The current economic climate presents significant challenges for manufacturers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Increasing foreign competition, price pressure from weakened demand, tight capital markets and the rising cost of raw materials have combined to create a particularly competitive landscape. However, forward-thinking manufacturers are turning these challenges into opportunities — and using these challenges as a springboard for operational improvement and increased profitability.

“There are many innovative ideas for growing your manufacturing business,” says Karen Burns, assurance partner at Sensiba San Filippo LLP and co-founder of the East Bay Manufacturing Group.

Smart Business spoke with Burns about what manufacturers can do to strengthen their business, such as controlling costs and shoring up financials, best practices for hiring and retaining top talent, and the value of networking effectively.

What are some ways a manufacturer can control rising costs?

Reduce market uncertainty. Consider entering into long-term contracts to stabilize price fluctuation for raw materials. Long-term contracts with customers also can mitigate market swings, albeit negotiated pricing may initially result in reduced margins.

Make safety a priority. Accidents can be costly for your business and your employees. Implementing improvements can decrease downtime and increase your yield.

Encourage innovation by empowering and motivating employees to make product and process improvements throughout the organization. This will lead to your business running smoother and motivating employees to stay longer, which reduces the costs associated with training new hires.

Consider near sourcing. You can gain more control over your manufacturing processes and costs by using suppliers closer to your manufacturing facility. You’ll reduce your shipping costs, too.

Additionally, it’s important to find out what your customers value and focus on delivering what matters to them, then trim costs in those areas that customers do not value. Communicating with your customers is critical. Discussing costs and anticipated cost increases will help strengthen your relationship with them. You can then work together to increase and decrease prices as commodities fluctuate.

Why is it critical now for manufacturers to ‘shore up’ their financials?

Banks and financial institutions are slowly loosening their credit requirements. Venture capitalists and private equity groups also are beginning to invest again. Congress has even established programs that encourage lending to small businesses, such as the Small Business Lending Fund and State Small Business Credit Initiative. Having your financial house in order could make or break your opportunity to secure funding.

Further, merger and acquisition activity is on the rise again. While many business owners do not have a plan in place to sell their company, unsolicited offers are becoming more common. Strategic acquisitions by competitors, vertical integrators and those who have had money sitting on the sidelines for too long create the need to be prepared for this possibility. Ensure your financials are ‘auditable’ and that you have the proper internal controls in place to maximize opportunities such as these.

What advice can you give to business owners for hiring and retaining top talent?

Create a culture that values the whole employee. While pay is important, it is not always the most important motivator. Today’s generation of employees wants it all — good pay, advancement and, most of all, the opportunity to do new and exciting work and have fun doing it. A passionate business leader who treats his or her employees like family and gives back to the community will find employees more willing to follow in his or her footsteps.

Reward innovation at all staff levels and recognize employees for their dedication and achievement. Develop a total rewards strategy that includes compensation, benefits, performance and recognition, and career development opportunities. This will attract the best and brightest, which in turn will help to drive your firm’s brand in the market.

The most competitive edge out there can often be a good network. What strategies can you share with manufacturers on networking?

Networking is necessary, yet can often be a daunting task for many business owners. When an owner starts a business, he or she is usually very good at making his or her product and developing enhancements. While marketing is often not his or her forte, a few simple tools and a little bit of practice can make the most awkward networker into a pro.

Practice your elevator pitch. No one knows your business better than you. Successful networkers practice in advance the answer to, ‘What do you do?’ so that it rolls off the tongue effortlessly. Be brief in your answer to enable others to seamlessly introduce you to others at an event.

Attend interesting events that are a part of your sector. Business events are advertised in newspapers, trade groups, local LinkedIn groups and law firm websites. While the number of potential events may seem overwhelming, business owners who distill their calendar to events with relevant topics will remain motivated to network over time. Attend events that attract a number of prospects. Also keep an eye out for centers of influence — those who can refer business to you or enhance the success of your business.

Create a post-networking communication plan. After an event, successful business owners make the most of their new contacts — and their time — by implementing a pre-set follow-up plan. For business prospects, an email requesting an in-person meeting is appropriate, while many folks you meet will suffice with a reach out on LinkedIn. Inviting centers of influence to lunch or coffee is also an excellent investment in time.

Karen Burns is an assurance partner at Sensiba San Filippo LLP, a regional CPA firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach her at (925) 271-8700 or kburns@ssfllp.com.

Insights Accounting is brought to you by Sensiba San Filippo

Published in Northern California
Tuesday, 01 May 2012 11:37

The inner circle

If you had the choice of growing at a 5.8 percent compound annual growth rate in a five-year period or declining 9.2 percent, which would you choose?

While the answer is obvious, the real question is, what does it take to end up on the positive side of the equation instead of the negative? Simple: some trusted friends.

The numbers above illustrate the difference in compound annual growth rates for members of Vistage, an organization for CEOs, and the average U.S. company. On average, just by belonging to Vistage, you are going to see much better growth. Why? Because you get insights about your business from CEOs who aren’t lost in the day-to-day issues.

Vistage, and other organizations like it (Young Presidents’ Organization, Entrpreneurs’ Organization — there are others as well) help you run your business better by putting you in contact with other CEOs.

Let’s face it; being in charge can be a lonely experience. At the end of the day, a lot of responsibility falls onto your lap, and if you fail, a lot of lives are affected. Some of us are blessed to have an inner circle of people we trust to bounce ideas off of and know that if an idea is bad, someone will speak up. But there are others out there that for whatever reason don’t have that trusted inner circle.

To be successful, you need to be willing to open up about problems before it’s too late to do anything about it. Telling someone you need help isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s the opposite. The increased success rates of companies that participate in peer groups bear that out.

You don’t have to have a giant network of other CEOs to be successful. Having two people that you trust and value their opinions is probably all you need. Two trusted friends can help you navigate through tough decisions and act as a sounding board for your ideas.

Working with your peers to review your ideas and goals is a great way to eliminate stress. They can provide the confirmation and validation you are looking for as you move your organization forward and can point out potential pitfalls you may have overlooked.

Sometimes, just having someone else say, “Yes, I think that will work,” can go a long way toward putting you at ease.

So what do you do if you don’t have a couple of people whom you trust? That’s where the professional organizations like Vistage come in. They can provide the same sort of feedback in a group setting and also offer a great way to network with other CEOs. As you build your network, you will most likely find a few people you are comfortable with and can build a closer relationship with them.

The most important aspect is to not try to go it alone. Whether you have a trusted inner circle of a few people or prefer a larger group setting, it’s important to have some sort of sounding board for your ideas. It’s also important to have people who understand what you are going through. Other CEOs can relate to the challenges of leadership and talk about what keeps them up at night. What you’re likely to find is that many of the same issues that bother you are also bothering others. Work together to find solutions or at least talk it through. You might discover a new approach to an old problem.

After all, two heads are better than one.

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

Donna Fisher had written about networking already and wasn’t necessarily looking to write another book about it –— until Jerry Teplitz asked her to collaborate with him on an element of networking that had never been written about before.

The result was “Switched-on Networking: Balance your Brain for Networking Success,” a 253-page book that shows how to do Brain Gym exercises and movements combined with Fisher’s networking strategies to have a positive impact on your business success.

“In this book with Dr. Teplitz and the Brain Gym processes, he’s able to demonstrate very specific processes to assist people to switch their brain regarding any aspect of networking that’s been challenging, uncomfortable, difficult or awkward for them,” Fisher says. “So it does give a whole new element to it.”

Q. What is different about the approach you and Teplitz describe?

The idea is about balancing the right and left hemispheres of the brain so you are working with the whole brain. Then you’re not just working logically or just working creatively with all aspects of the brain. The Switched-On part applies to the fact that we basically switch off that part of the brain that relates to some negative networking experience that we have.

So let’s say that we have a negative networking experience, or let’s say we really bought in to the idea that our parents told us not to talk to strangers. That’s in our brain, and that part of our brain possibly will override wise choices for common sense where we are in an environment to network, and it’s appropriate to meet someone new. The idea is to switch off that part of the brain that is causing us to relate to that past negative experience and switch it so that we become able to make wise, positive choices based on current information.

Q. Would people who are already familiar with networking find the techniques helpful?

I think it can be helpful to people at any level of networking. I just have this philosophy that we always have the opportunity to grow, learn and expand. We are learning more and more about the brain, how the brain works and how we can utilize that so the data is new information for a lot of people — for people who have been networking to be able to now apply that is a whole new thing.

Basically, the first half of the book is the brain optimization information. The second half is the networking skills information with the brain processes applied to each situation. For instance, one area is on how to approach people and how to have conversation. If people had difficulty in that area then they are told which brain process will help them best in switching that to a positive. So they are able to go through the process and the great thing is that people can say, ‘I’m already good at that, that’s not an issue for me,’ or then they can say, ‘Oh yeah, that shows up sometimes as an issue. I think about calling someone and then I talk myself out of it, or I think about going over to say hi to someone and then I avoid doing that, or I know it’s important to follow up right after I meet someone but I procrastinate.’ So they can see for themselves what are the areas that if this was switched for you, your networking would become easier, natural, effective and efficient.

Q. What is the major component that drives successful networking?

My thing all along, even before this book, has been to share information about networking so that people can have more fun with it. When they have more fun doing something, they are going to do more of it. Then they are going to get more value from it, and so are the people around them. Networking is not necessarily about meeting people. It’s very easy to meet a lot of people. But the thing is, are you connecting with people? So instead of thinking about meeting people, think about are you connecting with people, and what would have you connect with people more.

How to reach: Donna Fisher, (713) 789-2484 or www.DonnaFisher.com

Published in Houston

When Ken Kemerer looks at the 80 percent revenue growth SilMix Ohio has achieved since 2001 when it was purchased by Wacker Chemical Corp., he gives a lot of credit to getting involved in industry associations.

Not that it was the only factor ? a rebranding effort three years ago was also part of the mix ? but being an active member of industry groups was a must.

“That’s where the networking is huge,” says Kemerer, director of SilMix Ohio, a manufacturer of custom silicone compounds. “We have added 50 customers since 2009, and we truly believe this branding and networking has resulted in the new customers.”

To get going with industry group networking, you need to research the organizations through universities, libraries or the Internet.

“In the rubber industry for instance, the American Chemical Society is an umbrella group that has a rubber division and a subset for regional and local groups,” Kemerer says. “You want to support financially and technically through manpower and participation all those groups. We support basically all those groups in North America now.”

In terms of support, it means more than paying membership fees.

“You can sponsor their websites, sponsor their fundraising, their golf outings and donate to their scholarship funds,” he says. “The regional groups have technical meetings. You can give technical presentations at their meetings. The technical service is important because other companies may not have an expert on site and you can provide that technical side of the industry.”

The fact that you are at a regional conference giving a presentation and answering questions about your specialty goes far in establishing your brand.

“It’s all about the networking in getting the name out, so that if people are not familiar with your specialty, and they have questions, yours will be the first name they think of,” Kemerer says.

One thing that obviously helps the initiative is encouragement from company ownership.

“Our owner is a corporate citizen, which means we have a responsibility to the industry,” he says.

This attitude should underlie your involvement in the industry groups ? you are not just giving a presentation as a sales pitch for your company.

“The industry groups had been the only place to get knowledge unless you hired somebody who had been trained by somebody else,” Kemerer says. “As the Internet has come along, and online training, they have changed, so the industry groups are really providing networking opportunities on a high level. It’s almost more of an awareness than technical training. These opportunities are out there.”

With your interaction in the industry groups, you are advancing your knowledge throughout the sector.

“There are not that many technical experts out there if you are in a niche,” he says. “Yes, it’s self-serving when you present, you may get your name known as somebody who has the answers, but it is not just about that. It’s also about corporate citizenship.

“There are many opportunities to present new and innovative things if you can in particular areas such as the medical field. That’s on the cutting edge as is helping customers in the industry become aware of new ways to do things or new developments.”

One other fact to keep in mind while attending or presenting at a conference is that your competition may be present, and while it is wise to guard what may be trade secrets, with care, you can still deliver an effective presentation. Don’t use it as a soapbox to show your differentiation.

“We do see competitors, but we see them more on a regional level,” Kemerer says. “We all have the same general purpose products. Some competitors may also be your customers ? so you want to keep good relationships, a good working knowledge and make sure you don’t cross any of them.”

How to reach: SilMix Ohio, a division of Wacker Chemical Corp., (330) 628-5017 or www.wacker.com/silmix

Formula for rebranding

If your company can’t decide where your rebranding should start, do what Ken Kemerer did at SilMix Ohio: look to your “Pillars of Success.”

“We identified our ‘Pillars of Success,’ that’s what we call them ? our customer service, our technical service and our flexibility, and we made them our focus,” says, Kemerer, director of the custom silicone compound manufacturer.

With that simplified mission statement, it gives you a basis to build a branding and marketing effort that will represent your company well.

“We built three different advertising ? let's say modules ? based on those,” he says.

“Identify your pillars of success, and then customize your advertising both visually and verbally along those lines so you can publish it in different media ? magazine, newsletter and website. Have a variety of pictures, so they don't get stale. Use text that describes each pillar of success.”

Then to help support the industry groups, use the same collateral to expand your brand to that outlet as well.

“It worked out real well for us for the past three years, and now it is a good time to have a new angle and still build off the same things ?­ and more as video opens new opportunities,” Kemerer says.

Published in Akron/Canton

Many of us have become tethered to our businesses 24 hours a day, seven days a week because of technology. Look around any restaurant, meeting or social function and watch as those around you check their texts, e-mails and social media activity.

For better or worse, we have become slaves to technology and in many cases have reached connectivity overload. Think about the times you have caught yourself at family or social functions discretely sneaking glances at the messages pouring into your smartphone. Is the smartphone outsmarting us or making us smarter and more efficient?

Recently a colleague was lamenting the fact that he can no longer escape work because whenever there is trouble, he gets the call. It doesn’t matter that protocol has been put into place to have others handle after-hours situations. My colleague is still most often the only one who is called.

Why? Because everyone knows he always has his phone with him and he always picks up. My colleague’s constant connectivity has completely obliterated any work-life balance he and his family once had.

Conversely, recently I visited my daughter’s school for parents’ day. As much as I try to balance my connectivity, I was thankful that I had chosen to have my iPhone with me.  Our office Internet and e-mail provider had a hardware glitch that knocked out connectivity at my office. Thanks to technology, an employee texted me about the problem. Had I not been connected, I would have been paying for 15 people to sit around, unable to work. Within minutes of my office plugging in my mobile hotspot, everyone was back to work and reconnected.

So what’s the perfect balance? As businesses owners, CEOs and managers, we need the connectivity to know what’s going on and to be able to respond instantly when needed. That connection and ability to immediately respond can be the difference between winning a customer, contract or losing one. It can help you troubleshoot when there is a problem from wherever you may be. It allows you to take advantage of situations where work and productivity would be lost as you wait in reception areas for appointments, airports for planes, or, in my case, even car lines as I pick up my children from school.

But it can also cause us to miss out on so many things in our lives that we sometimes deem more important that work. To determine if you’re too tethered to technology, consider the following questions:

1. Even after you unplug, do you crave the stimulation you get from your electronic gadgets?

2. Does the distraction of technology cause you to forget things such as dinner plans, birthdays and special occasions?

3. Do you have trouble focusing on family and friends because you’re more focused on your electronics device?

4. When you’re with friends and family do they often comment that it seems like you can no longer be fully in the moment?

5. Are you carrying around multiple devices to help you stay connected?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may be addicted to connectivity. In recent studies, scientists say that juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information. The scientists go on to explain that these bursts of information play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation causes an increased production of dopamine that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.

Next time you reach for your gadgets to plug in after hours, ask yourself: are you the boss or is your smartphone?

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media, Shazaaam PR and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com.

Published in Detroit

Sue Horn and her brothers Michael and David Held knew for some time that their company’s logo had an old-fashioned look to it. But updating the logo for Old Trail Printing Co. brought up the question: If you design the logo, why not go for a total rebranding strategy, as well?

Founded in 1928 in Columbus when Main Street was also known as the Old Trail, the company was purchased by Horn’s father Bernie Held in 1964. He designed the logo to include a stagecoach as a symbol of the company’s early beginnings.

Old Trail Printing had become a $25 million commercial printer, and it was time to enter the 21st Century with a new look and new strategies.

Horn, co-owner and principal, and her brothers started the rebranding project with the familiar business planning method of a SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

“One of our weaknesses was not enough exposure with our logo and our brand,” she says. “The logo was definitely a weakness, and we wanted people to see that we are a more forward-looking company than we were back in 1928.”

Horn felt it was important to take a fresh approach to how the company was being marketed to current and prospective customers. The company hired an experienced marketing director as an effective way to ensure the campaign got a good start.

“The first thing that our marketing director did when he came on board was to put together the strategy we were going to have to move forward, and part of that strategy was changing our logo,” Horn says.

While the 92-employee company was approached by customers who offered to redesign the logo, the marketing team that was assembled to shepherd the project chose to use internal talent to develop a modern logo better reflecting what printers do.

“We were fortunate to have some people in-house that were very creative,” Horn says. “But I don’t think every company in America has that talent in-house. That’s where they would want to reach out to an agency that specializes in branding.”

While doing the SWOT analysis, Horn incorporated the company’s strengths into the campaign. For example, in addition to promoting the company’s services, she promoted the fact that Old Trail Printing had the latest technology, used green manufacturing processes and was the largest woman-owned commercial printer in the Midwest.

Another aspect Horn felt was important to advance was the company’s commitment to continuous improvement.

“In today’s business environment, being successful is to be constantly looking for ways to be more efficient,” Horn says. “Sometimes it can be difficult to create an atmosphere to encourage employees to think outside the box, but through leadership, you’ve got to encourage them to find how they can do their job the most efficient way and to be continually thinking about that.”

Old Trail’s website got a facelift and an added bonus — a social network link with Twitter. The company hired an individual familiar with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to help it move forward. The new animated logo is prominently featured on the website home page and adorns promotional materials that help generate enthusiasm about the company.

“Make this an exciting time at your company,” Horn says. “Show your solid base of customers that you are committed to bringing more value to them.

“Listen carefully to what they are telling your and respond with a solution that exceeds their expectations.

“Exhibit your company at events like business expos as one more component of your marketing strategy,” Horn says. “You have a great story to tell while meeting new businesses and having a conversation about how you can contribute to their own success.”

How to reach: Old Trail Printing Co., (614) 433-4852 or www.oldtrailprinting.com

Networking for business

While a company’s new marketing initiatives often focus on ways account executives can generate more sales, the plans shouldn’t leave out the contributions other employees may be able to make.

“My line of thinking has always been that everyone in a company is a sales representative to a certain degree,” says Sue Horn, co-owner and principal of Old Trail Printing Co.

The company recently went through a rebranding effort that featured the first new logo in 47 years and new marketing efforts focused on creating brand awareness and generating solid leads for its sales team.

One initiative to involve more employees in the sales process is through an employee referral program for new business.

Basically, it involves a networking approach. Employees may have friends, relatives and other contacts who may be potential customers. They can use their connections to create a win-win situation for themselves and the company.

“If they bring us a new account opportunity and if we land that account, we actually pay the employee part of the salesman’s commission for the first year,” Horn says. “We’ve had employees step up and bring us some opportunities, which has been pretty exciting.”

Employees can also contribute to sales efforts in an indirect manner.

“Everybody’s a sales representative, and everybody needs to have a positive attitude because when customers visit and prospects tour the facility, they can tell whether you have a happy work force or not,” Horn says.

It is often said that you only get one chance to make a first impression, and if a potential customer sees contented workers, if often leave a favorable memory and creates a better chance to make a sale.

“We’ve had a number of people visit and comment about our plant, and I think it goes back to the pride that the employees have in this company,” Horn says.

How to reach: Old Trail Printing Co., (614) 433-4852 or www.oldtrailprinting.com

Published in Columbus

Many people think that the only time networking is important is when job searching, but networking offers many benefits to business owners as well. Networking is the key to finding out who your ideal clients are and positioning yourself in front of them so they know who you are and what products or services you offer. If you don’t have a good network of contacts and connections, growing your business could be that much more difficult.

Networking not only puts you in front of other business leaders in the community, but it also helps you meet potential clients face to face so you can sell yourself and your company to them. Even though networking can be challenging or intimidating at first, it can be beneficial in growing your business. Make sure to stay in touch with the people you meet because your next client might be them or someone they referred to you.

Smart Business spoke to Glenn Lauter and Paul Orsborn of Comerica Bank about why it’s important to network as a small business owner.

Why is it important to meet face to face?

Lauter: Today it’s common to do the majority of our communications over the Internet, but it’s important to meet other business owners and potential clients face to face to establish a personal relationship. Visibility creates recognition and awareness and lets you connect on a more meaningful level. It’s important to be present and explain to people what it is that you do. Oftentimes, clients will hire you when they see you in person and see your professionalism, mannerisms and commitment. It can boil down to the fact that you want to do business with people that you like and you go out of your way to help them.

Where should I network?

Orsborn: There are networking opportunities almost anywhere you look. To start, join a professional business group in your area. Also, volunteer opportunities like becoming a board member for a group you’re interested in can connect you with other professionals as well. Even ordinary places like the gym, golf course, grocery store or a PTA meeting can provide you with networking opportunities. Start out with the classic networking events and then start branching out. Leverage what you are interested in to develop your own unique networking opportunities.

How can I promote my business through networking?

Lauter: During these tough economic times, business owners are cutting costs to save money. Advertising and marketing budgets are usually the first to be scaled back, but obtaining new clients and maintaining steady business does not have to be negatively impacted. Networking is a great way to sell your company and what it is that you do. By networking, you can maintain your company’s revenues and even grow your customer and client base while conserving funds.

What are the benefits of meeting other professionals in my area?

Orsborn: It’s a good idea to have other business leaders in the community know you and your business so they can make the appropriate referrals when the time comes. Make sure these business owners know about what you do, the services you provide and your successful track record.

Establishing a new business in a community can be challenging, but meeting other business owners can lead to word-of-mouth marketing, which can ultimately lead to more clients and higher profits. Building relationships is key to operating and growing a successful business. Exchange business cards and follow up with an e-mail or phone call the next day saying how you enjoyed meeting them.

Should I consider social networking, too?

Lauter: Yes, social networking can help your business establish an online brand identity, which can help you be recognized in the business community. It can also help you reach out to potential customers and new business and connect with them on a personal level. Make sure to provide valuable information to your potential customer or client, whether you decide to blog or join social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. It is important to remember that if people reach out to you through these mediums, like commenting on a post you write, you should respond to them in a timely manner.

GLENN LAUTER and PAUL ORSBORN are senior vice presidents for Comerica’s Texas Business Banking Division. Comerica Bank is the commercial banking subsidiary of Comerica Incorporated (NYSE: CMA), the largest U.S. banking company headquartered in Texas, and strategically aligned by three business segments: The Business Bank, The Retail Bank, and Wealth Management. Comerica focuses on relationships, and helping people and businesses be successful. In addition to Dallas/ Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Kerrville, Texas, Comerica Bank locations can be found in Arizona, California, Florida and Michigan, with select businesses operating in several other states, as well as in Canada and Mexico. To receive e-mail alerts of breaking Comerica news, go to www.comerica.com/newsalerts.

Published in Dallas

Gregory Hartley left the army in 2000 and initially thought he’d hate business because of a lack of rules. What he found, though, was that a lot of his military training was very applicable to the business world. He figured a lot of leaders may agree, so the Atlanta-area resident co-authored “The Most Dangerous Book You’ll Ever Read” with Maryann Karinch.

The two lay out what they call extreme interpersonal skills and take the tools of military intelligence and relate their value to the business world today.

Smart Business spoke with Hartley about a few of the key principles in the book.

What is one of the key observations you made in your book about how the military and business overlap?

When we think about team-building, there are way too many people running around doing trust falls, and that garbage doesn’t build a team. What I write about is team building like a special-ops officer. In special-ops, you don’t show up and you’re part of the team. If you do that, it means that everyone has the same value without demonstration. They do a good job of rooting out people that don’t fit, but in the process, they have a sense of belonging. When a person shows up, you want to welcome them, but you also want some on-boarding process that makes them one of your people. On the special-ops side, they create a new normal, so instead of simply going through a rite of passage and showing up, now they want you to show what you bring to the table so that when you add that to the sauce, what does it do to the team? How does the team change?

What’s another principle you address?

Try to give a new way at looking at how your people in your organization function and try to make sure you have the right mix. Instead of having all of one kind or all of another, it’s a different way of thinking to say, ‘I don’t want all my guys to be the guys to charge the hill when I tell them.’ Some of them need to be underminers and question your plan and say, ‘Are you stupid?’ otherwise everyone gets killed on the hill, and it was the wrong idea. By blending the right skill sets, you end up with a team that’s versatile and a team that can adapt to situations like our current economy.

Is there anything about spies and covert missions in the book?

I cover networking like a spy. When people think spies, they think the ‘Bourne Supremacy’ and those kinds of things. Spies don’t usually work like that. Spies are usually working their environment and putting other pieces into play, so when a spy is actually working, what they’re doing is managing people as assets. They’ll use people in different positions to help out. Instead of thinking of your network like a flat, Facebook-like network where you have 1,000 friends, and they’re all equal — think of it more like LinkedIn or a chess game — you have people at distance that matter too, so you stop thinking that the only people who matter are people who have clout, who have power, who can do something for you immediately. Spies understand that every person they meet has some value. When you walk past a receptionist and fail to make eye contact and talk to the receptionist, you’ve lost an opportunity. Most often, access to information you need is going to come through people who don’t understand the importance of it. The more access they have to information and the more knowledgeable they are of how valuable it is, the less likely they are to freely give it.

Published in Atlanta