Read this quote and think about whether it sounds like something you have heard before:

“Stay under the radar. Do enough just to get by. Don’t make waves. Get the most out of your benefits such as sick time. Do only what you’re asked to do. If you are asked for more, do just enough to meet minimum expectations.”

This is an employee who is completely disengaged. Instead of leaving the organization, which might be a blessing, this employee will “retire in place.”

Employees who retire in place substantially impact the bottom line, as well as the satisfaction of other employees. One bad apple, if not addressed, can spoil the bunch.

Stand up

There are ways to counter such an attitude, however, and even turn such an employee into a highly engaged, stellar performer. The research on engagement highlights a number of actions that can help employees feel more connected and motivated, and avoid “retiring in place.”

These include the following:

 

 

  • Aligning employees with the goals and mission of the organization

 

 

  • Regularly sharing information from top leaders, and being sincerely interested in employees

 

 

  • Providing opportunities for employees to improve skills and abilities

 

 

  • Offering regular feedback on performance

 

 

  • Allowing input into decision-making

 

 

  • Encouraging innovative thinking, and an acceptance of risk

 

 

  • Building and sustaining a positive relationship between the manager and each employee and within teams.

 

 

Consulting firm Towers Watson, formerly Towers Perrin, has highlighted a number of characteristics demonstrated by engaging leaders. The first is high emotional intelligence.

Daniel Goleman, in his book “Emotional Intelligence,” noted that individuals with high emotional intelligence are skilled in understanding, interpreting and responding to emotions. They effectively deal with social and emotional conflicts and appropriately manage emotions to achieve best outcomes.

Additional characteristics of engaging leaders include great communication skills, a coaching/involvement orientation, the ability to inspire others and demonstrating authenticity and humility.

Use more than one approach

At the same time, employing engaging actions alone is not sufficient. Leaders cannot approach all employees in a cookie-cutter manner and assume that they all will respond in the same ways, or even perceive leadership actions as having the same intent and meaning.

The key to more effective engagement is looking from the inside out — how and what employees perceive is their reality. What is encouraging to one person is discouraging to another.

One person’s recognition is another person’s discomfort. What is motivating to one is demotivating to another.

The role of perception

The reality is that the value of an employee’s relationship with a leader, a manager, peers, and the organization itself is based on many factors. The most critical is the role of perception.

Organizations can do a much better job of managing perceptions. In his article “Coming to Grips with Organisational Values,” Vijay Padaki noted that a consistent set of practices over time are the organization’s values. Interrelated values that are internally consistent are the organization’s value system, he wrote.

If leaders at all levels take a sincere interest in employees and understand their perceptions, these leaders can do a better job of connecting personal needs and values with those of the organization. Leaders often have best intentions, but employees can be left feeling not heard and unappreciated.

Without understanding the context of what employees believe and feel, leaders run the risk of misaligning and discouraging employees. Without leaders consistently demonstrating their values, employees will perceive a different reality than possibly intended.

Jay Colker, DM, MBA, MA is core faculty for the master’s in counseling and organizational psychology program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. He also maintains a human capital consulting practice and may be reached at jcolker@adler.edu or at (312) 213-3421.

Published in Columnist

A good salesperson can sell anything to anyone once, but when mutually beneficial relationships are formed and nurtured, a client or customer will walk away happy and keep coming back. So what are some essential steps you can take in your business to ensure customer satisfaction?

Consistently Provide Exceptional Quality and Timely Services

The relationship you cultivate with your customers should not subscribe to the slogan, “You get what you pay for.” Instead, you should always strive to provide clients with a far more valuable experience than the price that they pay. When we enter into any client relationship at our firm, we do so with a commitment to meet the needs of that client’s engagement, regardless of size and the potential fees generated. We become proactively involved in an advisory capacity with our client relationships by meeting more frequently with their team of professionals or connecting them with additional service professionals.   As a business leader you should actively work with your clients to provide only the services that they truly need and do not over-sell in order to build confidence and a trusting relationship.

Also, even though technology has given businesses helpful innovations that are used on an everyday basis, do not underestimate the power that human interaction still holds. When a client calls your office, they want to speak directly with a real person, not navigate through a hopelessly complex voicemail system.

Attract, Hire and Retain Employees with the Necessary Customer Service DNA

Even a highly qualified individual with years of experience may not have the right tools to maintain your company’s customer service brand. A thorough process of interviewing, reference checking, and introductions to members of your company’s team can help your staff develop a consensus of whether an individual is truly the right fit for your clients and business.

Internships and internal training programs are integral components in helping employees build meaningful, long-term careers with your company. Since an effective learning experience is both formal and informal, have new employees shadow more experienced staff members to learn the “soft skills” necessary to effectively communicate with and service clients in order to meet their needs in a professional manner.

Create a Culture Where Customer Service Flourishes

Unsatisfied employees can do much more damage to your company’s brand than one unsatisfied customer.  A staff that consistently receives support and education will be significantly less stressed, allowing them to maintain superior levels of customer service even during the busiest workdays. For example, we implemented a Wellness Program for our staff to focus on physical and mental well-being during the hectic months of tax season. Encourage your staff members to get involved in organizations that are important to them, so they can fine-tune leadership and networking skills while serving the community.

Susan D. Krantz, CPA, is a partner at Zinner & Co. LLP. Reach her at (216) 831-0733 or skrantz@zinnerco.com.

Published in Cleveland
Thursday, 06 June 2013 11:36

EC=MC: The new law of marketing

Every Company is a Media Company. It’s a phrase coined some eight years ago by tech journalist Tom Foremski to describe the impact of technology on marketing.

From the Internet to Wi-Fi to smartphones, a tectonic shift has taken place with technology forever changing the landscape of marketing, just as radio and television did before.

Only this time, it’s different. This time, the power has shifted from the hands of a few hundred powerful media outlets to the hands of billions of consumers.

At the same time, companies like yours have been handed powerful tools and an unparalleled opportunity to engage with customers like never before. It’s not just in the obvious new places like mobile websites, apps and the media. Technology has made it easier and cheaper to communicate through video, live events and, yes, even print publications.

Like it or not, you are a media company.

So what’s a media mogul like you to do? You need to do one thing: create content. And you need to do it well. You need to create content that generates interest among your target customer base and engages them with your organization.

It might sound easy, but it’s not. Most business leaders know that effective communication is one of the biggest challenges any company faces. When that communication is what sets you apart in the minds of your customers and prospects, the stakes are all the higher.

Here are a few important points to keep in mind as you set about embracing your new role as a media company.

Be where your audience is

Content comes in many forms. Most of us 40- or 50-something business executives are more comfortable reading printed material. Flipping through your brochure, newsletter or even your own custom magazine is comfortable for us. So hand us something.

But younger VPs and 20-somethings — many of whom do the heavy lifting of researching company buying decisions — are more comfortable gaining intel online. They scour videos on YouTube, mine infographics on visual.ly and peruse PowerPoints on SlideShare. So take the time to figure out which of these is the right channel to reach your target customer.

Share knowledge, not platitudes

Yeah, we get it. Your people are smarter, their customer service is better and their breath smells fresher longer. But that’s not why we might be interested in your business.

What we want to know is how you’re going to solve our problems and make our lives easier. We don’t want you to tell us you are smarter; we want you to show us you are smarter.

Thought leadership articles, white papers and blog posts showcase your knowledge of industries, issues and tactics. They differentiate you from your competitors and position you as a subject matter expert in your market.

Talk about customers more than yourself

The best communicators are great storytellers. Stories resonate. They connect us. They are, simply, what we remember.

Sharing client success stories is one of the best ways to tell your own story. The tried-and-true case study is one of the most effective forms of content in a marketer’s arsenal. If you show us how you can make our businesses faster, better, stronger, we will do business with you. It’s that simple.

And if you have particularly well known and respected clients, you get the added benefit of basking in their reflected glory. Welcome to the media business. Now go tell your story.

Michael Marzec is chief strategy officer of Smart Business Network and SBN Interactive. Reach him at mmarzec@sbnonline.com or (440) 250-7078.

Published in National
Thursday, 06 June 2013 11:29

When the customer isn’t right

Every year for the past seven years, I’ve had the privilege of hearing executives from many of the region’s top organizations passionately explain how they deliver world-class customer service. And every year, I’ve come away from this experience armed with new ideas.

This year, one idea posited gave me pause. At the same time, however, it reaffirmed one of my long-held beliefs that seems diametrically opposed to the usual mantra, “The customer is always right.”

In describing their competitive advantage, two executives cited their ability to effectively tell clients what they don’t want to hear. They reset conventional wisdom and succinctly explain to clients why what they believe to be correct often isn’t. And then, they offer better solutions. This, they said, is one reason why they have prospered.

Think about this. With the exception of trusted advisers — typically lawyers, accountants and bankers, people whom we intentionally pay to set us straight — nearly everyone else we contract with is given the expectation that we want what we want, when we want it and sometimes even how we want it done.

On the surface, telling your clients “No” flies in the face of conventional wisdom. But in reality, it makes perfect sense.

Take, for example, these two entrepreneurs. They assigned a key business success metric to telling clients “No” and then explaining why they should do something they may not want to do or are simply reluctant to incorporate. They believe that the best customer service delivery may contradict a client’s wishes. But, at the same time, it provides a better solution that will lead to even greater success — and higher client satisfaction.

A critical element of any top-notch customer service initiative is showing clients you truly care about them. You can’t give this lip service. Your actions must be real. Demonstrate a genuine desire to forge and foster a real partnership and the client will recognize whatever solutions — or services — you provide are developed because you truly believe they are what are best for the client’s organization.

Isn’t this the essence of what your clients and customers pay you for — to provide them with the best possible solution for their business pain point?

One of my friends has fired dozens of clients because they refused to listen to advice they paid him to provide or failed to incorporate solutions they paid him to create — all of which were designed to fix systematic problems with their businesses that they didn’t see. His reasoning was straightforward: Why partner with a company that you know is going to fail because their management team is already set on a solution that won’t work?

Experience painfully taught him that the end result is always the same: Clients will still blame you for their own mistakes — even if they choose that direction instead of the one you provide them with. When that happens, they say you weren’t forceful enough in selling them on your solution or that you didn’t adequately warn them they would fail.

The bottom line here is simple:  Anyone can turn service delivery into a commodity. Just become an order taker. But only a select few can think differently about customer service. Those that truly understand the value of pointing out when a client is wrong in his or her assertions, and is willing to risk the loss of business in order to do what’s right for that client, will more often than not succeed. Better yet, they will gain a lifetime of trust.

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

Published in Akron/Canton
Thursday, 06 June 2013 11:22

Dare to dream big

When Ted Turner launched CNN, there were plenty of people who said a 24-hour news network would never fly.

But Turner saw a problem: He enjoyed watching the news, but his busy schedule typically had him missing the standard news broadcast time. That’s when he got the idea: What if the news was on all the time? He couldn’t be the only one who was unable to fit a regular broadcast into his schedule, so he knew the demand was there.

The next step was to dream big. What if the news was on all the time, not just locally, not just regionally, but nationally and even internationally? The result was the first 24-hour cable news network. It took a lot of effort to get CNN to where it is today, but Turner’s dream was realized. His big dream yielded a big result.

People need to dream big. If you never take the time to dream big, great things probably aren’t going to happen for you.

We have the power to visualize our future. A professional athlete visualizes hitting the game-winning shot so that when the time comes, he or she expects to succeed. As CEOs, we must also visualize ourselves and our organizations achieving great things. We must see where we want to be and then convince those around us to help us get there. When you can articulate the vision in a way that makes it as clear to them as it is to you, your goals will be easier to accomplish.

Here are four steps to achieving great things:

 

 

  • Have you dreamt big enough? If you aren’t visualizing your business achieving all its goals and growing the way you want it to, it might be holding you back.

 

 

  • Take time to reflect on the dream. Let it simmer as you consider the obstacles that will have to be overcome to achieve your dream.

 

 

  • When you are comfortable that you have thought it through, share the dream with people you trust. They can point out challenges you may have overlooked or offer encouragement to keep you moving.

 

 

  • Get started. Big dreams don’t happen without hard work. Lay out the steps that will get you from where you are today to where you want to be and start working toward your goal. You won’t get there overnight, so focus on taking small steps toward your vision each day. Sell others on your dream so they can help you get there.

 

 

Don’t be satisfied with small achievements. Visualize your potential and the potential of your organization. With hard work, you can turn it into a reality. Dare to dream big.

Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800)988-4726 or fkoury@sbnonline.com.

Published in Akron/Canton

When we start off working as youngsters, most of us don’t have the common sense to move beyond our juvenile selves to assume more mature character traits appropriate for the workplace.

We also typically land in jobs where our potentially outrageous behavior can cause the least amount of damage — in my case, this included mating freshly-grilled burgers with appropriate-sized buns for the steamer storage bin at Burger King.

Later, our mismatched personalities of “future business mogul” and “party animal” duel it out in college during classes, internships and more responsible employment.

Then we madly scramble to figure out who we really are before we interview in the full-time professional world — where, of course, our potential employers think we’re only going to stay for two years anyway.

However, when each of us eventually enters the professional workforce, our youth and inexperience still typically dictate the creation of a brand new professional personality where one may not have existed before.

The result: a work-week personality vs. a weekend personality.

After all, it’s normally not advisable to do shots out of someone’s belly button in the Board Room.

As the years pass and our resumes expand, these dueling personalities pretty much have to unite as one — a multi-faceted persona, we can hope, but one nonetheless.

Even so, we were all young once. Beginning with everyone’s first foray into the workforce, an ongoing battle commences of “character” versus “characters” — who we are as compared to who we sometimes pretend to be.

Perception versus reality

These days, society doesn’t always help.

First, the wireless world has all but stripped today’s youth of the ability to communicate in person.

Then, with the increasing popularity of Reality TV, our “character” is often influenced by “characters” whose “reality” bears no resemblance to whom we are or who we should be.

For example, not immune to the allure of a Real Housewife, I still understand that I am sometimes being entertained by bad behavior while an impressionable youngster actually may tragically aspire to become “16 and Pregnant.”

And though “Saturday Night Live” alum Darrell Hammond has laid claim to the longest tenure of any SNL performer (1995-2009), this does not mean his personal character compares to the various “characters” he has portrayed: President Bill Clinton, Vice Presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney, Regis Philbin and an Alex Trebek-loathing Sean Connery.

My recent chat with “businessman” Hammond revealed a man who sermonizes the value of hard work, determination and goal setting. He’s not really a president — he played one on TV.

At least pop-culture icon Judge Judy Sheindlin presents a reality-based version of the legal system — one that rewards polished communication skills, honesty, respect and even posture. Like her or not, Judge Judy’s least-successful guests suffer very public consequences stemming from a lack of preparation and yes, character.

Facing the job ahead

Of course, we can still complain about the seemingly selfish behavior of our younger generation, but before we throw Gen-Y under the bus. Who was driving the bus in the first place?

Weren’t today’s successful CEOs, VPs, senior managers and entrepreneurs also the parents who raised Gen-Y?

The bottom line: experienced business professionals must accept a more significant role in mentoring our young charges as they are essentially playing an adult version of Follow the Leader.

There is simply no greater example of character in business than a willingness to mentor and lead by example.

Though, to an actor such as Hammond, "honest" refers to a truthful portrayal of a character, using "honest" as a character trait resonates equally well in the business world.

After all, no one wants to deal with a business professional who is acting the part.

Real character matters.

Speaker, writer and “professional storyteller” Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Fla. He can be reached at Randy@mindzoo.com or (571) 238-4572.

 

 

 

Published in Columnist
Wednesday, 05 June 2013 16:39

How not to paint yourself into a corner

This column is not a how-to painting guide for business executives — I’ll leave that to the experts at Sherwin-Williams. Instead, I offer a few suggestions on preserving ideas for future exploration and innovation. Let me explain further.

Hindering creativity typically rears its inhibiting, ugly head when you make definitive statements, either verbally to others or in the confines of your own mind, and too quickly dismiss new ideas as being too farfetched. We’ve all been there. How many times have you said, “Not on my watch,” or, “I’m drawing a line in the sand on that matter,” and sometimes adding for emphasis, “That will happen only over my dead body”?

Eating your words, even years later, can likely cause severe indigestion and can sometimes result in choking that could bring on a premature demise of that next big thing. Littering the bottom of the corporate sea are concepts with promising potential that executives, with the flick of the wrist, pooh-poohed. Most times, that was simply because there wasn’t enough time to deal with the unknown or because of myopia and the lack of an inclination to push the envelope. It doesn’t take much talent to say no, but it takes leadership and creativity to take a germ of an idea to the next level. And it takes true vision to shepherd a new anything through the difficult trial-and-error gauntlet.

Close-minded responses to the unproven are not just limited to management. Politicians particularly have a unique knack of painting themselves into a corner with unlikely promulgations that frequently come back to haunt them in November after the opposite occurs. Backpedaling is probably the method most politicians use to get their exercise.

In a 1966 Time Magazine print edition feature story, this then-prestigious publication asserted, “Remote shopping, while feasible, will flop because women like to handle the merchandise and, with so much time on their hands, want to get out of the house.” Someone might want to email Time and ask the publisher how to spell Amazon.

There are alternatives to summarily stymieing thoughts, dreams or unproven methods. Certainly, there is a time and place for everything, and frequently, you or your team may not have adequate resources, at a particular moment, to pursue every idea that comes down the pike. Instead of saying no, a more fitting response is to say or think, “Let’s put that idea on a back burner so that we can for the moment focus on more conventional solutions, at least, for the shorter term.” This leaves the door open for continued research and refinement of an idea that could ultimately evolve into something meaningful.

Here is where the bucket from my headline comes in to preserve an incomparable yet promising notion that, at the moment, might be superfluous to the task at hand but, at the right time and place, proves to be a killer idea. I use the word bucket as a euphemism for a holding place or repository for things that I may want to explore when the time is right. Certainly, one cannot investigate every idea ever pondered, but at least by retaining all such ideas in one place, they are always there for future consideration when either more is learned about the subject matter or when comments begin surfacing in the media or elsewhere touching on that similar idea you’ve kept tucked away.

Your very own bucket can also become a temporary refuge merely to take your mind off other, more thorny problems or a simple respite from the day-to-day grind when you’re looking for a new inspiration. Alternatively, at the end of the year, remove the mothballs from your bucket and review what you’ve deposited. A fresh look just might ignite a former idea, which then takes on a new life of its own.

Anyone who has ever painted a room already knows not to wind up in a corner, lest they may never get out. Worse yet, more open-minded competitors could use that bucket to throw cold water on an idea that you had earlier but never capitalized on it while they did.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises.

"The Benevolent Dictator," a book by Feuer that chronicles his step-by-step strategy to build business and create wealth, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available online at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

Published in Akron/Canton

los_clm_JJVirginI am often asked what made the difference for my success as a bestselling author and fitness and nutrition expert — and I tell people that you simply need to take action.

Too many entrepreneurs are afraid to act. You have to be willing to take imperfect action.

If it’s not quite right, put it out there anyway. You have to act, and that is more important than getting everything perfect.

Another thing I did that has been invaluable was to form a Master Mind group. This type of group was first described in the 1930s and the idea of has grown and evolved to become a frequent tool of successful individuals.

This lets you get bright ideas from others that can help move your business forward. Part of this is setting goals — but make them “stretch goals,” ones that will get you motivated and off the couch. I take these goals and tell the people in my Master Mind group what they are. The funny thing is I have now met all the ones I set!

Learn how to focus

Another critical area is the ability to focus. Entrepreneurs have to focus on their goals and ignore activities that do not progress toward them. You can get involved in a lot of different activities — but will they really help you progress toward your goals? If not, ignore them.

Keeping focused also plays a big part in handling stress. You have to be able to handle stress, and beyond staying focused, a major part of this is taking proper care of yourself. Exercise, enough sleep, proper diet — these are all vital.

The way I have grown my business is through information marketing, and particularly important is a reliable fulfillment company for production, inventory, and shipping of print and CD/DVD materials as well as direct mail and marketing collateral. My fulfillment company is very flexible and really works with me.

When I came to them, I had been using other companies who recognized I was kind of stuck — needing to get out product but having to do small runs — and they took advantage of that. My fulfillment company, Disk.com, doesn’t do that. I needed one-stop, full package production of CDs, DVDs, printing, packaging and integrated fulfillment.

Business are faced with questions like, “How do you start when you don’t know how much you are going to need?” You generally need to do small orders to begin with, and you don’t want to carry inventory.

Then if you need to accelerate quickly, is your fulfillment company flexible enough to do it? My fulfillment company helped me. They would do small runs and would not charge us a lot to do it.

Customers, you see, are unforgiving of a late or unfulfilled product. I just had a sales rush on my website and needed 500 units produced and shipped in a couple of days — and it was done and delivered!

JJ Virgin, a fitness and nutrition expert, has earned recognition as a weight loss expert. Author of two bestselling books, “The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days” and “Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy,” she is based in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Her website is www.jjvirgin.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Published in Columnist

With the growing senior citizen population crowding the marketplace, today’s working environment is hosting a “clash of the titans.” Four generations are attempting to co-exist and cooperate in the workplace. 

Personally, I would have thought that people would be counting the days until retirement, but then again, I am in the beginning of my career, so I cannot fathom what it would be like to work for more than 30 to 40 years.

While America’s population is getting older at a faster pace than ever, economic stress has unfortunately caused a delay in retirement. A Charles Schwab Older Workers and Money Survey suggests some possible reasons why:

1. They’re not ready to retire — More than 30 percent of people in their 60s say they don’t plan on retiring, versus 25 percent of people in their 50s. Flexibility may be the reason. The study shows that people in their 60s are more likely to be working part-time and enjoying the flexibility of a lighter schedule.

2. They’re still interested — More than two thirds of workers aged 50-69 consider themselves ahead of the game when it comes to job skills, and claim to be “intellectually stimulated” and still learning.

3. They love what they do — plain and simple.

4. They like their co-workers — more than 50 percent of survey participants reported that they like their colleagues.

5. Financial reasons — 10 percent claimed to be financially comfortable, 50 percent to be “OK” financially, but 31 percent feel they’re “just getting by,” and 8 percent were “falling behind.”

6. Anxious about the future — two thirds of older workers anticipate that they will have to take care of a spouse or family member in the near future. Thirty-seven percent believe they will face care-giving obligations in the next 10 years.

What is your organization like? Is there a steady generation mix among employees? How do you think leaders should manage a multi-generational workforce?

C-suite executives today are not necessarily the most seasoned company leaders, and becoming a respected CEO is no longer a job for the older, more experienced person. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Pete Cashmore of Mashable all founded their companies and became billionaires before their 30th birthdays.

Are your managers constantly trying to find ways to overcome communication differences, work style obstacles and technology gaps?

Here are 10 best practices for bridging generational gaps:

1. Initiate conversations concerning the generation gap at all levels of the organization.

2. Educate managers and employees on the different generations in the workplace.

3. Match different generations represented in your company with customer base.

4. Reward employees based on productivity and performance, not seniority.

5. Educate and train employees to know how to best approach and communicate with employees from different generations.

6. Offer appealing benefits that apply to employees of all ages.

7. Train managers and leaders how to lead teams and departments with men and women from different generations.

8. Present various forms of training and tuition reimbursement for employees of all ages.

9. Establish a mentorship program where older employees teach younger employees.

10. Encourage and establish multigenerational teams.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is known as the Generational Guru and CEO of human resource consulting company Optimance Workforce Strategies as well as the author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage and “You Can Have It All, Just Not All At Once!” She has more than 15 years of experience as a trusted trainer, speaker and coach to companies ranging from small start-ups to large international corporations. Contact her at sherri@generationalguru.com

 

Published in Columnist

A pivotal challenge for companies is to differentiate themselves from competitors. While different isn’t always better, better is always different! A business model describes how an organization designs and delivers value by providing stakeholders a shared understanding of how the business operates. A strong business model offers a competitive advantage by demonstrating that the firm does something different, more innovative and better than its rivals. 

Herbert Kelleher and Rollin King sketched out the Southwest Airlines business model on a breakfast napkin in 1967. Recognizing a need for a service-oriented low cost airline, the “Texas triangle” meant that Southwest would fly dozens of daily flights between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. In 2000, David Neeleman, a former Southwest manager, launched JetBlue Airways by adding quality to the service/value mix.

In steps the digital era

The digital era has driven many recent business model transformations. Apple’s iTunes is a great example of the changing music industry. In the past, record companies, distributors and retailers controlled channels and profits; now the artist and platform (iTunes) has the market power.

Newspapers have struggled to become information providers as their readers aged and defected to other media. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and USA Today have stellar reputations and large/loyal customer bases. They can charge fees for online content. In contrast, most metropolitan newspapers are a less viable option as free alternatives (websites, smart- phones, community magazines and television) abound.

Google, Facebook, Apple, and Salesforce.com are examples of shapers since they open platforms for third-parties and create new market space. Participants embrace and enhance shapers’ platforms and may include applications (apps) developers, service firms or online e-tailers.

Zynga, a Silicon Valley social-gaming company, has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues through Farmville. Millions of users manage virtual plots of land, grow crops, raise animals, and use online tools such as tractors. It has been estimated that there are more than 20 times more people playing Farmville than there are actual farms in the U.S. Other examples of strong business models are listed in the table below.

Take apart your business model

Consider these questions as your management team assesses your business model. Can you clearly explain your business model? What is unique about your strategy? How does it compare with your direct and indirect competitors?

Have you broken any industry rules lately? Can you develop a more innovative and interesting business model? Will your business model win in the market? Does your organization truly deliver superior value for customers?

AW500hart

ArtWeinstein, Ph.D., is professor and chair of marketing at Nova Southeastern University and author of “Superior Customer Value — Strategies for Winning and Retaining Customers.” He may be reached at art@huizenga.nova.edu or (954) 262-5097. Visit his website www.artweinstein.com.

 

Published in Columnist