If you’re like most CEOs, your day is spent rushing around from appointment to appointment, both internal and off-site, meeting people, solving problems and plotting strategy. The hours fly by, days blur into weeks, and the years start to blend together into a nonstop race against time.
Take a moment to ask yourself if this lifestyle makes any sense. What race are you hoping to win? What’s the reward when you get to the finish line, assuming you even know where the finish line is?
John Ortberg, author of “The Life You’ve Always Wanted,” says it’s important to ruthlessly eliminate the hurry from our lives. If you are in a hurry, there is little time to care about people. We need to slow down, even to the point of solitude.
While we are running our nonstop race, the people that suffer the most are those around us. Friends, family, colleagues and employees are often ignored as relationships are neglected in favor of the next big deal.
Ortberg suggests forcing yourself to slow down and put yourself in a position to wait. For instance, pick the longest line at the grocery store or take the long way to work. Doing so will help train yourself to slow down and be patient.
You are the person that sets the pace in your company, so if you slow down and make sure things are done right, others will do the same.
Working at a pace that’s too fast typically results in things being overlooked — things like employee recognition. When you don’t recognize and reward your employees, their job satisfaction can decline and they may leave. For every person who leaves, you and your staff have to dedicate more time to finding a capable replacement, resulting in an even faster pace as time is lost to recruiting and training. It can quickly become a vicious cycle.
Enjoy life by slowing your pace and being more productive, both at work and at home. Slowing down doesn’t mean you aren’t getting things done, it means you are doing things right and building relationships with people.
Not every transaction will turn a profit in business, but you can bet that almost every relationship you have with people will pay off in the long run. Isn’t it time you started investing in those relationships by taking the time to slow down and build them?
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or email@example.com.
The art of buzz: Reasons people talk about products and services and the best ways to seed discussionsWritten by Guy Kawasaki
Emanuel Rosen is the author of the national bestseller “The Anatomy of Buzz” (Doubleday, 2000) and “The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited: Real-life Lessons in Word-of-Mouth Marketing” (Doubleday, 2009). Prior to writing these books, he was vice president of marketing at Niles Software where he was responsible for launching and marketing the company’s flagship product, EndNote. He holds an MBA from the University of San Francisco. In this interview, he brings us up to speed on the techniques for generating buzz that every small business owner must master.
Q: Going back to fundamentals, why do people talk about products and services at all?
A: Buzzing is in our genes. We are programmed to share information with friends about where to find our next meal and about the tiger who’s about to have us as his next meal. We talk to connect, so when my daughter tells her friends about the new sweater she bought, she’s also establishing and maintaining her social ties. We buzz to talk about ourselves. If I tell you about a 10-day dog sledding trip in Alaska, I’m also telling you how adventurous I am.
Q: Which comes first, buzz or ink?
A: Usually it starts with some buzz that is followed by press coverage, which can take the buzz to a whole new level. Grassroots support can actually help you get ink — sometimes buzz is the best press release because it gives journalists this warm and fuzzy feeling that your story is for real and that there’s true excitement for it. Don’t get me wrong, if CNN calls you before your product is out, don’t tell them that you’re waiting for some grassroots buzz to build, but usually it doesn’t happen that way.
Q: Which comes first, buzz or sales?
A: There are some highly anticipated products — Halo 3 comes to mind — that get tons of buzz before a single sale. This is the exception. Since product recommendation usually starts with product experience, you need to have some people out there who use the product and hopefully get excited about it. How do you get these early customers? Part of it comes from word-of-mouth marketing methods, like seeding and sneak previews, but it also comes from traditional sales and marketing techniques. If your product is contagious in some way, then these early users will start buzzing about it.
Q: What are the essential elements of seeding a product?
A: The key point to understand is that although we’re all connected to each other, information about new products rarely spreads like a wild fire. Information tends to get stuck because we live in somewhat isolated social clusters. To accelerate buzz, companies seed their product in many different clusters. The ideal seeding campaign is done on a large scale and lets people have a firsthand experience with the product. You want to reduce the price barrier as much as possible, so the product is given for free or at a reduced price.
Q: How do you seed a website or free service?
A: The good news is that the price barrier doesn’t exist. The bad news is that the thing you’re seeding is less tangible. The basic idea is the same. You identify clusters of people by geography, area of interest, by academic discipline or whatever other classification makes sense in your case. You then approach some people in each cluster trying to engage them with the service. This is a challenge that is shared by other products. The fact that a publisher seeds the market with advance copies of a book doesn’t guarantee that people will read it. But with some follow up and encouragement and some buzz from fellow users, some more people eventually try the product and start buzzing about it too.
Q: What are the characteristics of a contagious product?
A: The best buzz comes not from publicity stunts but rather from the product itself. A product or service that makes you say, ‘Wow!’ when you use it for the first time is the classic contagious product. Other examples: products that evoke strong emotions — “The Blair Witch Project” — or reward you for talking about them — Facebook.
Products that are visible can be contagious as well — think of the first time you saw someone with an iPod. Even abstract ideas can become contagious this way. The idea of living with cancer was translated into the LiveStrong yellow wristband, which started millions of conversations about the topic.
Q: What can stop the spread of buzz?
A: Since I just mentioned LiveStrong, let me tell you about an interesting study. A research team at Stanford sold LiveStrong wristbands to students who lived in one dorm on campus. A week later, they started selling these wristbands in a neighboring dorm that had a reputation as a ‘geek’ dorm with a stronger academic focus.
What happened once the ‘geeks’ started wearing the wristbands? A week later, the research team measured a 32 percent drop in students wearing the bands at the first dorm. So sometimes, when we detect that ‘the wrong people’ are using your product, we stop using it and buzzing about it. This is true especially for products that have to do with our identity.
The most common forces that block buzz are noise, inertia and forgetting. We’re distracted by competing messages, we like to stick to ‘the good old way’ of doing things, and we forget what our friends told us. It is one reason why buzz needs to be accelerated. Even delighted customers might forget about your product and run out of opportunities to talk about it.
Q: What should you do if someone who has never used your product is bad mouthing it?
A: One of the things that surprised me most as I was working on the new edition of my book was that this type of negative buzz is quite common. One study found that 30 percent of negative word-of-mouth was by people who never owned the product. If you can identify the person who’s bad mouthing your brand, you might want to let them try the product. The problem is that you usually don’t know who they are, which brings us to another reason for why word-of-mouth marketing is so important. You have to counterbalance this constant trickle of negative comments with honest, positive recommendations from happy customers.
Q: What should you do if someone who has used your product is bad mouthing it?
A: First, listen to what they are saying. Our natural tendency when we’re attacked is to fight back, but negative comments may come from an actual bad experience. This gives you an opportunity to do two things. Solve that customer’s problem, which will often turn her from a detractor to a promoter. Even more important, it may help you identify a problem in your system, fix it and reduce negative buzz from others.
Q: Who is more likely in these Internet days to talk about your product: someone who’s had a good experience or a bad one?
A: There are two types of bad experience. There’s ‘I didn’t like this hotel too much,’ and there’s ‘The guy at the reception insulted me when I asked for towels and then sent up a dirty one.’ Frustrated customers are very likely to share their experience. However, it turns out that most buzz among consumers is positive. This may seem like a contradiction, but it has some simple explanations. One of them is that most of our experiences as consumers are actually positive.
Q: What is the role of old-fashioned advertising these days?
A: It is fashionable to say that advertising is dead, but I don’t agree. Very few products can live on buzz alone. Advertising can help a lot — at least good advertising can help a lot. First, in creating awareness and building the pool of people who can buzz about the product. Second, a good ad can prompt me to tell my friends about the product. Third, a good, authentic ad that brings in real people can stimulate buzz.
Q: How has technology changed buzz and word-of-mouth marketing?
A: It hasn’t really changed what we talk about. We still talk about ourselves, we brag, we seek advice, we gossip, we connect. The Internet’s biggest effect is that it accelerates buzz. In addition, it doesn’t only let us tell our friends about the products we use, but also lets us show them these products through videos and photos. It has enabled aggregation tools such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. In essence, it gives more people more opportunities to share information with others, which directly translates to more buzz.
Q: How can a company effectively measure the buzz it’s generating?
A: The simplest method is to ask your customers how they heard about you. You can measure the daily mentions you get on blogs and on Twitter. You can supplement this with traditional marketing research to learn what customers who don’t use these services are saying. Whatever method you choose though, you need to measure on an ongoing basis, if you want to detect any effects. Companies such as ChatThreads, The Keller Fay Group and Nielsen Online provide buzz measuring services. WOMMA, the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association, offers lots of resources on the subject.
Q: Do you believe that there are key influencers who companies should focus on because of their insight, power and prestige — that is, an ability to lead a market as their wisdom trickles down?
A: The importance of influencers varies by industry. I suspect that they are more important in the pharmaceutical industry than in the yo-yo industry. Regarding the ‘trickle-down’ theory — this is not the way that buzz flows — especially today, buzz flows in all directions. I use the term hubs to describe people who talk more than average, and I make a distinction between social hubs and expert hubs. Both can definitely help a company spread the word, but companies should encourage everyone to talk, not only hubs.
Q: Where do you draw the ethical line on generating buzz and word-of-mouth marketing?
A: One key idea here is disclosure. Word-of-mouth marketing is not about tricking people. It’s about openly inviting them to try the product and talk about it. WOMMA offers a code of ethics that can help. When you’re trying to build buzz, you want to push the envelope and think outside of the box. And when you look for original ideas, you can’t police your thoughts. But after the brainstorming, you have to change your attitude dramatically. This is best done the morning after — over some strong coffee. Think again about your wild new idea. Ask other people what they think. Ask your customers and people in the community if you are crossing the line.
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 10 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.
There’s a classic line from the 1970 movie “Love Story” that has become a part of our popular culture. In the drama, the dying heroine played by Ali MacGraw says to her husband, played by actor Ryan O’Neal, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” as he apologizes for his anger. It is certainly a memorable and tear-jerking line, but is saying, “You’re sorry” all that bad if it can soothe a wound caused by someone speaking or acting out before thinking?
Disagreements and anger are a reality in the workplace and in life in general. Various people react in different ways when under pressure. Some lose their cool completely and say things they instantly regret, while others launch into tormenting the perceived offender with the silent treatment. No matter the technique used to punish, all of these methods quickly become tiresome and, more importantly, adversely affect the workplace.
Too frequently in the work environment, many people just can’t suck it up and utter the two simple words, “I’m sorry,” even when they know they’re dead wrong. It’s not a macho thing either, as women don’t behave much differently when they feel put upon. What’s a boss to do when this stubbornness becomes problematic?
In a word: intervene. When not controlled, these unreasonable, obstinate antics can become time-consuming and disruptive. It could all start with an impetuous negative e-mail or a less-than-mature voice mail left in the heat of battle that cascades into a futile distraction, as otherwise effective and seemingly sensible employees act out as if they’re in a 20- or 30-year time warp, behaving as if they’re back in the third grade rather than adults in the workplace.
The most expeditious method that works with either the protagonist or antagonist in an office drama is to call a spade a spade, so to speak, and get the feuding parties together and cut to the chase, making each person agree to bury the hatchet but preferably not in each other’s skull. If employees’ anger management issues are left to fester, they can easily result in other people in the same work environment taking sides, and in short order, you will find yourself in the midst of a Civil War. The only thing guaranteed when this occurs is that there will be casualties. It is incumbent on the ruling manager to make sure that the company doesn’t wind up as the victim, incurring a loss of productivity and causing everyone around the two factions to feel as if they’re walking on pins and needles.
While many times it would be easier for the boss to ask one of the warring participants to approach the other to work out their differences, this tactic just takes too much time and the outcome can be iffy. It really doesn’t matter who is right or wrong but that the nonsense is stopped dead in its tracks. The best way to accomplish this is to make it more than abundantly clear that anger in the workplace is a nonstarter and could be a career-inhibitor.
Allowing employees to exhibit a lack of civility will cause a domino effect that will lead to no good. Civility does not just apply to peers. Instead, it’s applicable to all who must work together, including superiors, subordinates and even fellow board members. Don’t confuse civility with agreeing or disagreeing with someone. It also doesn’t mean one has to believe that someone is effective in his or her role. Instead, what must be required is that those within an organization, no matter what level, simply take the higher road and respect not necessarily the person but the role and make the assumption that everyone has a part in working toward shared goals, until it is proven otherwise.
Once everybody knows the rules of engagement, many times the negative engagement suddenly ends and it’s back to business as usual. When that doesn’t happen, it’s time for offenders to be forced to go to their respective corners so as not to do each other or the company any more harm.
To promote coexistence when no one wants to take the first step and say, “I’m sorry,” it’s up to the adult in the room — and that would be you, the boss — to step into the fray with your whistle to call a permanent timeout to these types of disruptive shenanigans.
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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Launching a new venture is probably one of the most thrilling moments for any entrepreneur. It’s a birth that often brings forth a long-standing dream for the founders and is steeped in joy, pride and egotism. However, for many new captains of industry, the dream vanishes like smoke shortly thereafter. In fact, just half of all businesses survive the first five years, and only one-third survive 10 years, according to U.S. Small Business Administration statistics. Thus, it’s worth investigating why projects fail.
In a large majority of cases, the business owners failed to raise sufficient capital to fund the labor, marketing, taxes, insurance, legal expenses, bookkeeping, supplies and costs of goods for the business. Oftentimes, they underestimated expenses and overestimated how quickly revenues would increase. In other cases, they knowingly entered the market with insufficient cash because of limited credit and savings.
Other failures are caused by an implosion from within. Specifically, the founding partners reach a point at which they disagree on how to build the business and then fail to come to a consensus that leaves all parties feeling invested in the project. Or the business develops naturally in a way that calls for the founding partners to take on roles they don't want to assume. In either scenario, the remaining partners must buy out the exiting partners in order to stay in business or fold up shop.
In the worst collapses, the venture was just poorly conceived. The founders developed a business concept based mostly on their own personal experiences or anecdotal evidence. They failed to conduct or acquire scientific research on whether there was sufficient demand for their proposed products or services. They made a cursory study of the competition. Or they made assumptions about what drives potential customers to buy when designing marketing campaigns, rather than collecting data that revealed true trends in buyer motivations.
In these cases, the founders could have mitigated their chances of failure with some thoughtful planning before the shingle was hung. Would-be entrepreneurs should clearly write out their vision with detailed specifications and the cash that will be needed to complete it. They should plan contingencies for overcoming potential obstacles.
They also should identify the strengths and weaknesses in any potential management team and seek out individuals who can fill the holes. For instance, a visionary leader who prefers to focus on the big picture will usually need someone on board who loves the details in order to ensure the project is thoroughly vetted and structured.
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.
Anthony Najem felt something was missing a few years back at the company he co-founded with Karl Meyer in 1987, and he was a little frustrated.
As Meyer Najem Corp. grew and started to change, the challenges involved in adapting along the way became more evident. Some employees weren’t real keen on adjusting to change. They were finding it hard to become more engaged just because of the demands on their workloads — those demands and work-life balances became a key issue.
“As an owner and founder, you get the pulse about what’s happening in the company,” Najem says. “What you find is that people tend to not want change. People become complacent. How do you override the feeling of, ‘Oh, I don’t want to change,’”?
On its way to reaching $62 million in annual revenue with 65 employees, the company started out in light commercial construction and found its niche in health care, institutional, biosciences and other related markets.
“Change is inherent today; it’s much more rapid, so the employees have to start to develop many more skill sets within their role in the company,” Najem says. “And the big one is open and honest communication and dialogue. Once the leaders understand what the individuals are thinking, then you have a much better opportunity to discuss those and come up with plans that will help develop those individuals so they can achieve some of their goals and realize the purpose of their contribution to the whole.
“So what happens is an awakening of how you can take everybody to the next level,” Najem says.
“We brought in some experts to help assess the qualities of the leaders and the next generation of leadership and how we could make them fully aware of their strengths and their blind spots and how they could develop as leaders and as high-performance individuals. We spent a lot of time in that process, we invested a lot of energy and we are starting to see the dividends.
“The energy now with the company is at a high level,” he says. “High performance is not achieved just out of accident. There is a lot of work that goes into being a high-performance or a best of class contractor.”
Here’s how Najem developed a process to awaken employees and key management in a collaborative effect to reach new heights.
Introduce new skill sets
You’ve probably heard it over and over — engaged employees are key to a company’s success. A positive workplace relationship between employee and employer is critical to unlocking productivity complacency. Once Najem realized that achieving positive relationships starts with an improved communication effort — which coincidentally is one of the skill sets that managers and employees often need to develop, he had a plan.
“Stress management and critical thinking are the types of skills we started to develop with our employees and their key management over the last five years because when you receive that feedback, then you have to implement things to help develop those skill sets,” Najem says. “So we instituted a process — coaching/mentoring — that starts with the ownership and works all the way through the company.
In this project, there are 23 current leaders and the next generation of leaders who meet in an environment to see what it is like to experience that part of the company culture.
“When you are sitting in a room with 23 out of 65 employees, you start to see the emerging ones,” Najem says. “But you also get to see that there are people who start to understand how important they are to the whole process and the whole success of the company.
“You may have an estimator who is quite happy being an estimator. But he may take on an outside leadership role in a strategic initiative that comes out of the strategic planning process. We will typically have three to five a year that will emerge as leaders.
The emerging leaders are assigned to those who head a company committee.
“That’s how we move forward with our challenges,” he says. “With that process, you really start to see who is stepping up, who will do whatever it takes. So we’re trying to develop a culture where everybody’s doing whatever it takes without any excuses. There are no excuses because there are so many resources they can tap to make things happen.
“We want an openness policy, which is so important, and the freedom to say, ‘I don’t know that answer. Let me find who within the company can help me with that,’” Najem says. “That’s the fun part of the business; when you create that type of an environment — everybody’s helping each other regardless of what their role or their job description is. That kind of creates a lot of fun.”
As the coaching starts to occur, communication starts to develop naturally and organically.
“Then they start communicating with everybody in the field and throughout the rest of the company,” he says. “The challenge you always have is the home office versus field office and how do you communicate. How do you keep them attuned to what’s happening in the home office? We didn’t want them to feel like they were on an island.”
Many companies practice continuous strategic planning. It’s been a part of Meyer Najem, which celebrates its 25th year this month, and has been more inclusive in the last five years as more efforts have been initiated to engage employees.
“To get people engaged and empowered, you’ve got to also include them in that planning process,” Najem says. “Then you also have to get people to develop self-awareness of who they are and what they bring to the process. Self-awareness is very critical with engagement and in receiving honest and authentic communication.
“Get them involved, get them to create dialogue where they are giving you their true assessments of the discussion so that their voices are being heard, they are being trusted, that what they say you are listening to and so forth.”
A complacency mindset among a manager or an employee indicates contentment with the status quo. In that situation, you may not push the envelope or expand your boundaries. You will just coast along.
Your goal, however, is not to be happy just coasting, but to build your self-awareness so that you feel a sense of stewardship for the company, a sense of ownership.
“How do you create the next level of leaders to understand what it’s like to be an owner, not of the company but an owner of the project?” Najem asks. “You start to develop in employees the thinking: ‘I’m not just a taskmaster. I am also a great communicator.’ ‘I’m not just a good project manager but I’m a good leader.’
“Just change the dynamics of how they think about it, how they assess a challenge and then how do they go about getting it,” he says. “It’s through more of a collaborative effort than ‘I’m on the island by myself.’ I mean, it’s an everybody’s-in-it-together-type of thing.”
The theme that Najem was hoping for was that employees are all one within the company and that it takes all of us to create success.
“I just think it is so important that people realize how important they are to the whole, and that’s how we’ve organically grown this company — to get them engaged and empowered,” he says.
If a company is showing signs of complacency, it’s time to press the “undo” button. The company probably will have unofficially developed an internal compartmental status and employees have parceled themselves into their own departments or within groups. This situation goes against the grain of teamwork and needs to be rectified.
“What we did was we broke down some walls, we tipped over some silos about how people think and how they compartmentalized themselves,” Najem says.
“I think we achieved getting everybody to think as one and how they fit into one entity, whether it’s a sheet of music or a puzzle, everybody found their place in the puzzle or in the sheet of music. It really helped everybody understand why they are important and why their voice is so critical to hear to develop success.”
At first, there was some skepticism. After all, the apple cart was being tipped over. Najem held sessions with all employees to initially deal with some skepticism, but also some enthusiasm.
“They kind of had this wait-and-see attitude, but what was really validating was that everybody was there,” Najem says. “From the owners to everybody, I mean everybody was in the room at the same time doing the same things, fully engaged, and fully committed to ensuring that there were good things to happen moving forward.
“I can honestly tell you that there was a lot of trust that came into play that allowed for some very authentic communication.”
And at that point, it is easier than you think to see if you are getting employee buy-in. Look for some subtle clues.
“When you are sitting around in a room with folks, and they start to squirm, you know they have some body language that you get from them, and then if they open up and start talking, and they are committed to participating, that’s probably one of the biggest spots of where you see if somebody is engaged or not,” Najem says.
If employees don’t feel threatened when they express their opinions, it shows trust.
“But leaders have to show up with trust,” he says. “You’ve got to show up with it because if you don’t, then you won’t get that. You won’t get that shared dialogue.
“You have to start it by communicating what are the intentions and the goals of the meeting. You’ve got to be able to communicate it effectively, and then you’ve got to create an atmosphere that allows that.
“You want to go to a neutral place where people are away from the daily grind so you almost have to condition them into allowing themselves to say, ‘I’m taking my hat off, my 8-to-5 hat, I’m coming into a leadership or another role that is going to allow me to be a contributing part to the vision of the company,” he says.
Team-building exercises are often used so employees will start to build trust, and you can mix up the varieties.
“There are all kinds of techniques to do that,” Najem says. “You can switch from go-kart racing to lighting a fire with flint and rubbing sticks together. We like to have fun. You’ll do team building through that.
“The team building process starts to allow them to start to trust. Then they start to have some dialogue that becomes authentic and less threatening. And so everybody is starting to get more comfortable with each other. You can’t just open up and say, ‘OK, this is an open forum. Give me your thoughts.’ So it’s been kind of fun watching this develop. Then you really start to see it within the hallways and offices and just the way the people communicate with each other.”
External and internal communications become even more of a greater need when change is occurring and you’ve got to get everybody to hear the same thing. Najem started quarterly company meetings for all employees as a first step. This effort regularly helps employees stay in the loop.
More and more, technology is making it easier to communicate. Companies are regularly developing intranets to get information regarding issues ranging from training to opportunities that exist within the company and with outside of the company. They are also using additional means of staying in touch with each other on the job.
“With the institution of iPads, it’s pretty amazing what you can do,” Najem says. “iChat, where you can see the person, has become a big thing in the last year.
“Trying to get everybody to stay connected has been a challenge but we are doing it through those types of means,” he says. “It’s been interesting to see how technology can help you.”
Keep them challenged
With employee engagement, there is no finish line. There’s no point when everyone is as engaged as they possibly can be and there are no new frontiers to explore. The best rule of thumb is that once you feel you have mastered it, you have to start all over.
“You have to continuously keep them challenged,” Najem says. “What happens if you don’t is that they become complacent, and tend not to be as engaged as you’d want them to be.”
New, creative teambuilding efforts have to continue, as do motivational efforts geared toward a multigenerational workforce, which is becoming more prevalent in companies today. Opportunities to discuss and air concerns should be encouraged.
“Healthy dialogue and debate is relevant to company culture because it creates possibilities,” Najem says. “When we have healthy dialogue, we have possibilities and people understand the difference, and when someone starts to argue, they get pretty much shut off. We say, ‘You were off task. Let’s get back to task. It’s important.’
“What really empowers people to do well is knowing where things lie – what’s the most important thing – so that they now have purpose,” he says. “Having purpose tends to allow them to not think so critically about the tasks. They think bigger. They think about how this is all going to result so that they can have a better work/life balance.”
How to reach: Meyer Najem Corp., (317) 577-0007 or www.meyer-najem.com
The Najem file
Born: Indianapolis. I moved to Houston after graduation from college and worked for a co-generator of power and steam. I moved back in 1987 to start in business with my partner Karl Meyer.
Education: Purdue University. I received a degree in building construction management.
What was your first job?
My first job was at the U.S. Postal Service. I was a mail sorter and a dock person. I will remember the job because it was a job I never wanted to do again. Sorting mail was not my cup of tea. But it paid well because it was a federal job. I think I was 15 and I saved enough money to buy my first car. I spent $4,200 for TR-6 Triumph. By the time I turned 16, I had my dream of buying my first sports car.
What was the best business advice you ever received?
I worked in Houston for company called Power Systems Engineering. There are many guys there who were just the best of the best. I remember when I was talking to a couple of them about starting my own business. They said to start a business when you are young because when you get older, it’s tougher to leave the career to start something new. The one thing that I can add to that is that I was told you should learn from someone else’s mistakes and then try not to make them. That was probably the more provocative, so I worked for somebody for seven years before ventured out to do my own thing.
Who do you admire in business?
I admire business leaders who balance their success with family and community. I just know that there are great leaders out there, and many of them are challenged by the daily grind of the business. And when I see individuals including myself that try to balance that, it’s not an easy deal.
What is your definition of business success?
Success comes in all forms. From the great referral letter that you receive for a job well done, to recognizing the employees on the job, to receiving the Crystal Eagle award, which we did, a validation of zero injury from your peers, to the local newspaper voting you a top work place all of the last three years — those are all validations of success. It’s not one thing. But it’s just a host of things. But what we really try to employ here is we want to exceed our client expectations. We’ve always, always instilled that into our people that client satisfaction is No. 1.
It’s OK to quit. Think about how much time we waste with stuff that isn’t working.
Quitting doesn’t necessarily mean failure. It’s OK to change your mind, to quit a job where you are miserable or to let go of a partnership or a goal that is no longer moving forward.
Seth Godin, said it in his best-selling book “The Dip”: “Strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations.”
Strategic quitting — or proactive, thought-out change — is not about stopping because something was harder than you anticipated. Life is hard. Strategic quitting is about identifying the wrong turns. It’s about not wasting your time when nothing is going to get better.
This applies not just to business, but to everything in life. Quit the eating patterns that don’t make you feel healthy. Quit the drinking habit that leads to fuzzy thinking. It’s OK to change something when it isn’t working.
When deals fall through
It’s the same thing with the occasional business deal that just doesn’t happen. It looked glorious from afar, full of promise. But then, something changed and you face the stark reality that the big new client/new piece acquisition/leveraged buyout isn’t going to happen after all.
It happens to us all. My advice? Communicate. Never be afraid to give people the bad news. Let your team know what happened and be transparent. Tell them your vision, the next steps to get there, and move on. It will make you happier when you “quit” and move on to something that makes you more excited.
So many people are not in love with what they do. What they do for a living — and what they do outside of work.
Plenty of great business-savvy men and women just don’t get this connection. They are far too focused on the brass ring (money, stature, success) and not on their passion, the emotional ground wire that lights up inside them.
To get passion, you need to want it
Few leaders “get” this. And that’s unfortunate, because without passion — a mission that you love — you burn out. It’s true in business and it’s true in relationships.
You have to want the concept of passion to get it. You’ve got to love what you do, to feel the kind of success that lights you up, where you don’t “hate” to go to work each morning, and can’t wait to get there because you’re excited to attack the day.
When you work with someone that lights up, you know it. You feel that positive energy radiating out, and it is absolutely contagious.
When I talk to people about whether they are passionate or not, most often I get a blank stare. They have never been asked about it. In fact, many people don’t know what I mean. I like to ask them what would get them excited to go to work each morning. What would they be thinking about when their mind raced and they couldn’t get to sleep? If money didn’t matter, what would they be doing?
Finding your passion is very difficult. But when you do, it’s amazing how you feel and what you can accomplish because you’re excited. If you do what you’re passionate about, good things will follow.
Robert Pagliarini is president of Richer Life Media. Here are some questions he thinks may help you find your passion:
What would you do that would give you a sense of pride? What would an ideal day look like for you? What have been the most significant experiences in your life (traveling, studying, awards that you’ve received)? When are you at your best? What does it look like? Suppose you had 24 hours to live. What would you regret not having done?
So what’s your passion? Do some digging. Figure it out. Put it into daily practice at work and at home.
David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com
Learn how SBA Financing can help your business grow & succeed
Thursday, May 31, 2012
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST (US & Canada)
Registration is required: Click Here to Register
If link does not work, type the following address into your URL:
Brief description of the topic:
In trying to grow their businesses, owners often find themselves seeking credit to finance those expansions.
Join Kreischer Miller, Fox Rothschild LLP and PNC Bank for this free webinar that will be hosted by PNC Bank and Smart Business to learn how U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs may help.
The SBA offers a variety of loan programs that provide basic to complex financing solutions that business owners might not be able to attain conventionally. Hear from our well-versed panel — a CPA, an attorney and a senior SBA business development officer — who will go through case studies that show the unique ways SBA loans can be structured to help businesses successfully grow and expand.
In this session you will learn:
- How the SBA transformed since the Small Business Jobs Act was passed in 2010
- Benefits of SBA financing vs. conventional financing
- Overview of the SBA 7(a), 504 and Express Loan Programs
- Case studies showing creative ways SBA loans can be structured
Steven E. Staugaitis, a CPA and leader of Kreischer Miller’s Entrepreneurial Services specialty services group. Steve focuses on serving privately held companies with their accounting, tax and business advisory needs.
Thomas J. Kent, Jr., is a partner and Attorney for Fox Rothschild and co-chairs the firm’s Franchising, Licensing & Distribution Practice. He focuses on franchise law as well as mergers and acquisitions.
Lisa Kennedy, Vice President, Senior Business Development Officer at PNC Bank is one of the top SBA lenders in the nation. With over 22 years of SBA financing experience, she has helped fund over $150 million in SBA loans.
The Webinar and/or materials were prepared for general information purposes only and are not intended as legal, tax, accounting or financial advice, or recommendations to buy or sell securities or currencies or to engage in any specific transactions, and do not purport to be comprehensive. Under no circumstances should any information contained in the seminar, and/or materials be used or considered as an offer or a solicitation of an offer to participate in any particular transaction or strategy. Any reliance upon any such information is solely and exclusively at your own risk. Please consult your own counsel, accountant or other advisor regarding your specific situation. Any views expressed in the seminar and/or materials are subject to change without notice due to market conditions and other factors.
PNC is a registered mark of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (“PNC”). Banking and lending products and services and bank deposit products and investment and wealth management and fiduciary services are provided by PNC Bank, National Association, Member FDIC.
©2012 The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Executives are some of the busiest people I know. They are often some of the unhealthiest, as well.
The trend in today’s workplace is towards doing more and more with less and less. This adds strain to the already overworked executive. That strain affects the health of the executive and hinders his or her ability to do their job effectively.
This trend cannot continue. It is destroying the lives of too many top-notch professionals.
Here are 27 tips for staying healthy as a busy executive:
1. Remember to smell the flowers. Take time out to enjoy the little things in life. Being just as impressed by small events as large ones helps to cultivate wisdom and clarity.
2. Stop living a “hit-and-miss life.” Living aimlessly is like shooting multiple arrows that miss their targets. This is a waste of time and not a trait of an effective leader.
3. Anxiety is anticipation run riot. Anticipating the worst keeps us from enjoying the present. Realize that anxiety does not facilitate self-control.
4. Remember to take breaks. Taking breaks during work helps you accomplish more during the time that you are working.
5. Avoid procrastination. Remove temptations around you such as an instant messenger program or magazines, which might tempt you from being efficient at work.
6. Keep things simple. Eliminate the things that cause clutter in your life, such as unnecessary magazine subscriptions, paper and too many unused gadgets.
7. Take care of yourself. Executives who look haggard or tired tend to have more responsibilities heaped on them, because your physical condition and dress sends the message that you permit that.
8. Commit yourself to exercise at least three times a week. Keeping yourself in shape will help you perform efficiently in all areas of your life.
9. Always eat breakfast. Low blood sugar as a result of not eating properly can cause unproductive afternoons.
10. Take your vitamins. If you eat constantly on the run to save time, take vitamins to avoid potential slumps in energy.
11. Bag your lunch. Not only is this cheaper, but it is more nutritious because you have control over what you eat. This can spare you from eating empty calories that exhaust you.
12. Sit down with your family for dinner. This is the one thing that you can do each day to bond with family members. It also saves money and allows you to control your diet.
13. Make dates with your mate. Planning romantic outings keeps your relationship erotic and alive.
14. Get professional help. If you can’t cope due to bad time management skills or emotional problems, get the help that you need.
15. Ask for help if you need it. Pride prevents most executives from asking for assistance from higher ups or colleagues. Being trained wastes less time than trying to figure out something yourself.
16. Make sure you have quiet time. Set personal time aside for yourself each week doing something that you enjoy doing alone. This gives you clarity and is a form of meditation.
17. Get enough sleep. People who are sleep deprived make more time consuming mistakes and are too irritable to lead a quality life style.
18. Never get too hungry. People who are hungry are irritable and make mistakes so that things need to be done over again.
19. Avoid people who suck your time. Needy or emotionally disturbed individuals can seriously throw your plans for the day astray. Avoid them the best you can.
20. Deal with your anger. Angry individuals are hasty, reckless and make careless errors that cause time consuming mistakes.
21. If you are tired, rest. It is better to rest and do a task twice as fast afterwards, rather than do it slowly because you are exhausted.
22. Take life one day at a time. Live in the present, not in the future, and you will accomplish more.
23. Give back to the community. Engage in one meaningful activity where money is “not the goal”. This empowers you spiritually and prevents you from getting too stuck in your own problems.
24. Make yourself inaccessible at certain times. Let others know when you are working and cannot be disturbed.
25. Reward yourself for a job well done. Whenever you complete a big task, make sure to keep motivated by giving yourself a reward.
26. Seek out the good in every situation. Disappointments and delays are a part of life. Learn how to make it up to your family if you are late and can’t be there for them.
27. Realize that you always have choices. Make choices about how you spend your time, and do not be at the mercy of obligations that you cannot fulfill.
As a busy executive, staying healthy has to be at the top of your priority list. It is essential to your job as a leader. Use these tips to guide you into the healthy lifestyle you deserve.
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 email@example.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.
In a growing business, the myriad daily tasks of getting whatever a company produces “out the door” can be all-consuming. Lots of energy is typically focused on cash flow management, finding and training new employees, meetings, sourcing supplies, deadlines, etc. In the hustle and bustle, your staff can forget the most important factor of any business: the customers. However, without what our firm refers to as “Level 5 Customer Service,” growth can stall or collapse completely.
In studies, 70 percent of why most clients leave is due to poor customer service. As managers, we need to constantly be reassessing why customers prefer our products or services over the competitions’, whether we are exceeding customers’ expectations, and how we show gratitude to our customers.
Ignoring your customers can be like sitting on a landmine. For instance, prior to social networking online, the typical dissatisfied customer would verbally tell eight to 10 people about a problem with a vendor or service provider. In the post-Facebook-YouTube-Twitter-Interest world, that dissatisfaction is posted online in ways that can travel globally within hours. A single service disappointment can turn into the bomb that crashes sales.
However, Level 5 Customer Service can halt that exponential explosion in most cases. That’s because studies show seven of 10 complaining customers will do business with you again if you solve the problem in their favor.
Service expectations vary by culture. However in Western-educated societies, there are five key customer service practices that should be taught and re-taught regularly in any workplace:
- Greet the customer verbally and with a smile;
- Listen to understand the customer’s need;
- Explain features and benefits of products or services so customers have sufficient information to make decisions;
- Suggest additional items that may address their explicit needs, as well as possible ancillary needs they may not be aware of or may not have considered; and
- Thank the customer. Thank them even when no sale occurs. Thanks – like praise – go a long way toward generating goodwill.
Last, when presented with a customer’s concern or complaint, listen attentively, do not interrupt, be polite, apologize for the inconvenience and any error, and make a decision that resolves the issue in way that leaves the customer as warm and fuzzy as possible. When you provide a customer with more than he or she expects, you create a Level 5 experience. That experience reinforces customer loyalty.
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 2011 Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising W omen magazine’s 2011 Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s 2011 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.zwgoup.net.
Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin and Robert Cialdini are the authors of The New York Times bestselling “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.” Last summer, I met Martin on a trip to London, where he runs Influence at Work, and he shared these top five ways to increase your influence and persuasion.
1. Be the first to give. Studies show that we are persuaded more by people who have done something for us first. We give bigger tips to servers who give us a mint with the check. We’re more likely to help work colleagues with their projects if they have helped us with ours. Requests that are personalized are most persuasive of all. When researchers randomly sent out surveys, they were able to double responses if they personalized the request by placing a handwritten note on the survey.
2. Don’t offer too many choices. Whether it’s the number of products you offer or the number of retirement plans you allow your employees to choose from, too many choices often frustrate people. Companies offering a small number of retirement plans have far greater enrollment than companies that offer a large number of plans.
3. Argue against self-interest. Trust is a critical component to persuasion. The surest way to be perceived as honest is to admit to a small weakness in your argument, product or business immediately prior to communicating the strongest positive argument about your product or service.
4. Losses are more persuasive than gains. Instead of telling your audience what they stand to gain from taking your advice or buying your product, research shows that people are often more persuaded if you tell them what they stand to lose out on if they don’t take your advice or buy your product.
In 2003, the Oldsmobile far exceeded its sales projections despite the company reducing its advertising and product development budgets. Why? General Motors decided to discontinue the car because of slow sales. As a result, the car became something people would be losing out on, even though before the news, few people wanted one.
5. Make people feel as if they’ve already made progress toward a goal. A car wash offering a loyalty card nearly doubled customer retention by changing its offer from “Buy eight washes, get one free” to “Buy 10 washes, get one free — and we’ll start you off crediting you for two washes.”
Some people have the ability to capture an audience’s attention, convince the undecided and convert noncustomers into customers. Some do not, but there’s good news from social science. Persuasion is not just a skill gifted to a chosen few. It’s a science, and researchers who study it have formulated a series of rules for moving people in your direction.
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 10 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.