales and gauge marketing effectiveness.
What are the typical features offered by a CRM system?
The features offered by CRM are very diverse. It’s primary applications are contact management; marketing automation; sales force automation; sales and lead management; reporting and analytics; call center and case management, particularly with respect to customer inquiries or complaints; workflow automation, or automating manual processes; and social media integrations. Businesses have the option for on-premise solutions where the software is hosted at the business on its servers, or they can utilize a Web-based or cloud option, which involves less initial financial investment. The software can also be customized to meet the particular needs of a business.
Is CRM cost prohibitive for businesses?
No it is not, however, had this question been asked six or seven years ago the answer would have been yes. Previously, enterprise-ready CRM software required significant funds to get the software and hardware in place. But with the advent of cloud-based solutions, even businesses run by a sole proprietor can afford CRM and leverage its applications to optimize processes. The cloud-based model allows business owners to pay through subscriptions that charge per user. The pay per user cloud-based model offers a low-cost opportunity to implement CRM, experience the value and see the return on investment (ROI).
What are the most compelling reasons an organization would implement CRM technology?
A recent survey of 200 top-performing small and medium-sized businesses showed that the number one reason businesses implement CRM software is to establish data-based metrics for sales and marketing. It also provides the ability to show ROI and quantitative key marketing metrics that mean a lot to businesses.
The second reason CRM is implemented is to proactively communicate with customers. Customers expect a lot these days, and one of those expectations is that businesses, whether small or large, interact with them. To stay in front of your customers and offer personal interaction is critical.
Within that same vein, the third reason companies take advantage of this software is for custom-targeted sales and marketing. With CRM you can customize that end user experience, which makes your sales force more effective. Customers can interact directly with your CRM custom solution through your existing website and experience a tailored visit based on previous interactions, or your sales force can utilize the standard feature when interacting with customers and have all of a customer’s history available in one spot.
What are the most important value drivers for CRM?
The top value for a business is the software’s ability to help manage marketing and sales campaigns. CRM can help businesses test marketing and distribution strategies and gauge customer reactions. This information can be applied to future marketing efforts.
Another important value driver is that the software serves as a customer data repository, allowing you to consolidate customer knowledge within the organization in CRM. This includes far more than just contact details, but also customer behaviors and attitudes and price sensitivity. This, combined with personal data, can allow businesses to build more effective and predictive sales models and marketing campaigns that result in higher sales.
Further, CRM systems can help demonstrate ROI. With CRM you can quantitatively show increases in sales, customer referrals and participation in promotions.
What is the most common challenge a business faces when implementing CRM?
Typically the challenge is user adoption — getting your sales force and front line users to embrace CRM. They often see populating the fields as double entry, an extra step, or another way for management to check in on them. But once the sales force sees that using the software results in more sales, they can easily overcome that hurdle.
What are the most common performance metrics?
The top one, hands down, is revenue growth. The faster you can show ROI the better.
Second is growth in a business’s customer base, which means adding new customers or converting leads into paying customers.
The third most common performance metric is aggregating customer data. Many companies have customer data spread out over disparate systems. CRM gives businesses a one-stop shop for their records.
Can you give us some examples of companies that have benefited from implementing CRM?
The Toledo Mud Hens baseball team, which works within the media and entertainment industry, had ticket sales go up 88 percent in one year and their internal operations couldn’t keep up with demand. Adopting CRM allowed them to automate and streamline inefficient processes, which translated into more ticket sales. A customer testimonial is available with more information.
Another example is the human resources consulting firm Findley Davies. Implementing CRM in their call center has given them the ability to manage daily responsibilities and track productivity. It has dramatically changed and improved day-to-day operations within their Benefits Administration department.
Gina Rosen is a consultant at Columbus. Contact her at (248) 850-2195 or email@example.com.
With more than 20 years in the market and 6,000 successful business implementations, Columbus is a preferred Microsoft Dynamics business partner for ambitious companies. Columbus’ key deliverables include flexible and future-safe ERP, CRM, BI and related business applications that deliver competitive advantage and immediate impact.
Polly LaBarre is the co-author (with Bill Taylor) of “Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win.” The strategies, tactics and advice in “Mavericks at Work” grew out of in-depth access to a collection of forward-looking companies. These maverick companies are attracting millions of customers, creating thousands of jobs and generating billions of dollars of wealth.
Here is a portion of my interview with LaBarre about the book, which covers forming strategies, unleashing ideas, connecting with customers and enabling employees to achieve great results.
Q: Describe what you mean by “maverick.”
A: Mavericks are different, edgy and independent of spirit. Their personal style or message may not appeal to everyone. But that’s precisely the point. Mavericks are defined by the power and originality of their ideas. They stand out from the crowd because they stand for something truly unique. What’s more, they take stands against the status quo, in defiance of the industry elite and offer compelling alternatives to business as usual. Mavericks may be fighters, but they’re not rebels without a cause. Their sense of purpose is not only powerfully distinct (Think: Southwest Airline’s quest to democratize the skies); it’s provocative and disruptive (Think: HBO’s declaration of originality, “It’s not TV. It’s HBO”).
Don’t confuse mavericks’ unswerving commitment to a cause and their lack of patience for the status quo with the egotism, monomania and power mongering modeled by too many celebrity CEOs and moguls. Mavericks, in fact, have a sense of humility.
Q: Are mavericks born or made?
A: It’s probably a little bit nature, a little bit nurture. We wrote this book to nurture the maverick in all businesspeople. What red-blooded working person wakes up in the morning, looks in the mirror and says, ‘I think I’ll stand for business as usual today’? We all want to make a mark, forge our own path and express ourselves in the world. It’s just that some of us need more of a nudge down that path than others.
Hopefully, the maverick individuals and ideas we present are inspiring and instructive enough to move people. The 32 companies we feature have vastly different histories, cultures and business models. We examined glamorous fields like fashion, advertising and Hollywood, as well as old-line industries like construction, mining and household products. The maverick leaders of these organizations are young, old, women, men, Americans, Europeans, charismatic and preacher-like, retiring and almost reticent. They just don’t fit any one mold.
Q: How does a maverick survive within a traditional company?
A: We encountered a bunch of mavericks inside big traditional companies. They all seemed to have a couple of survival strategies in common: They unleashed tough questions and critiques of their organization without losing their sense of loyalty to it. They’re the kind of questions every CEO should be asking. For example, Jane Harper asked of IBM, ‘Why would great people want to work here?’ And Larry Huston, now vice president of innovation at Procter & Gamble, argued, ‘The current business model for R&D is broken. How can P&G possibly build all of the scientific capabilities we need by ourselves?’
Mavericks don’t just ask questions, they act. We saw this again and again: They just got started, usually without a budget or formal permission, by designing an experiment around their question. Jane Harper launched an experimental Extreme Blue lab in Cambridge and spent a couple of years begging and borrowing resources until the program’s impact became clear.
Mavericks look for peers and fellow travelers outside the boundaries of their company. Not surprisingly, mavericks tend to click when they meet other mavericks. They’re great networkers and learners and are always looking for kindred spirits for support and ideas.
Q: Who is the quintessential maverick in American business?
A: Herb Kelleher and the team at Southwest Airlines. In the midst of the financial carnage and heartaches of the airline business, there’s one company that keeps growing, keeps creating jobs and keeps generating wealth. And that, of course, is Southwest. Southwest didn’t achieve these results because its fares were a little lower than Delta’s or its service was a little friendlier than United’s. It achieved those results because it reimagined what it meant to be an airline. If you ask Herb Kelleher what business he’s in, he won’t say the airline business or the transportation business. He’ll say that Southwest is in the freedom business. The purpose of Southwest is to democratize the skies, to make it as easy and affordable for rank-and-file Americans to travel as it is for the well-to-do. That’s a pretty commonplace idea today but largely because Southwest fought the entrenched conventions of the industry so doggedly in pursuit of that purpose. Its unrivaled success is based on its unique sense of mission rather than any breakthrough technology or unprecedented business insight.
Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki is the author of ten books including Enchantment, Reality Check, and The Art of the Start. He appears courtesy of a partnership with HVACR Business, where this column was originally published. Reach Kawasaki through www.guykawasaki.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It seems that every other week there’s a major story in the media about a company claiming that one of its competitors has purloined a cherished secret that provided an unfair competitive advantage. This is all part of running a business in today’s fishbowl environment, where sensitive information is too abundant and can be obtained by almost anyone and everyone who is so inclined.
In this era of heightened visibility, some of the best companies, especially high-tech firms, play everything incredibly close to the vest, particularly when it comes to providing information about current sales trends, new products and projects that they are exploring or developing. This is because such information is a coveted company asset. In today’s “victory at almost any cost” world, too many are looking for that edge to leverage whatever they can to stack the odds in their favor.
We also read too frequently about how easily these secrets have somehow wound up in the wrong hands. Sometimes a loose-lipped employee simply talks too much to too many people in the wrong places. Occasionally, someone simply leaves a briefcase or smartphone, jam-packed with confidential information, in a bar, at a restaurant or on a plane.
What’s not talked about much is the frequent practice of competitors simply asking what appear to be innocuous questions of lower-level personnel in a company in order to garner nuggets of “inside information” usually without risking the perils of violating any legal statutes. It’s also common practice for Wall Street security analysts to simply walk into a retail store, as an example, and begin asking questions about trends, what products are selling and which aren’t. It all gets down to the reality that it never hurts to ask a question because one never knows when a valuable tidbit will be revealed.
Like it or not, this is just the way it is, and there will always be people who ask and others who tell. What can you do to protect your coveted information? The answer is basic: mandate that providing revealing responses to specific questions is a violation of company policy and could result in draconian consequences for anyone who spills the beans, no matter if well-intended. Once your employees and suppliers know the ground rules and the consequences, you’re one step closer to closing the possibility of vital information inadvertently slipping through the sieve.
The best way to accomplish this is to establish, enforce and continually reiterate a “one voice, one company” policy. This translates into all hands within your organization knowing what can be told to outsiders and, more importantly, what can’t. This policy must be in writing and must state what types of questions are off limits. It must also explain how the questioner is to be handled when the interrogatory is posed. In my retail chain experience, we often had competitors, vendors and industry analysts visit stores and ask all types of questions. Candidly, I don’t blame them, but with a clearly understood policy, employees know how to respond by referring the questions to headquarters and a specific department or individual. Ninety-nine percent of the time the person asking the question never follows up with the corporate office because he or she knows the desired answers will not be forthcoming.
Most employees want to please their employer and most want others to think they are in the know. When you create an ironclad policy, it takes the pressure off of your people and adds another layer of security about things no outsider needs to know. For your suppliers, require that each sign a confidentiality agreement and specify that you have a simple “one strike and you’re out” policy. Also use your own secret shoppers to test your vulnerability by having them ask the forbidden, just to verify that the company veil is not being lifted by the unauthorized.
This protocol is certainly not foolproof, and periodically, there will be lapses — the most frightening of which are the ones you’ll never learn about. It all gets down to a numbers game. Confidential information, just like the cash, equipment and other assets on your balance sheet, can never be taken for granted and must be protected. Anyone can look in your fishbowl in this day and age, but it is your job to make sure that what they think they might find is not what they get.
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. Reach him with comments at email@example.com.
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Are we grateful for the things we have? Are we grateful that we live in a country where the government can’t seize our businesses, where there’s no threat of rebellion and where we can go home to the comforts of our modern homes?
Many people in the world don’t have any of those luxuries. Some can’t even look forward to a good meal or clean drinking water. Most of us here in the United States don’t have to worry about such problems because the people that came before us worked hard to create a nation that has an amazing standard of living. The generation before us rose from the troubles of the Great Depression, led the fight against Nazi aggression that killed millions and returned home to finish making America into a superpower, but do we ever pause to think about the contributions our mothers and fathers made to make things easier for us today? They lived in small houses, often sheltering multiple generations, and worked long hours to make a better life for their children and grandchildren and selflessly went off to war to protect our freedom.
Do we ever think about any of that? The answer for many is no. Gratitude is in danger of becoming a lost art as we focus on accumulating money and possessions, always looking to be better or richer than the next person.
How many times have you read about or talked to someone who had everything you could ever ask for — nice home, nice car and no money problems — lamenting the fact that he or she doesn’t have as much as or more than someone else? We sometimes catch ourselves comparing who has more instead of who has less.
As business leaders, we should have some sense of moral obligation to help those within our sphere of influence, whether it’s our peers, employees or the person who lives down the street. We should be doing our best to look out for those around us, but too often, our days are consumed with the details of business.
Our world may be built on information, but wisdom is lacking. Business has been boiled down to statistical analysis and quarterly earnings reports while people are just another line on the ledger. There is often little room for gratitude in corporate America, and that’s a shame.
When our focus is on accumulating things, we can never enjoy it, because we don’t know how. How can we enjoy something when we’ve already raced off to try to get more? Like a kid tearing through a pile of Christmas presents, we never really take the time to appreciate each gift.
In this season of giving thanks, we should take a moment to think about those who came before us and who helped us get to where we are. Let’s thank those around us for a job well done and consider reaching out to someone who could use a helping hand. But most importantly, let’s consider putting our lives in perspective by thinking about those who are less fortunate.
When we focus more on gratitude, we’ll make a difference that’s far more effective than any business plan. It will allow us to take the time to celebrate success and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Gratitude doesn’t require a giant donation or a huge event; sometimes the little things are more effective.
In the end, we’ll find that the only things truly worth accumulating are good will and happiness. It’s in our control to start helping everyone around us get their fair share, and that’s something all of us can be thankful for.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fred McClaine wasn't sure he wanted to go work for a big company. He was an entrepreneur who owned his own insurance agency, and he was being courted by Brown & Brown Inc., one of the largest independent insurance intermediaries in the country.
As with most buying and selling experiences, the buyers and sellers spent time going over the offers and other considerations.
“When I met [executives] J. Hyatt and Powell Brown, they brought us down to their headquarters, and we stayed overnight at their house, which I thought was kind of unusual,” McClaine says.
Even though he had received better offers, he wanted to see this one through.
“But that's when I met them and really got to know them as people. We ended up signing with them because they were insurance people.”
McClaine knew the business, and he knew how to spot a buyer who was in it for the long haul and the love of serving people’s needs versus one who was out to make a quick buck.
“Because we are a different kind of business from a bank or financial institution, we have a lot of fluctuations over the years, and to have someone at the top who understands the business and who says it'll all work out – that’s important,” he says.
While McClaine was impressed with the leadership’s positive attitude, that wasn’t his only surprise.
At McClaine’s first annual sales meeting, in 2009, he got to experience a tradition that was an effort to get people to let their guard down – a toga party.
The tradition of a Brown & Brown costume party began in 1993 when a merger with Poe & Associates was completed and the integration had started. Some of the Poe top brass was let go since their leadership style wouldn’t be a good fit. About 20 other potential leaders were identified and kept on board.
“They were entrepreneurs at heart, and they were brought into a room of about 20 of our top people – 20 of their top people and their wives, in a hotel,” McClaine says.
“They were all ‘suits and ties’ and everybody was looking good. Hyatt said, ‘OK, guys, the men come with me and the women go with my wife; her name is CiCi,’ and they separated in different rooms. In those rooms were togas. Hyatt said, ‘Everybody strip down and get into your toga, and we’ll go back into the room and have a party.’ So they did.”
The custom of a costume party has lived on ever since.
“That’s typical of how the company culture was derived,” McClaine says. “He came into the room and said, ‘We were all dressed differently when we got here, we were all different people, and we are now all looking the same. And we're going to be that way.’”
McClaine says the event was it was not only symbolic of combining the two companies but costume parties such as this were more of a humility thing than anything else.
“We want to have humble people who understand how to work with staff members, because we have a real range of incomes in the business – that's just part of our business.
“I think the experience does keep us in place, to be able to work with others. Every day those people are out there making your life better.”
Here’s how McClaine, executive vice president of Brown & Brown of Indiana Inc., takes the principles of a “let your guard down” company culture to help drive the sales of the $1.2 billion, 6,300-employee company.
Try writing a culture statement
Most companies have a mission statement. It tells about the company’s ideals. But boiling those ideals down to two or three sentences about your standards, expectations and goals can end up with a statement of unproductive phrases.
With a culture statement, it can define who you are, and it can set the principles of a unified group.
If you are an existing company, start by listing observations of success that have worked in your company in the past. Brown & Brown has been doing that since it was founded in 1939, and its culture statement is now a booklet.
“The company culture is an intangible mosaic of history, ideals, goals, sayings, signs, quotes, fables, aspirations and event which considered together, present a body of thought that is central to understanding the essence of our company,” says McClaine, quoting from the culture statement.
A major advantage of a culture statement over a mission statement is that the mission likely will stay the same over the years, but the culture can breathe, evolve and adapt over time. Take for example when a new acquisition is made … some points of their culture may be worth assimilating into your statement.
“Probably half of our culture statement has been developed newly since I have been here,” McClaine says. “Those who were responsible for some of the things that have been added are the people who have joined us. We look at every acquisition that we make and what are their strengths and how we can bring that into the whole culture of Brown & Brown. The culture has been designed over the years by taking in the strengths from the ones we have acquired and casting out the weaknesses that we had or they had to make us all stronger.”
Your company leader needs to support the continuous improvement in the culture statement.
“Hyatt came up with a lot of the sayings and the culture,” McClaine says. “Over the course of time, it’s been pushed out to all of us. Most of us really enjoy it but 80 percent of the leaders of the 190 branches across the country were entrepreneurs to begin with.
So we brought those guys in, taught them, and gave them the culture that they can buy into which is independence, decentralization, and making your own decisions but still turning a profit for the company.”
While McClaine bought into the culture fairly quickly, he says most people will decide within two or three years if they are going to buy into it or not.
“In terms of acquisition, we don't acquire them if they aren't a good fit and if it is after the acquisition that we made a mistake, then they will either get a different role or no longer be with us,” he says.
“It's few and far between that those decisions are made but those do occur and sometimes after they are here three or four years; they figure it is not the right thing for them and they go their merry way.”
Know all about your acquisition
Integrating a merged or acquired company can be made a lot easier if a good fit is determined beforehand. And the real emphasis on whether it is the right fit is on the people. While there are other obvious concerns to be considered, such as financial and geographical benefits, it’s the people that deserve the most consideration.
“If your company has an entrepreneurial spirit, look for one that is in a similar entrepreneurial spirit to yours,” McClaine says. “You have to find somebody who hasn't been in a stodgy, power-down kind of situation but has been in one of entrepreneurship.”
Should your company be more vertical, with decisions being made at the upper level and followed all the way down, it is a different story.
“If they are into making all the decisions at the top, and you want a company that’s ‘Here's the manual, here's how you run the place,’ then you’ve got to look for people who are used to that, who would have been in that kind of structure before.”
Look for a fit in the same kind of style of business more than anything else.
“Ask, what's your style? Is it entrepreneur? Is it top down? Are you structured and rigid in your accounting principles and everything you do? McClaine says.
The chances that you will find a fit are often not good.
“Maybe three out of 10 will fit,” he says. “The year they acquired our agency we looked at 920 possible acquisitions across the country. We made 43. So, not everybody fits. You may have to walk away from some deals when you don't think it is going to work. I would say sometimes make a decision more with your gut than with your head.”
When assessing the nature of the possible acquisition, look at the character of the company.
“Review their reputation,” McClaine says. “If you know them, you should be able to get recommendations from fellow companies about their honesty, their integrity, basis of who their clients are, and that they are a good fit for those statements.”
“We are looking for people who look like us, I suppose. And not everybody does, but we try to find them.”
Teach the key principles
Many say the most important thing that all employees new to the fold need is some type of training. It can be as elaborate as Brown & Brown University that was created five years ago to teach the skills or in-house training programs.
Whatever it is, three areas need to be addressed, according to McClaine.
“The biggest thing that you need to teach to your young staff is to listen to people,” he says. “When you learn the most about your businesses is from people and listening to what they have done and how they've done it.
“When to listen is one of the things that separates the big boys from the small boys,” McClaine says. A sale can be lost by an associate who doesn’t let the customer talk.
Another important aspect of learning the culture is the teamwork part.
“You feel like you're part of a team. The team is part of the pack. The support people know that all they can do to help a producer to be successful is to go and help the pack. They have bought into the idea that we have to help a new client either save the money or find a better product. It brings the team together.
Celebrate the successes of the teams. This is a time to observe your good showings.
“When we announce a new sale or acquisition, we get cheers,” says McClaine, who is the de facto chief cultural officer in Indiana. “We do a cheetah growl across PA system. We sound the bell; maybe we have a party. So we do things that bring them all in. We understand that that's a big deal, and so they are happy when deals occur. The culture of doing that is bringing the pack together of those who really help you, reward them and bring sales in the door.
Another part of your culture is employee retention. While many advisers suggest that financial reward motivates employee service, there is an intangible that helps, too.
“One of the things that does help to keep people on the job and make more things stable is to say you are built forever,” McClain says.
It takes committed and disciplined people to focus on forever.
“We’re built to last; that's another saying that we have,” McClaine says. “We will continue to acquire and grow and grow. But others will be acquired by someone else.
And so as the people go, the culture goes, then that drives them to hang around because they don't feel like there is going to be a big change.”
How to reach: Brown & Brown of Indiana Inc., (317) 228-3773 or www.brownandbrownindiana.com
The McClaine File
Executive vice president
Brown & Brown Indiana Inc.
Born: Greencastle, Ind. In southwest Indiana, between Indianapolis and Terre Haute.
Education: Indiana State University in Terre Haute. I majored in in marketing with minors in economics and accounting.
What was your first job?
Selling “Grit” magazined. I sold it for 20 cents a copy and made seven cents. It was a great rural magazine. I met my future wife at 13 when I started working for her father as a hod carrier. I know I didn't want to do that the rest of my life.
What was the best advice you ever received?
Not everything is black-and-white. I got that from a guy who ran a large multinational company. I was in my 20s back then and when you're that age, you think everything is either black or white but there's a lot of gray out there so you have to learn about that.
Who do you admire in business?
J. Hyatt Brown is definitely the guy who I admire the most after seeing a lot of different people in business. He one smart guy and has the most energy at 73 that I know of anyone. What I love about jim is that when you talk to him, no matter if there are 100 people around you in the room, he listens to you. And he asks really great questions about you personally. That to me is symbolic of his humble nature, and who he is. He's chairman of the board.
What is your definition of business success?
Balance between life, family and God. I don't think you can be successful in your life if you don't have that balance. I think if people get too stressed or into their life, one or the other too much, you get too far one-sided or the other it's just not good for your business.