A truly great bank will go beyond standard financial services and provide value-added assistance in partnership with client businesses.
“I think the lost art in banking is the bank being a partner. It isn’t just about taking deposits, doing loans and putting people in a box. If you’re really doing your job you should provide far more than just your standard services, which, frankly, every service provider should do,” says Ed Lambert, senior vice president, marketing manager, Technology Banking Group at Bridge Bank.
Smart Business spoke with Lambert about what it means to be partners and what you should look for when choosing a bank.
What criteria should someone use in evaluating a bank?
The first question a bank should be asking is, ‘How are you doing as a company?’ Not, ‘Who are your investors?’ or, ‘Are you profitable?’ The bank you chose to work with should want to learn as much as they can about your company so they can find ways to meet your needs.
The banker should sit down with you and listen to your background and then, and only then, respond. What you don’t want is a banker who walks in and opens the conversation by talking about their bank and what it provides without having a conversation and getting to know something, anything, about you.
The second criterion for evaluating a bank is, ‘Do they have answers for me?’
The third criterion is whether the banker is limiting his or her answers to what benefits him or her and his or her bank. If there is a need they cannot fulfill directly, they should be able to tell you that and point you in the direction of someone who can help. They should be ready to provide a solution to your problem, whether directly or indirectly.
What kind of added value should business owners expect in a banking relationship?
A bank should be in a position to provide solutions to whatever situational issues could divert you from focusing on growth. It could be banking issues such as how to best manage your cash or what kind of debt works for your business, or possibly an overall solution process. It also could be something as mundane as finding a solution to the problem of you not liking your CPA or attorney. There have been horror stories about the CFO of a company making 30 phone calls to find a new CPA, taking a lot of time to find answers that a bank should be able to provide in terms of what their Rolodex holds.
If a bank is really providing a good level of service, those things should inherently be part of what they offer to its customers. The supposition is that the bank has been doing this for a long time and has built up a substantial list of contacts, so why should it not share that with its customers?
The bottom line is this: What a company should be looking for in a bank, as well as in any other service being provided to it, is what they bring to the table beyond the array of services that one would assume are standard.
If credit decisions are based on numbers, why would a good banking relationship matter?
The banker’s job is to tell the client ‘yes;’ ‘not yet, and here’s how to make it a yes;’ or ‘here’s somebody who can help you where you are today.’ Those are really the only three acceptable answers that a banker should be providing to his or her clients.
The role of a bank should be to solve issues for its clients that go well beyond just managing deposits and credits. Banks should really be a resource for a company to have at any stage of its life because each phase has a different set of needs. A truly good bank provides for those needs, even if that means telling a business owner something he or she doesn’t want to hear.
Insights Banking & Finance is brought to you by Bridge Bank
Whether your day in court resulted in a jubilant victory or disappointing defeat, the verdict may not stand as thousands of cases are appealed in California every year.
Given the complexity of appellate law and the uniqueness of the process, savvy executives don’t wait until the trial is over to devise a winning strategy.
“Any company that is concerned about a trial outcome, good or bad, needs to be thinking about the possibility of an appeal from the outset,” says Susan Handelman, a partner at Ropers Majeski Kohn & Bentley PC. “It can hurt your chances if you wait until the last minute to understand the process or seek expert advice.”
Smart Business spoke with Handelman about the appeals process and the benefits of proactive preparation.
When is it possible that a company will face an appeal?
Once a judgment is entered in the trial court, the losing party has the ability to seek a review of the judgment by a panel of appellate judges. Appellants often cite a procedural error or the way the law was applied by the trial judge or jury as the impetus for their appeal.
After reviewing written submissions from both parties, the appellate court has the option to affirm, modify or overturn the lower court’s verdict, or even order a new trial. Because it puts the original outcome back up for grabs, this can mean that an appeal can be, for both parties, a truly crucial interaction with the court system.
How does the process differ for appellants and respondents?
Appellate court proceedings are very different from those in trial courts, given that the judges focus on the actions of the lower court instead of hearing lengthy factual arguments and witness testimony to reach a decision.
The appellant is responsible for initiating the appeal and generally has the burden of proving that a prejudicial error was made in the trial court. The respondent must validate their win by providing a thorough and accurate accounting of the trial and must legally and factually support the efficacy of the original decision.
Since the appellant files only two written briefs and the respondent gets only one brief to make their case, it’s imperative that the attorney’s logic, reasoning and legal arguments resonate with the appellate judges.
How long does the appeal process take and what’s involved?
An appeal can take anywhere from 18 to 30 months once the appeal is filed. If the parties don’t want to wait, they may have an opportunity to settle their differences in the interim by participating in mediation that is fully or partially funded by the court.
Having an appellate attorney who knows the ropes is critical because, other than briefing, the only presentation to the appellate panel is an oral argument that lasts just 30 minutes and must be on point.
Since success in appeals court hinges on different issues and tactics than a traditional trial, some companies take a long view and hire an appellate specialist from the outset to monitor important litigation.
Is the appeal final or are there more options?
The decision made by the appeals court isn’t necessarily the end of the road. The party that lost can request a rehearing by the appeals court and they may try to appeal the decision all the way up to the California or U.S. Supreme Court.
However, it takes considerable time, money and expertise to continue the appeals process and you may run out of options, since the high courts don’t hear every case.
The bottom line is that waiting and seeing is not the most viable strategy when an appeal can be a real game changer.
Susan Handelman is a partner with Ropers Majeski Kohn & Bentley PC. Reach her at (650) 780-1759 or email@example.com.
Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Ropers Majeski Kohn & Bentley PC
Whether it is for technology or consumer products, the global market is now the best place to grow sales and profits. To fully realize the potential of these opportunities, executives must undergo a paradigm shift, strategically analyze data and build alliances before the first dollar changes hands.
“To sustain growth and allow the next generation of Americans to have a better life, we have to rethink globalization, identify opportunities and be contributors to the global economy rather than consumers,” says Dr. Yi Jiang, associate director of MBA Programs for Global Innovation at California State University, East Bay.
Smart Business spoke with Jiang and Dr. Glen Taylor, director of MBA Programs for Global Innovation at California State University, East Bay, about the process of identifying and making the most of ripe opportunities in the global marketplace.
What prevents U.S. executives from capitalizing on the best global opportunities?
Taylor: U.S. executives need a different approach to analyze and select global opportunities because our country is no longer the dominant market in the world. Our loss of supremacy means that we need to learn how to do business in other countries that don’t always comply with our culture and business practices. We must put ourselves in their shoes and see things from their perspective.
Jiang: We’ve had a tendency to view globalization in simplified terms and think of other countries as a resource for outsourced services and cheap labor. But when executives apply a different perspective to the analysis process and develop innovative products and solutions, they stand the best chance of succeeding outside the U.S.
What’s the first step in the identification process?
Taylor: The first step is demographic analysis, but unless executives take a deep dive into the data, they may overlook emerging trends and target the wrong customers. For example, a superficial analysis of Chinese demographics reveals no net population growth, but an in-depth study shows that social change is under way and people are urbanizing at the fastest rate in the world, adding tens of millions of new global consumers each year. This creates unprecedented demand growth.
Jiang: Each country has regional and generational differences that create unique opportunities on the consumer side. U.S. executives must consider dynamic industry cycles and a county’s openness and resources before attempting to position each country in the holistic picture of global strategy.
What’s the next step?
Jiang: Travel to the country to experience the culture, validate your hypothesis, and establish strategic business partnerships and networks. You’ll need seamless collaboration to understand the cultural nuances and build a supply chain. Infusing yourself in the culture will help you identify additional opportunities, since the best ideas often come from prospective partners, suppliers and customers.
Taylor: Business relationships are like a marriage, so prospective partners must get to know each other before making a commitment. And your travels may yield additional opportunities, especially if you view things with an eye for the innovations being developed in other markets.
What else must executives do to succeed in the global marketplace?
Jiang: Remember that global opportunities and situations are fluid, so what seems like a great idea today may not work tomorrow. Conduct extensive scenario analyses so you are prepared to perform under a variety of circumstances, and keep your finger on the pulse of prospective customers by garnering feedback through open source social networking.
Taylor: The key is to search out opportunities in global markets to develop innovative products and services that build on our strengths while embracing new ideas from other countries.
Dr. Glen Taylor is director of the MBA Programs for Global Innovation at California State University, East Bay. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Yi Jiang is associate director of the MBA Programs for Global Innovation at California State University, East Bay. Reach her at email@example.com.
Insights Executive Education is brought to you by California State University, East Bay
In today’s regulatory environment, banks are no longer lending based on collateral; they are focusing more on business history, the owners, their future plans and how they’ll repay the loan.
“A business plan is an excellent way to tell bankers about the story behind the numbers and let them know you have a good handle on the future of your business,” says Betty Uribe, executive vice president for California Bank & Trust.
Smart Business spoke with Uribe about how to develop a business plan to increase your chances of obtaining a business loan.
Why are business plans important?
When presenting a loan package to a lender, an organized, well-thought-out business plan can make the difference between getting and not getting the loan.
A business plan will show the lender if the business has a chance of making a profit and in what time frame. It also provides a well-thought-out estimate of how much the business needs to grow and defines the market, customers and the percentage of the market the business plans to reach, providing a clear revenue estimate. Importantly, a business plan can convince the lender to fund your business and show them potential issues and how they’ll be addressed.
What are the steps involved in creating a good business plan?
Start with an outline and fill in the blanks as you learn more about the process. Your plan should be only as big as necessary for your firm to run smoothly. In fact, the outline alone may suffice, particularly if you are not submitting the plan in a package to obtain financing.
Many seasoned entrepreneurs calculate a break-even analysis to predict future viability in their respective fields. This is a formula based on the relationship between revenue, fixed costs, variable costs and profit. The analysis can show you how much money you must bring in to stay solvent.
Another preliminary tool is a feasibility plan, a basic document that features a summary, mission statement, market analysis and required success factors. It also might include an initial cost analysis addressing pricing and potential expenses. This can help you determine whether starting a business can work for you.
What resources are available to help?
An abundance of user-friendly business planning software is available that is designed to help strategize, sort and calculate related financial data.
Also, agencies like the Small Business Administration and SCORE, the Service Corp of Retired Executives, offer detailed information on developing a solid plan.
How do you get started?
Most experts outline 10 key components for a basic business plan. Key components include:
• Cover sheet
• Table of contents
• Executive summary
• Company description
• Product or service description
• Market analysis
• Strategy and implementation
• Management team
• Financial analysis
What should a business owner do with the business plan once it’s written?
Start by recording overall business or long-term goals on a spreadsheet, setting the bar high enough to grow. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). They must be easily identified, quantified and understood by you and your management team or you won’t know when you reach them. Also, set quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily objectives, then record your progress but don’t share or discuss goals with negative individuals who might impede progress. Lastly, keep asking yourself, ‘Does this decision take me closer to my goal?’
Growing a business takes commitment and systematic planning. Educate yourself. The more you learn about your industry, competitors, finances and time management, the greater your chances of success.
Betty Uribe is executive vice president at California Bank & Trust.
For a full scope of tools and information through to help businesses get started, visit www.calbanktrust.com/team. Another valuable source of information for business owners is at www.calbank trust.sbresources.com.
Insights Banking & Finance is brought to you by California Bank & Trust
Irving, Texas is a recipient of the 2012 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest Presidential honor for performance through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership. Irving is only the second municipality to receive the award in its 25-year history.
City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said Irving has reduced costs by $44 million and improved satisfaction service levels by double digits.
“We reduced our work force by 10 percent without laying anyone off or implementing furloughs and, at the same time, increased benefits,” he says. “We identified numerous efficiencies that resulted in 50,000 labor hours saved. Code enforcement improved by 88 percent, and we dropped the number of days to turn around commercial building permits from 16 to three and a half. These efforts culminated with Irving retaining its AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s during a recession, while offering residents and business owners among the lowest tax rates and water fees in North Texas.”
Smart Business spoke with Gonzalez about the way Irving works with businesses and how to apply these lessons.
How should a good relationship between a business owner and the municipality work?
Good communication between the city and business community is important. By having a proactive communication flow, the city gets intelligence on issues business owners are having with city processes. For example, Irving was considering an ordinance that would impact the certification of restaurant servers. Because the city reached out to businesses, it was able to make the ordinance helpful to customer safety but not so onerous to implement. Another example was a state highway project through the middle of Irving where the city and the chamber of commerce coordinated with the state to help businesses relocate and/or work with the department of transportation.
So, both sides need to reach out to each other?
Yes. Irving has 39 different ways to communicate with customers — in this case businesses — like newsletters, our website, Facebook, Twitter, email blasts, etc. If there’s a new project, the city can let others know how it might impact them and keep them in the loop.
What are some of the best ways through government bureaucracy and red tape, including navigating the permit process?
The city made an effort to speed up the permit process because when a business is building a large structure, in order to create several hundred jobs, and in some cases thousands of jobs, you don’t want to hold up the work. Irving’s permitting process now takes three and a half days after eliminating unnecessary steps. Using incentives, Irving built a new culture and a new way of thinking. Another way to minimize the red tape is through surveys. Between random and point of service surveys, done at the departmental level, the city can listen and then change the way it does business. Many times problems or improvements are obvious to business owners, but not to the city.
Aside from letting the municipality know about issues, when business owners show up for permits, bring as much information — plans and documents — as you can. Those that come forward with complete and comprehensive information in hand will get processed quicker.
How can local entities assist employers with state or federal issues?
Cities can work in cooperation with businesses on some developmental opportunities. In some cases Irving has received federal grants that not only help the public sector but also tie in with private development, especially for environmental issues. The local government also can supplement state or federal services. For example, the state picks up litter along state highways twice a year, but Irving stepped in to pick up litter more often, resulting in a cleaner highway that people assume is safer, which in turn increases the community’s value.
Tommy Gonzalez is city manager of Irving, Texas. Reach him at (972) 721-2521 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce at www.irvingchamber.com.
Click for the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s profile on Irving — Baldrige: Irving is ‘A Lone Star Model of Fiscal Achievement.'
Insights Economic Development is brought to you by the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce
When KONE Inc., a global leader in the elevator and escalator industry, was looking to find a place to consolidate operations in 2010, the company came to Allen, Texas.
A 24,263-square-foot facility allowed KONE to combine its North American Supply and Technology operations into one location in the Allen Center Park. KONE also moved its central tool storage facility to nearby Twin Creeks Business Center.
“This new facility will provide KONE’s employees with a high quality work environment and quick access for our colleagues and visitors from around the world to many amenities,” Jeff Montgomery, KONE director of Development-Product and Supply for the Americas, said in announcing the new office space. “By making this move, KONE is showing our commitment to our people and striving to increase productivity and cross-functional collaboration.”
KONE was founded in 1910 in a machine shop in Helsinki, Finland, and now has more than 1,000 offices worldwide, eight global production units and seven global research and development (R&D) centers, including the R&D center in Allen.
KONE has made the Forbes list of the 100 most innovative companies in the world for two consecutive years, ranking 42nd in the 2012 list.
Smart Business spoke with Ron Bagwill, vice president, director of Supply Operations Americas for KONE, about the decision to move to Allen and the benefits of the new site.
What are your operations in Allen?
KONE has two locations in Allen. The first site is in the One Allen Center, 700 Central Expressway South building. On the first floor we have a lab used by our technology group to simulate and test complex elevator control and software systems. On the fourth floor we have our supply chain related functions: engineering, customer service, logistics, human resources, sourcing, quality, and the process owner for our supply chain operations globally. A large part of the global technical team is also housed there (R&D) as well as installation support functions.
The second location is in Allen Twin Creek Business Center on North Watters Road where we maintain and store specialized tools that are important to a safe and efficient elevator installation.
Why was Allen chosen over other location options?
The activities now located in Allen were previously located at a factory site in nearby McKinney, Texas, that had been in operation since the late 1970s. We were looking for a newer building site that offered our employees a great location to work. The Allen location offers our employees easy access to a multitude of nearby shops and restaurants to visit during lunch or after work hours. Since we are near our previous location, our employees have a similar length commute to work. This was important to our decision on where to locate.
One of the most important aspects to our decision to move to the One Allen Center was the capability to house both our office personnel and the lab equipment. The lab equipment required a unique lower floor location with capability to move in and out large pieces of equipment.
Allen is also a great place to live, and we see that as important when trying to recruit new employees to our company.
What role did the Allen Economic Development Corporation play in that decision?
The Allen Economic Development Corporation provided an excellent financial package that definitely was part of the overall decision of why we chose Allen. The AEDC team is very professional and experienced in bringing great businesses to Allen, and KONE is pleased to be one of those companies.
How has the location impacted your success?
The location and environment of an office can have a huge impact on the productivity and morale of an office staff, which has improved since moving to such a great office and city. Having a new and modern office also plays an important role in attracting new employees.
Would you recommend Allen to other companies looking to build or relocate?
Allen is a great place to locate a business. The city has easy access to major highways and the major airports are only 45 minutes away. The number of hotels, restaurants and shops are a great place for housing and entertaining guests or customers. Prospective employees will find Allen a great place to live with the different housing options available, and the great school system. AEDC is a great partner to assist a business when considering Allen.
Ron Bagwill is a vice president, director of Supply Operations Americas, KONE Inc. Reach him at (469) 854-8815 or email@example.com.
Reach the Allen Economic Development Corporation at www.allentx.com or call (972) 727-0250.
Insights Economic Development is brought to you by Allen Economic Development Corporation
Companies typically want to do what’s right for those they serve. Key priorities should be customers, investors, employees and the communities in which the company is located — but not necessarily always in this order. The dilemma, however, is that many times short-term decisions can prove to be long-term problems that cause more pain than the initial gain.
It’s difficult to make all constituents happy every time. As a result, management must prioritize decisions with a clear understanding that each action has ramifications, which could manifest themselves in the short, intermediate or long term. Seldom does a single decision serve all of the same timelines. There are no easy answers and anyone who has spent even a short amount of time running a business has already learned this fact of life. So what’s a leader to do?
It’s a sure bet that investors want a better return, employees want more money and benefits, and customers want better quality products, higher levels of service and, oh yes, lower prices. This simply all goes with the territory and is a part of the game. The problem can be that, most times, it’s hard to give without taking something away from someone else. Here are a couple of examples.
Take the case of deciding to improve employee compensation packages. Ask the auto companies what happened when they added a multitude of perks over the years, as demanded by the unions? The auto titans thought they didn’t have much choice, lest they run the risk of alienating their gigantic workforces. History has shown us the ramifications of their actions as the majority of these manufacturers came close to going belly up, which would have resulted in huge job losses and an economic tsunami.
Basic math caused the problems. The prices charged for cars could not cover all of the legacy costs that accrued over the years, much like barnacles building up on the bottom of a ship to the point where the ship could sink from the weight. Hindsight is 20/20, and, of course, the auto companies should have been more circumspect about creating benefit packages that could not be sustained. Yes, the employees received an increase to their standard of living for a time anyway, but at the end of the day, a company cannot spend more than it takes in and stay in business for long.
Investors in public companies can present a different set of problems because they can have divergent objectives. There are the buy-and-hold investors, albeit a shrinking breed, who understand that for a company to have long-term success, it must invest in the present to build for the future. The term “immediate gratification” is not in their lexicon; they’re in it for the long haul. Another type of investor might know or care little about a company’s future, other than whether its earnings per share beat Wall Street estimates. These investors buy low and sell high, sometimes flipping the stock in hours or days. And, actually, both types are doing what’s right for them. The issue becomes how to serve the needs and goals of both groups. When a company effectively articulates its strategy, it tends to attract the right type of investors who are buying in for the right reason. This will avoid enticing the wrong investors who turn hostile because they want something that the company won’t deliver.
When interviewing and before hiring employees, it is imperative that candidates know where the company wants to go and how it plans to get there. Many times, this means telling the prospective newbie that the short-term compensation and benefits may not be as good as the competitors’ down the street, but in the longer term, the company anticipates being able to significantly enhance employee packages, with the objective of eventually outmatching the best payers because of the investments in equipment being made today.
The key to satisfying employees (present and prospective), investors, et al, is communicating the types of decisions a company will make over a specific period of time. Communication from the get-go is integral to the rules of engagement and can alleviate huge problems that can otherwise lead to dissatisfaction.
Knowing what is right for your company, based on your stated plan that has been well-communicated, will help ensure that you do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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In our world of quick text missives, sharing the daily joke via inner office email, and generally more relaxed workplaces, informality can become a workplace hazard. Studies show that employers and managers often assess an employee’s career potential based on how that employee carries himself or herself in the workplace. None of us wants to be judged by the externals, but our respective “book covers” matter.
Poor manners at work – however unintentional - can lead to workplace conflict because they distract fellow employees from working or, in the worst cases, offend co-workers who have differing viewpoints and cause potential legal liability for the employer.
Therefore, it’s ideal to avoid these 8 bad work habits:
- Talking loudly on telephones and in person in common areas.
- Interjecting comments into conversations between other employees, unless your opinion is solicited.
- Taking supplies – even if they were bought by the office – from other employee’s work areas without getting prior approval.
- Wearing perfume that can be smelled even after you leave an area.
- Gossiping about co-workers or people outside the workplace.
- Sharing racial, religious or sexual jokes in any format.
- Arriving late to meetings.
- Regularly using large chunks of work time to resolve personal and family matters.
Most employees want to be viewed as valuable, contributing members of the company team. Thus, it’s worthwhile to periodically assess our workplace demeanor and, perhaps, adjust our behaviors, to help convey that image. Your future with your employer likely depends on it.
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.
One of the signs of a boom — or at least a boomlet — is that companies start wanting to drive their competition crazy. This occurs when “survival” is no longer an issue and optimization or maximization can become a goal. However, the desire to do things to the competition can lead a company astray — or drive it to even greater heights.
Companies go astray when defeating the competition becomes more important than taking care of customers. When companies become obsessed with the pursuit of excellence, by contrast, they often reach new levels of greatness. Here’s how to avoid the former and achieve the latter.
1. Know thyself. Before you can drive your competition crazy, you have to understand what your company stands for. Otherwise, you’ll succeed only in driving yourself crazy. For example, Apple stands for cool technology. It will never represent a CIO’s safe bet, an “enterprise software company,” or service and support. If it decided it wanted to drive Microsoft crazy by sucking up to CIOs, it would drive itself crazy — that is, if it didn’t perish trying.
2. Know thy customer. The second step is to truly understand what your customer wants from you — and, for that matter, what it doesn’t want from you. One thing that your customer seldom wants to do is to help you drive your competition crazy. That’s in your head, not your customer’s. One more thing: A good company listens to what a customer says it wants. A great company anticipates what a customer needs — even before the customer knows it wants it.
3. Know thy enemy. You cannot drive your competition crazy unless you understand your competition’s strengths and weaknesses. You should become your competition’s customer by buying its products and services. I never truly understood what it was like to be a customer of Microsoft until I bought a Sony Vaio and used Windows. Sure, I had read many comparisons and competitive analyses, but they were nothing compared with hands-on usage.
4. Focus on the customer. Here’s what most people find surprising: The best way to drive your competition crazy is to succeed because your success, more than any action, will drive your competition crazy. And the way you become successful is not by figuring out what you can do to the competition but for the customer. You succeed at doing things for the customer by using the knowledge that you’ve gained in the first three steps: understanding what you do, what your customer wants and needs and what your competition doesn’t do. At the intersection of these three factors lies the holy grail of driving your competition crazy. For most companies, the key to driving the competition crazy is out-innovating, out-servicing or out-pricing it.
5. Turn customers into evangelists. There are few things that drive a competitor more crazy than unpaid customers who are evangelists for a company. Create a great product or service, put it out there (“let a hundred flowers blossom”), see who falls in love with it, open up your arms to them (they will come running to you), and then take care of them. It’s that simple.
6. Make good by doing good. Doing good has its own, very sufficient rewards, but sometimes you can make good and do good at the same time. For example, if you own a chain of hardware stores, you can help rebuild a community after a natural disaster. You’re bound to get a lot of publicity and create bonds with the community — this will drive your competition crazy. And you’ll be doing something good!
7. Turn the competition into allies. One way to get rid of your competition is to drive it out of business. I suppose this might be attractive to you, but a better way is to turn your competition into allies. My favorite author of children’s books is Tomie DePaola. My favorite DePaola book is “The Knight and the Dragon.” This is the story of a knight and a dragon that train to slay each other. They are smashingly unsuccessful at doing battle and eventually decide to go into business together. Using the dragon’s fire-breathing ability and the knight’s salesmanship, they create the K & D Bar-B-Q. For example, if a Home Depot opens up next to your hardware store, let it sell the gas barbecues, and you refill people’s propane tanks.
8. Play with their minds. If you’re doing all this positive, good stuff, then it’s OK to have some fun with your competition — that is, to intentionally play with their minds. Here are some examples to inspire you:
- Hannibal once had his soldiers tie bundles of brush to the horns of cattle. At night, his soldiers lit the brushwood on fire, and Hannibal’s Roman enemies thought that thousands of soldiers were marching towards them.
- A pizza company that was entering the Denver market for the first time ran a promotion offering two pizzas for the price of one if customers brought in the torn-out phone directory ad of its competition.
- A national hardware store chain opened up right next to a longtime community hardware store. After a period of depression and panic, the store owner came up with a very clever ploy. He put up a sign on the front of his store that said, “Main Entrance.”
Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki is the author of ten books including Enchantment, Reality Check, and The Art of the Start. He appears courtesy of a partnership with HVACR Business, where this column was originally published. Reach Kawasaki through www.guykawasaki.com or at email@example.com.
While attending an event we put on with a local charity, I was impressed with the difference that seemingly minor things can make in someone’s life. I was proud of the contribution and effort that our employees put into the event and the dedication the nonprofit showed for its mission.
The event made me think about the business community and all of the wonderful things companies do for those in need. Take the recent destruction from Hurricane Sandy as an example. Businesses have pledged more than $90 million in assistance, two-thirds of which was monetary donations to organizations like the American Red Cross.
While companies give back in as many ways as possible, even during these difficult economic times, I was wondering if there wasn’t more that could be done in our local communities. Not every effort has to always include a financial component.
Here are some nonfinancial ways to give back in addition to what you already do for the community:
- Give more time. Some organizations have a greater need for man-hours in addition to financial backing. Your business may already give generously on the financial side, but maybe your favorite charity could use a labor boost as well. Nationally, about 35 percent of companies have some sort of formal volunteer program. Consider donating employee time to help out with a big project or basic cleaning and organizing.
- Offer advice. You probably already serve on one or more boards for a nonprofit, but there is always another charity out there that could use your help. You don’t have to become a full-fledged board member, but you can offer advice as needed to help the existing members navigate through a problem that plays to your strengths. If the nonprofit is looking for a board member and you don’t have the time, help it find the right person by making a recommendation or referral.
- Hire nontraditional employees. One way of giving back to the community is helping others help themselves. There are many skilled employees with either physical or mental disabilities that could be a great addition to your company if given the chance. When you have a job opening, make sure you are considering all candidates, including those from nontraditional backgrounds.
- Do pro bono work. If you can provide a service that a nonprofit needs, consider donating it. Marketing, printing, IT services — basically anything an office needs is probably something a charity could use. Find out what the nonprofit could use, then figure out a way to help out. Even if your company can’t help, maybe you know someone else who can.
In this season of giving, it’s not hard to find a worthy cause. There’s also no question that you and your company have most likely already given a lot, assuming you are in a position to do so. But there’s an old question that asks, “How much charity is enough?” The answer is easy: Just a little more.
Take the time to evaluate whether you can do just a little more than what you are already doing to make an even bigger difference.
If you are in search of a worthy cause, consider donating to The Pillar Fund, a donor-advised fund administered through the Cleveland Foundation. For more information, contact Dustin Klein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or email@example.com.